Global Fashion Summit 2024: The Preferred Fibre Face-Off

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Global Fashion Summit, formerly known as the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, bringing together industry leaders, innovators, and sustainability advocates under the theme “Unlocking the Next Level.”

There, Canopy’s Executive Director, Nicole Rycroft, joined a dynamic panel titled “The Preferred Fibre Face-Off” which explored key strategies and insights to drive sustainability progress across the fashion value chain, emphasizing the critical need for collaborative industry efforts and collective action to create a more sustainable and resilient fashion industry.

“We recognize that to change business as usual, we needed to incentivize producers throughout the value chain to move forward and set a clear standard for what needs to be done. We work with 550 fashion and apparel brands representing about 1.7 trillion USD in the sector. These companies have made a CanopyStyle commitment to keep vital forests out of their supply, and to shift to low-impact, climate friendly alternatives,” said Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s Executive Director, during the panel. “Because there has been a clear, consistent message from such a broad range of companies— including Walmart, Target, H&M, Inditex, and LVMH—the value chain has responded to this need. Currently, 88% of viscose production has similar commitments in place.”

Accelerating Scaling for Next Gen Fibres 

Amid a myriad of fashion industry shifts, a stark reality remains: over 300 million trees are cut down annually to produce fashion fabrics like viscose and rayon. Many of those trees come from the most vital ecosystems on the planet — forests that help stabilize the climate and house biodiversity. All the while, the urgent need to combat climate change and safeguard vital ecosystems has never been more apparent. 

Edward Keh, CEO of The Honk Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel was also on the panel, and had this to say: “We understand what the brands want. It has to be greener, it has to be cheaper and it has to perform better,” We work on the technology side, but we want to make sure that we don’t trade one problem for another problem, for example, we do not want to create another waste stream. The challenge is building a business case for it. We need more success stories with these kinds of materials.”

Instead of continuing the destructive practice of sourcing fabrics from forest, Next Generation Solutions use low-carbon and low-impact alternatives, like factory textile scraps that would otherwise be wasted, to be repurposed, and transformed into textiles for next season’s runway collections.  The time could not be more right for transformation, and the fashion value chain is well-perfectly positioned to make circularity a core principle, not just a fleeting trend.

When compared to traditional wood fibre, these Next Gen alternatives have 95% to 130% less GHG emissions, 88% to 100% less land-use impacts, and 5x lower impact on biodiversity and threatened species than wood fibre. They also use greener or no chemicals in the production process.

“Textile recycling cannot function effectively at a small scale. Brands are the ones creating demand and the demand is not enough if they use recycled materials only in small capsule collections. Companies need to be making recycled materials a core to their fibre portfolio,” said panelist Ana Rodes, Head of Sustainability at Recover.

By rapidly scaling Next Gen Solutions through brand implementation, financial investment, government support, and even consumer demand, we can shift away from a “take, make, waste” model of sourcing and production and toward a more sustainable way of doing business and a fashion industry that supports a stable climate that will secure our future.