HM Queen Mary: Fifteen Years of Supporting Sustainable Fashion

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In the context of sustainability, the fashion industry stands at a critical juncture—a crossroads where the past informs the present, and the future hinges on conscious, impactful decisions. This year, Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) is commemorating 15 years of Global Fashion Summit (formerly Copenhagen Fashion Summit) and the dedicated patronage from Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess, now Her Majesty Queen Mary of Denmark.

Federica Marchionni, CEO, Global Fashion Agenda remarked, “As Her Majesty Queen Mary embraces her new role, we extend our heartfelt wishes for continued success in fostering positive change and empowering communities. Since 2009, the Queen has made an indelible mark as a true visionary through her patronage of Global Fashion Agenda and unwavering dedication to a more sustainable future, when sustainability wasn’t at all in fashion. We are incredibly grateful for her patronage and inspiring leadership over the past fifteen years”.

Supporting Sustainability Progress

Fifteen years ago, sustainability in fashion was a fledgling notion, seldom mentioned within industry circles. Environmental concerns were often relegated to the side lines, overshadowed by a relentless pursuit of trends and profit margins and social responsibility was an afterthought, buried beneath the allure of fashion. However, HM Queen Mary’s values, paired with the collective vision of GFA and its allies, sparked a paradigm shift—an awakening that propelled sustainability to the forefront of fashion discourse.

The Global Fashion Summit (formerly named Copenhagen Fashion Summit), is today an internationally recognised forum for sustainability in fashion that was initiated by GFA in 2009. The event has become the heart of sustainable fashion, serving as a cornerstone for dialogue, collaboration, and action in core fashion regions worldwide.

 

A dedicated patron, HM Queen Mary has been present at every Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen since its inception, where she delivered multiple impactful addresses designed to inspire and activate the leaders from around the world. Explore previous editions of the Summit. here, and watch her most recent 2023 address here.

Over the years, she also demonstrated a curiosity to explore emerging innovations that can provide more sustainable solutions for the fashion industry by regularly touring the Summit’s Innovation Forum.

Beyond the Summit, HM Queen Mary has worked to highlight the nuanced experiences of garment workers around the world. Among the many initiatives, it was remarkable that in 2017 HM Queen Mary embarked on a multi-day visit to Bangladesh to bring focus to women’s economic opportunities in the nation, during which she visited the Auko-Tex Group textile factory in Dhaka where she learned from the workers about their conditions and tasks to increase awareness on the needed changes.

It is also truly inspiring that HM Queen Mary’s sustainable values are conveyed through her own wardrobe. Regularly praised as a style icon, HM Queen Mary honours sustainability by re-wearing outfits and embodying a circular approach to dressing. Just one example of this is how, at the Summit in 2018, she wore a green embroidered skirt which she has since repeatedly worn and repurposed on multiple events. Most recently, she attended Queen Margrethe II’s New Year’s Gala in a timeless burgundy gown that she has worn at six other esteemed occasions. In addition, she is celebrated for her efforts to wear vintage clothing or accessories in different ways, injecting a new life into pieces rather than discarding them.

This unwavering commitment to sustainability extends beyond fashion, resonating with her work as President of WWF Denmark and her advocacy for health, gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls. Last year, HM Queen visited both Sydney and Tamil Nadu to focus on sustainability and the transition to greener energy in the regions. During her visit to the South Pacific in 2023, HM Queen Mary shed light on the plight of Pacific Island nations grappling with the adverse effects of climate change – witnessing first-hand the aftermath of climate disasters and the challenges faced by coastal communities due to rising sea levels.

The Evolution of the Industry

The 15-year journey embarked upon by GFA during HM Queen Mary’s patronage has been multifaceted, encompassing diverse initiatives intended to catalyse collective action.

In addition to hosting the flagship Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen, the forum was developed to be hosted in key locations in Asia and America to influence even more fashion stakeholders around the world. GFA has also regularly published core guidance for fashion leaders through its Fashion CEO Agenda and GFA Monitor reports and introduced new impact programmes, such as the Global Circular Fashion Forum, which spurs local action in textile manufacturing countries to scale recycling of post-industrial textile waste.

Most recently, GFA instigated a collective investment from the fashion industry to significantly increase the availability of renewable energy in Bangladesh – one of the fashion industry’s most important manufacturing countries. The initiative will support the first utility-scale offshore wind project off the coast of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to help the country in reaching its goal of supplying 40% of the nation’s power from renewable sources by 2041. The project is expected to contribute to substantial job creation, stabilise energy supply, and reduce emissions by approximately 725,000 tonnes annually.

The landscape has therefore transformed significantly over the past decade and a half. Today, sustainability is not merely a buzzword; it is a key pillar in fashion’s ethos. Conscious practices are beginning to pervade design studios and boardrooms alike, heralding a new era where innovation converges with ethical responsibility. The emphasis has shifted from mere compliance to a palpable desire for change, where brands are striving not only to minimise harm but to actively contribute to a regenerative industry.

The strides made in ensuring Respectful and Secure Work Environments, Better Wage Systems, Resource Stewardship, Smart Material Choices, and Circular Systems are evident. From improvements in safety standards across manufacturing regions to a surge in commitments for emission reduction, recycling, and preferred materials, the industry has shown commendable progress.

The approaching Copenhagen Edition of the Global Fashion Summit in May 2024, themed ‘Unlocking The Next Level: 15 Years of Activating Impact,’ will stand as a testament to not just the progress made but the milestones yet to be achieved. It is a platform where dialogue transcends rhetoric, where collaboration sparks innovation, and where actions resonate louder than words.

The journey to meet the 2030 and 2050 targets urgently demands acceleration and scaling of efforts. The recent findings from GFA’s Fashion Industry Target Consultation shed light on both accomplishments and areas demanding increased focus. While progress has been made, significant gaps persist, emphasising the need for unified action and heightened collaboration across the industry spectrum.

The legacy HM Queen Mary has cultivated during the 15 years of patronage emboldens GFA to strive for a fashion industry that not only thrives creatively but also champions sustainability as its guiding principle.

“In the spirit of innovation and collective action, GFA stands resolute in its commitment to shaping a future where fashion is not just an expression of style but a testament to stewardship—a harmonious blend of creativity, conscience, and compassion – values which have all been embodied by HM Queen Mary during her time as our Patron,” said Federica Marchionni.

With deadlines for the pledges made over the previous 15 years looming, the industry must now implement actions that ambitiously address societal and environmental impacts and challenge the paradigm. The industry must unlock the next level and pave the way for a fashion landscape that transcends trends and leaves a legacy of positive impact for generations to come.

Image 1 – HM Queen Mary speaking at Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2022
Image 2 – HM Queen Mary at the World Economic Forum with GFA in 2019
Image 3 – HM Queen Mary speaking at Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2019
Image 4 – HM Queen Mary touring the Innovation Forum at Global Fashion Summit in 2022
Image 5 – HM Queen Mary meeting with GFA CEO, Federica Marchionni in June 2021
Image 6 – HM Queen Mary and GFA CEO, Federica Marchionni, at CFS+ 2021

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