A Brand Owner’s Perspective on World Economic Forum 2024 in Davos

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The World Economic Forum is known for welcoming international leaders within e.g. politics or business for a conference in Davos where global and regional industry agendas are discussed and shaped.

The World Economic Forum has been criticised in the past and questioned for its relevance as an exclusive event being out of touch with peoples everyday challenges and focusing more on high-level rhetoric than actionable solutions (read the full article here).

This article dives into the experience of Charlotte Piller, co-founder of LOTTA LUDWIGSON who experienced the event for the first time as representative from the fashion industry with a strong focus on sustainability in her own work.

Over the past years Charlotte delved deeply into the world of fashion, sustainability and entrepreneurship, both in Copenhagen and Berlin, leading her to establish her own brand. The brand’s mission is to create timeless business attire for women with the ambition to make circularity the new norm. Being lucky to find private accommodation in a holiday flat through family connection, Charlotte decided to travel to Davos with an aim to push topics of sustainability and circularity in fashion forward. “As an entrepreneur, I can do things fundamentally differently in my own sphere of influence, i.e. at LOTTA LUDWIGSON. However, I also see it as my responsibility to enter discourse with both consumers as well as politicians and decision-makers.

Her highlights count reconnecting with her former boss, Eva Kruse (former CEO of Global Fashion Agenda) or engaging in other meaningful connections. “Instead of merely collecting business cards, I embraced meaningful connections and environments that fostered authentic exchanges.

Beyond these intimate connections she found a lack of attention given to the fashion industry. “Despite the fashion and textile industry encapsulating a spectrum of global issues and ranking among the most environmentally damaging sectors, the discourse around sustainable practices remained remarkably minimal. It's regrettable that an industry with such far-reaching environmental and social impacts is not receiving the spotlight it rightfully deserves.

On a more structural level, Charlotte found it disheartening to observe the notable scarce attendance of women and the undeniable imbalance in gender, diversity and wealth throughout the World Economic Forum where she also witnessed multiple instances of sexist and misogynistic behaviour during two events she attended.

During the conference, she also experienced a knowledge gap in topics such as the SDGs or circular economy and recognised the educational work needed to raise awareness on these issues. Some actions that could be taken are to place more focus on raising awareness and to conduct further educational efforts through speeches on stage, coaching or on social media to reach people also starting from ground zero.

When asked if she would recommend other fashion brand owners or representatives to travel to Davos during this week, Charlotte notes “based on my experience, considering the high costs for accommodation and travel during the week in Davos and the fact that the theme of fashion is not well-represented, I wouldn't recommend attending for other label owners unless money and time do not play a significant role.” However, given that exact under-representation, Charlotte acknowledges the opportunity to bring together more leaders, pioneers and label owners from the industry for heightened awareness, to organise roundtables or spark discussions about necessary guidelines in the fashion industry.

For anyone planning to travel to Davos for World Economic Forum in the future, Charlotte summarised practicalities to have in mind.

  • Event access
    The "World Economic Forum" itself takes place in the congress centre and is part of a high-security zone. Only individuals with white badges are permitted to enter the area and attend the forum. However, along the Promenade, there is various side events that can be accessed through online registration, while some are by invitation only. The Promenade serves as the bustling hub during the World Economic Forum, acting as a meeting and networking point for policymakers, industry leaders and change makers.
  • Accommodation
    Accommodation in Davos is both scarce and expensive. As a result, some choose to accommodation elsewhere, needing to commute up to 4 hours a day (2 hours one way) to Davos. Alternatively, some still end up sleeping on floors with sleeping bags and mats for several thousand euros. Yes, even former presidents have been spotted doing so, highlighting the scarcity of sleeping arrangements in the area.
  • Travel
    Traffic is crazy. For a journey that usually takes only 5 minutes from Davos Dorf to Davos Platz, you can easily expect up to 1 to 1.5 hours due to traffic jams, depending on the time of day. Public buses are no longer driving therefore it is rather difficult to navigate through the city. Walking (even with spikes) or catching one of those shuttles is probably the best option.

Despite some practical difficulties, if you end up going and are interested in topics such as biodiversity, circular economy, sustainable consumption, de-growth, ethics, gender equality, and diversity – have a look out for these events and hubs listed as Charlotte's personal highlights from 2024: House of Beautiful Business, the Impact Stage at Doconomy, the SDG tent, the Equality Lounge from The Female Quotient, and the Green Hub of Climate-KIC, Green Up, and Yunus Environment Hub.