Cradle to Cradle: C&A launches ‘world’s most circular’ jeans

Fashion retailer C&A has this week launched the world's first Gold level Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified jeans, and is now providing other clothing brands with the tools they need to produce equally sustainable denim garments.

The jeans, which are set to go on sale via C&A’s online shop this month, are made from organic cotton and coloured with dye derived from plant waste. The product took the company’s sustainability team more than a year to develop, as achieving the Gold level of certification required the complete redevelopment of key components including the lining material and sewing thread.

C&A’s global chief sustainability officer Jeffrey Hogue said the development of the jeans was a “challenge” which the company achieved as a result of a “close partnership” with the C2C Products Innovation Institute, consultancy firm Eco Intelligent Growth (EIG) and the MBDC, which created the certification framework.

“We are extremely pleased with the result,” Hogue said. “All of the components have been successfully optimised to make sure that only non-toxic materials are used. During the process, only renewable energy and high social standards were applied, leading to a product that is designed for its next life.”

Industry guidance

In a bid to bring the rest of the fashion industry on its journey towards making sustainable fashion “the new normal”, C&A utilised its non-profit arm Fashion for Good to launch a comprehensive toolkit on the product development of C2C Certified denim to accompany the new line of jeans.  

Released on Thursday (16 August), the toolkit provides information on how retailers can source the materials and ingredients currently assessed for C2C certification. It additionally provides guidance on how companies can combine sustainable processes and circular components to create a fully-certified end product.

The move to make the toolkit publicly available was praised by C2C Products Innovation Institute president Lewis Perkins, who said it formed a “significant contribution to the future of sustainable fashion and the growth of the circular economy.”

Fashion forward

The move to launch C2C Certified jeans comes at after C&A revealed that it would redesign its business model to move away from cradle-to-grave methods.

Last summer, it became the world’s first fashion retailer to launch Gold level C2C Certified t-shirts, which are made with 100% organic materials and designed to be reused, recycled into new products or safely composted. C&A is now in the process of delivering a two-year C2C strategy as it strives to achieve certification across more complicated garments such as nightwear and underwear sold across all age and gender divisions. 

Outside of its own operations, C&A has utilised Fashion for Good to enable its competitors to learn from best practice as part of its bid to drive wider change within the industry. The Amsterdam-based non-profit, which provides downloadable guides on the process of developing C2C Certified garments, aims to help major brands collectively “reimagine how fashion is designed, made, used and reused”.

Meanwhile, the company’s corporate foundation, C&A Foundation, has invested more than £1m (€1.29m) in a string of initiatives aimed at accelerating the industry’s transition to a circular economy.

Hogue previously told edie that he believes sustainability shouldn’t be viewed as a competition, and that companies should be willing to open initiatives for use by the wider market and rivals.

“There is a phantom business case on whether this creates a competitive advantage or not,” Hogue said. “We’re not going to change the world by producing 400,000 t-shirts. We’re going to change the world if all brands that produce t-shirts produce them in this type of way.

“If we share it with the world and encourage other brands to come down this path, it will make a difference in how these garments are produced and make a positive impact on the environment.”

Sarah George

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