Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Eco-fashionista campaigns for sexy, sustainable fashion

By Susanne Gargiulo, for CNN
updated 5:54 AM EDT, Wed May 23, 2012
Kruse recently organized the Copenhagen Sustainable Fashion Summit. She says: "I have worked in the fashion industry for nearly 20 years, and it is a wonderful and exciting industry, but it is also one of the largest and most polluting in the world." Kruse recently organized the Copenhagen Sustainable Fashion Summit. She says: "I have worked in the fashion industry for nearly 20 years, and it is a wonderful and exciting industry, but it is also one of the largest and most polluting in the world."
HIDE CAPTION
Eva Kruse, Danish Fashion Institute
H&M Conscious Collection
H&M Conscious Collection
Amanda Seyfried
Michelle Williams
Trash-Couture
Trash-Couture collection
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Danish fashion chief launches NICE, a social media campaign to make fashion more sustainable
  • Eva Kruse, CEO of the Danish Fashion Institute: Fashion industry one of the "most polluting in the world"
  • Kruse suggested Code of Conduct in conjunction with U.N. to be presented at Rio Summit in June
  • Sustainable fashions already being made by: chain store H&M and labels like Gucci, Stella McCartney and Puma

Copenhagen, Denmark (CNN) -- Be prepared, the next big thing facing a green makeover might just be your closet.

The glitzy world of fashion and design doesn't typically conjure up images of sustainability and social consciousness, but if its up to Eva Kruse, CEO of the Danish Fashion Institute and Chairman of the Nordic Fashion Association, that's all going to change.

In the last month, she has pulled off the largest sustainable fashion summit in the world, and starting this week, she is launching a global social media campaign, aiming to forever change the way we look at our clothes.

Her goal is for all companies in the industry to declare sustainability a key value.

"I have worked in the fashion industry for nearly 20 years, and it is a wonderful and exciting industry, but it is also one of the largest and most polluting in the world," said Kruse.

Sustainability in the fashion industry

From the massive consumption of water and fertilizer in cotton production, to the chemical processing at plants, the pollution of local waterways and environments, safety issues for workers, fair wages, child labor and other social concerns -- issues for the fashion industry are enormous, she says.

"That is why it is so important that we address this ... and because of the size of the industry, even a small change can make a big difference," says Kruse.

Kruse, who founded the Danish Fashion Institute as the only employee in 2005, is credited by industry professionals and government ministers for having put Danish design and sustainable fashion on the world map.

Last month, she gathered more than 1,000 people -- including Hollywood celebrities, international designers and other industry professionals -- at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, to explore sustainable solutions.

The culmination was a suggested Code of Conduct for the Fashion and Textile industry, created in conjunction with the United Nations, and to be presented alongside the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June.

"It aims to drill into the supply chain," says Soren Mandrup Petersen, Head of Partnerships and Local Networks at U.N. Global Compact, "and if the sector responds, it will have a tremendous impact."

(Fashion) is a wonderful and exciting industry, but it is also one of the largest and most polluting in the world
Eva Kruse, CEO, Danish Fashion Institute

"There is a movement underway," says Kruse. "It is happening, and we can help shed light on it."

That is also the goal of her latest venture launching this week -- an online campaign called NICE, or the Nordic Initiative, Clean and Ethical. It aims to have the industry join forces around change, and to educate consumers to make conscious choices.

"The entire field is so heavily knowledge based that it makes it difficult for companies to get started. The key is to make ... knowledge accessible and to create networks, because there are solutions."

She says new and sustainable fashions are already being made from innovative textiles such as milk fibers, corn, and bamboo.

Among those leading the charge are companies like Swedish chain store H&M with their Conscious Collection, Patagonia, Danish design house Trash-Couture, and the PPR Group with brands like Gucci, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Puma.

H&M's head of sustainability, Helena Helmersson says this is the future. "Customers are becoming more and more aware and want transparency, which makes companies improve their sustainability performance and make more sustainable products." And, she says, "as a big player we can help drive demand."

At Trash-Couture, which boasts a massive list of celebrity clients like Penelope Cruz, Rachel Weisz, Kirsten Dunst, Celine Dion and many others -- ethical fashion and the way they reuse, redesign, respin, and recycle leftover fabric from their own collection and that of other design houses is part of the design.

If the sector responds, it will have a tremendous impact
Soren Mandrup Petersen, Head of Partnerships and Local Networks, U.N. Global Compact

"As pioneers we feel we have helped set the agenda on an issue that is about much more than just fashion," says managing director, Nanna Lowe. "This way, fashion suddenly gets new meaning, becoming a statement, a value, an act."

Kruse agrees, saying it has the potential to push other industries with it, by making it look smart to consider your choices. "If all the big brands and strong designers care -- and show and tell that they care -- then people could also begin to think differently about how they spend their money.

Her goal: "To have people join forces to help us change the world." And to her, that change starts in our closets.

But don't worry, she says, "the aim isn't for all of us to start wearing brown. Sustainable fashion can be equally sexy, desirable and fantastic in every way. The aim is to create the brilliance with less impact on people and our planet."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:43 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Alli Webb always loved having her hair done, so she decided to bring that happy feeling to millions of women worldwide with her business, Drybar.
updated 8:24 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
NASA's chief scientist Dr Ellen Stofan wants to land humans on Mars by 2035, but there are some serious challenges to overcome before then.
updated 5:41 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
The Design Museum hosts a power dressing exhibition, from Joan of Arc's short tunics, to Joan Collins' eye-gouging shoulder pads.
updated 11:20 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Opinion piece from architect Zaha Hadid on growing up in a very different Iraq, to close Leading Women's month of STEM coverage.
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Leading Women ran an iReport assignment which resulted in some amazing images of girls in STEM from our readers.
updated 7:08 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Robots can be many things -- knowledgeable, dexterous, strong. But can they ever be genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious?
updated 2:30 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Victoria Beckham has come a long way from Posh Spice. She has now been named Britain's top entrepreneur, by magazine Management Today.
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Just one in seven engineers are female. STEM experts share their ideas on how to get more girls into the industry.
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
In 2006 she sold her business to Estée Lauder in a reported multi-million dollar deal, five years later she started a brand new company.
updated 6:14 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs have come from women, though like so many inventors their names are lost in the pages of history.
updated 8:02 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
Leading Women hosted a Twitter Chat celebrating girls in science with guests including race car drivers, software developers and coders.
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
There's a fine science to running a billion dollar company. Rosalind Brewer should know -- she used to study chemistry.
ADVERTISEMENT