Then came the day. The day I decided to leave my life’s work with Global Fashion Agenda. I think I only ever vaguely imagined leaving my role and my incredible team. But the time has come. It suddenly feels natural and exactly the right time for me to transition my role from CEO to joining the Board of Directors, leaving time and bandwidth to continue on the journey to create impact and industry transformation by shifting to the other side of the table. Now it’s time for me to actually ‘walk the talk’ by joining PANGAIA by 1 March.
I realise that Global Fashion Agenda and Copenhagen Fashion Summit is the focus of my departure today, but my story began 15 years ago with Frederik Bierragaard, Thomas Hargreave and myself and a mission to create a network-organization to mobilise the Danish fashion community called Danish Fashion Institute – and with an ambition to put Copenhagen on the global fashion-map by building Copenhagen Fashion Week. And only since 2007 was sustainability on the agenda and Copenhagen Fashion Summit launched in 2009.
I have divided my story into a couple of chapters, passing on a heartfelt THANK YOU to some of the people who made the journey possible (apologies in advance for forgetting some of you) …
The years that followed 2005 for Danish Fashion and in building Copenhagen Fashion Week were exciting, however challenging, with a lot of internal battles between organisations and trade shows – and reluctant egos posing barriers to the bigger picture. Eventually sense and sensibility came to town and through collaboration and unifying our goals we soon became a force to be reckoned with. Thank you for the battles – and the fun!
(Kristian Wolfsgaard Andersen, Teis Werring Bruun, Nikolai Klausen, Anne Christine Persson, Henrik Fjordbak, Niels Eskildsen, Thomas Klausen, Christian Maibom, Christian Gregersen.)
I hope the Scandinavian fashion community appreciate how lucky you are to have the incredibly talented Cecilie Thorsmark leading Copenhagen Fashion Week since 2018, paving the way for the next frontier of fashion weeks by spearheading a most ambitious sustainability plan alongside a full digital transformation.
In 2007 we embarked on the journey to push a conversation on sustainability on fashion – or ‘CSR’ as it was labelled back then. What began as an uphill battle with not many brands ready or even willing to discuss their environmental and social impact, flourished into a wonderful Nordic alliance between the associations of the 5 Nordic Countries under the initiative NICE (Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical) that fostered multiple projects, education and communication.
Nordic Fashion Association was founded by Swedish Fashion Council, Icelandic Fashion Council, Norwegian Fashion Institute, Helsinki Design Week, Oslo Fashion Week, Sustainable Fashion Academy (SFA) and Danish Fashion Institute.
(Pål Vasbotten, Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, Lotta Ahlvar, Gunni Hilmarsson, Gisle Mariani Mardal , Michael Schragger, Kari Korkman, Elin Frendberg, Emma Ohlson, Maria Sandow
Johan Arnø Kryger Jonas Eder-Hansen, Jennie Rosén, Anna-Kaisa Auvinen, Helena Walker.)
In 2009, Copenhagen hosted the UN Climate Summit COP15 which sparked the beginning of Copenhagen Fashion Summit and the mission to create a global movement to drive environmental and social sustainability in fashion.
Everything was at a very early stage for the fashion industry in general, apart from a few significant leaders and visionary minds who were advocating change. By gathering those, we were able to kickstart a movement that stimulated and led the way for the industry.
(Francois Henri Pinault Kering, Laurent Claquin, Julie Gilhart, Christian Kemp-Griffin, Edun, Ali Hewson, Vanessa Friedman, Jason Kibbey, Helena Helmersson, Rick Ridgeway, Holly Dublin, Orsola de Castro, Giusy Bettoni, Oberon Sinclair, Livia Firth, Peter Ingwersen, Stine Hedagaard, Stella McCartney, Margie Yang, Peder Michael Pruzen-Jørgensen, François Zimeray, Ida Simonsen, Mads Øvlisen, Ingrid Schullstrom, Connie Nielsen, Nikolaj Hübbe, Jonas Eder-Hansen.)
Years down the road, as the fashion industry was actually picking up the agenda and making sustainability fashion the ‘new normal’, a brave board of directors followed the leadership team, with the support from friends at McKinsey & Company, made the call to transform the organisation into Global Fashion Agenda. Shifting the focus from Nordic to global and all efforts towards industry transformation on environmental and social sustainability.
(Nicolaj Reffstrup, Jacob Kampp Berliner, Niels Eskildsen, Michael Christansen, Thomas Klausen, Jens Obel, Mette Harrestrup, Caroline Chalmer, Klemens Hjartar, Jonas Eder-Hansen, Johan Arnø Kryger.)
Since its inception, it has continued to mobilise and guide the fashion industry to take urgent action on sustainability. It has been wonderful to see the impact we have made over the last few years and the unwavering ingenuity of the team makes me very excited to see what’s to come.
(Achim Berg, Thomas Tochtermann, Noel Kinder, Virginia Bocherdt, Virginia Rustique-Patteni, Anna Gedda, Hendrik Alpen, Dorte Rye Olsen, Dorthe Scherling Nielsen, Marissa (Pagnani) McGowen, Samantha Sims, Marie-Claire Daveu, Geraldine Vallejo (Thomas), Emmanuelle Picard-Deyme, Amina Razvi, Bapriste Carriere-Pradal, Simon Platts, Ibanka Mamic, Harsh Saini.)
I wish to finish off by saying that I remain 100% committed to the mission of Global Fashion Agenda, and the amazing team behind it. Thank you all of you for believing in me (even at times where we did not agree), following my vision and for putting trust in me and our joint ability to reach the finish line.
I shall keep all memories in my heart and continuously draw energy from all of our wins and promise to keep learning from our battels and not repeat the losses.
A big heart felt thank you to HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who has supported not only the development of Danish Fashion Institute, Copenhagen Fashion Week, Copenhagen Fashion Summit and Global Fashion Agenda but been a loyal advocate for increased sustainability in fashion’s value chain since the beginning.
(Tanja Elise Kjærsgaard, Christine Pii Hansen)
The biggest thank you goes to my amazing team of dedicated people who have been right next to me all the way, challenging my thinking and pushing the agenda.
They will continue to carry the torch toward total industry transformation – for a world beyond next season!
(Travis Peoples, Morten Lehmann, Jonas Eder-Hansen, Beatrice Perlman Ewert, Marie Louise Wedel Bruun, Maria Jaepelt Petersen, Alice Roberta Taylor, Thomas Blankschøn, Holly Syrett, Dana Schou, Gizem Arici, Casper Strande Thomassen, Celestine Schwabe-Spile, Kerry Huang, Christina Iskov, Laura Spangsberg Poulsen, Maria Luisa Martinez Diez, Clewshawn Montague, Molly Hannon, Amanda Bjerva, Marie Poulsen Schmidt, Oliver Gliese, Felicity Lammas, Gabriele Zemaityte, Tyre Loe.)
Though this chapter is drawing to a close by the end of February, I look forward to the next one at PANGAIA, where I can tackle the sustainability transformation from the company side, while keeping Global Fashion Agenda and its journey close to my heart (and from a seat on the board 😉