If you went to Germany, Austria or the Netherlands, you might have get, or at least come across, in the central shopping streets of the big cities, in the Dutch clothing chain C & A, by Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer, the brothers who founded it back in 1841. I knew it in Vienna and until some time ago I have always considered it, neither more nor less, like other chains of large retailers that are found in quantity, especially in the North European countries, wide and varied offer and floors on the floors of escalators, where in the end you do not know what you’re really looking for, maybe you’ll get just lost and exhausted.
Instead C & A gave me positive surprises got by doing research for the blog, especially for articles that involved contests and awards for sustainable design and innovation or for Fashion Revolution, which is going to be celebrated next week.
First of all, being on the market for more than 170 years is not bad, in the history of the brand I read that the company’s origins in textiles run much deeper – its relationship with clothing dates back as far as the 1600s., so not only ancient roots but also a pioneering aspect that for a business means experience and ability to face epochal changes such as those that have characterized these last two centuries. But what matters most is that the concept of sustainability is an integral part of the vision of C & A, a concept developed by the C & A Foundation, set up in 2011 after the Instituto C & A in Brazil in 1991 and the Fundación C & A Mexico in 1999. The foundation works closely with the company on several fronts ranging from the use of more sustainable materials and processes compared to conventional production techniques to support innovative start-ups, such as Fashion for Good, from the protection of worker’s and animal rights (angora and fur banned already many years ago) to support women’s work with ad hoc campaigns such as ‘Inspiring Women’, which recognizes women to be the driving force of the clothing industry and of the brand itself: 80% of employees of C & A are indeed women, as well as those working in the supply chain.
At the top of the list of the most used sustainable materials by C & A is organic cotton; last year Textile Exchange, one of the most important non-profit organizations that promote responsible and sustainable development in the textile industry at an international level, named C & A for the fifth time the largest buyer of certified organic cotton globally and today already more than 70% of the cotton that the company sources is certified organic cotton or grown as Better Cotton. Committing to ‘The Transparency Pledge”, the document that guarantees the total transparency of the entire production chain of goods, C & A has published all of its suppliers’ tier-1 and tier-2 factories around the globe, promoting, together with a culture of transparency, also integrity and responsibility values towards workers and consumers.
With the #Wearthechange collection, launched last February, C & A offers more sustainable garments such as the Gold-level Cradle to Cradle Certified ™ t-shirts made out of 100% bio cotton and produced with renewable energy, jeans made from recycled cotton and jackets in polyester also recycled.
The C & A Foundation also works regularly in partnership with associations such as Human Rights Watch and other international workers’ rights organizations to eliminate bad practices such as excessive overtime, undisclosed subcontracting and restrictions to freedom of association
The foundation also stands out among the supporters of the Fashion Revolution, even if the movement itself makes it clear that the fact that the C & A Foundation is one of their official ‘sponsors’, the homonymous brand obviously does not enjoy favoritism but it is two distinct entities. Of course, otherwise what a revolution would it be ?!