We should all take a leaf out of Stockholm Fashion Week’s book


Stockholm Fashion Week‘s decision to cancel this year’s event to focus instead on a more innovative and sustainable alternative, gives the entire industry something to think about.

Due to take place in August, the occasion has been pulled for the foreseeable future as a way of addressing the “major challenges” the industry is facing.  The very role of fashion week is one of those factors, as is how to move towards a more sustainable future.

If we break that down for a moment, there are some key considerations to think about:

Firstly, fashion weeks have undeniably changed at the hands of the digital age. Over the past 10 years they’ve become democratized to the extent that we can question the need for a physical show at all. 

Consumers around the world are now able to see collections in real-time as they‘re revealed, not to mention experience them across all other channels thereafter. On top of that, designers are able to gain awareness in a myriad of other ways for the very same reasons.

The result of this has been heavy debate around moving to a see-now buy-now business model, meaning the show becomes primarily a marketing opportunity aligned with a calendar for real-time consumer purchases as opposed to for industry buyers. This means the trading part of the collection is already done in advance for wholesale.

Alongside this at the same time, mind you, is the broader industry shift we’re witnessing towards a direct-to-consumer model, which negates the need for the third party seller at all. When integrated with innovative manufacturing processes, this can further ensure greater alignment between supply and demand, thus reducing waste.

What that also considers related to fashion weeks under the sustainability header, is a reduction in air miles. As designer Katherine Hamnett said this year at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, an annual event dedicated to sustainability: “We shouldn’t even be reunited here in Copenhagen when we could have done this digitally. We should all be ashamed of our carbon footprint.”

Under the United Nations’ Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, is a goal for the industry to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, something that is a long way off at this point in time. While the bigger challenges lie in everything from raw materials to fulfilment, every little shift – including fewer individual flights – helps.

On top of that is the cost savings that removing fashion week brings. Shows can notoriously cost anywhere in the region of $100,000 for a designer, dependent on all manner of variables. Cutting the need for Swedish brands to spend this sort of budget frees up capital for other endeavors, which the Swedish Fashion Council, which runs Stockholm Fashion Week, is seemingly pushing primarily towards sustainability.

In a press release, CEO Jennie Rosén said part of the aim is to support designers towards their sustainability targets and help them adopt new business models such as rental, repairs and subscription services.

It’s worth noting that Sweden as a country is already at the forefront of implementing tangible change aligned with these goals, for instance by reducing VAT rates on repair services by 50% (from 25% to 12%) in 2017. The move was part of the country’s plans to reduce carbon emissions and encourage more people to participate in the sharing economy. The tax breaks apply to shoes, clothes and bicycles, making repairing each of them all the more affordable. 

Much of the commentary compares this fashion week with its larger counterpart in Copenhagen, suggesting competition as a primary reason to cancel the event. But rerouting budget towards circularity, reducing carbon footprint and moving towards more innovative means of marketing and selling in order to capture higher margins and reduce waste, ultimately seems one of the smartest moves we’ve seen in a while for an industry in such desperate need of change.

“We need to change now to steer the industry in the right direction…We need to put the past to rest and to stimulate the development of a platform that is relevant for today’s fashion industry,” Rosen noted. “The Swedish fashion industry is extensive and growing, so it is crucial to support brands in their development of next-generation fashion experiences. By doing this we can adapt to new demands, reach sustainability goals and be able to set new standards for fashion.”

The council is planning to reveal its new strategy later this year. 

How are you thinking about sustainability, innovation and new business approaches? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.