We often get the question how our brand screening process works at COSH! Important to know is that we screen fashion brands on 7 criteria. On our Amsterdam launch event we asked 7 speakers to elaborate more on one of the topics. Discover their inspiring stories and tips below!
1. Ethical working conditions
The story of MYoMY starts in 2007 when Marja meets a volunteer in Kolkata (India, on the border with Bangladesh). Marja: “I really wanted to help him because reducing inequality and poverty in the world is my biggest mission in life. It’s why I wake up every morning.“ This collaboration was the start of ‘My Paper Bag’, a design that quickly became the signature design of the brand My O My.
A few years later Marja meets Taslima, a journalist in Bangladesh. At that time, the Rana Plaza accident just happened. Marja: “We met and I immediately felt such a strong connection with her. I was so touched by her energy. She really wanted to make a difference and bridge gaps like me, so we started to cooperate. With the support of the Governments in Holland, we moved a production factory in Bangladesh to a safe area. We trained the staff, we installed good management, we made sure there were fair trade audits,... We visited the factory 14 times that year to make sure everything was alright. After that year, we created a great workplace where 45 people had a wonderful job, making the My O My handbags.”
“I’m so proud to say that today we already sold 230.000 My O My bags that were ethically made in Bangladesh. Can you imagine how many hands have touched these and how much love has gone into these bags? I know that on a scale we are just such a tiny company and we produce just a little amount. But for the people working in Taslima’s factory it makes such a big difference.”
Want to support ethical working conditions in Bangladesh, Discover the MYoMY flagship store in Amsterdam!
2. Environmental impact of materials
You may or may not already know this but making jeans is a highly polluting process. In order to make jeans you need a lot of water and dying the fabric takes a lot of chemicals .
Jos van der Hoogen is production manager at Denim City. “Together with the House of Denim Foundation, we are constantly looking for ways to make the production process of jeans as sustainable as possible. We experiment with making new denim from recycled materials such as hospital blankets, post-consumer waste, … By doing this, we can reduce the use of water with 30%, from 7.000 liters to 600 liters.
The biggest challenge when using recycled materials is to make the fabric sturdy enough. Denim needs to be strong. That’s why you always need a mix of recycled and new cotton. Through the years we were able to develop a denim with 25% recycled cotton that is as strong as a jeans made from 100% new cotton.
“The second part that makes denim so polluting is the dying process. In a normal jeans making process the cotton is dipped in indigo 26 times. At Denim City we use another technique: foam dying. The benefit of this technique is that you only need one cup of water (Instead of 18.000 liters!!) and the yarns also catches the coloring way more easily because of the foam.”
“But the biggest saving of water happens during the washing process. The old fashioned way is to stonewash your jeans and bleach it. At Denim City we use a lasering technique. This technique requires no water and almost looks the same as the stonewash technique. It’s so crazy that so little people know about this!”
At Denim City we give courses for brands and consumers. We inform them about the process of making jeans and we show them they can be part of the solution by creating and shopping for sustainable denim. Besides that, we also want to spread the message that repairing your denim is cool! Our main goals is to more sustainability more interesting for the next generations.”
Curious to discover more about sustainable jeans? Denim City is open 7 days a week and is open for everybody to come and visit.
Visit Denim City
3. Circular economy
Archivist Studio is a circular fashion start-up founded by Eugenie and xx. “With Archivist Studio we create upcycled shirts from luxury hotel linen. Before she started the brand, Eugenie had a job at Zalando. “There I became very aware of the waste and sustainability issue in the fashion industry. I was always very curious about starting an upcycling brand but I didn’t really know where to start.”
“Then one day I was wondering, what happens with hotel linen? Because my assumption was that they would probably throw them out at some point, Especially at luxury hotels where the standards are very high. So I asked my friend who worked at a hotel and I was right. She was happy to send me a set of bed sheets to experiment with. When I first touched the fabric I really thought ‘Whoah, this is the nicest fabric ever!’. Two weeks later I had 200 kilos of hotel linen laying around in my small apartment in Berlin. That’s when the whole adventure started.
“Now we’re working with several hotels and we also have a collaboration with the biggest textile bed linen renting company in Romania, where we also produce. That’s a good step for us because now we have enough linen to scale the production while we keep the production chain very local.”
In the future we would definitely like to sell Archivist Studio at more shops. A lot of people are very positive about the concept, but once they feel the quality of the fabrics, they’re sold.
Discover Archivist Studio
Want to discover the Archivist Studio shirts yourself? Then you can make an appointment at their atelier in Amsterdam!
4. Animal well-being
With VEGA-LIFE, Alex Blanker is offering an animal-friendly alternative for leather goods. Alex has been into vegan leather for a long time and has seen a lot of evolution during the years: “20 years ago, one of our suppliers started making shoes with rubber insoles. The material wasn’t breathable at all and caused a very sweaty foot. From that point on, the company started designing other materials which are durable and eco-friendly.”
In the vegan leather goods, there’s a big difference in quality, but we’re very happy to see that vegan materials keep developing and new, innovative materials are entering the market regularly. Alex: “Vegan leather can definitely be just as durable as animal leather. On the day of the opening of our store in 2008, my colleague said: ‘Oh no I don't have any shoes to wear myself’. She walked into the stock and picked a pair of big boots. Now, 14 years later, she still has that same pair and still wears it regularly!”
Want to discover eco-friendly vegetarian shoes yourself? Have a visit at VEGA-LIFE in Amsterdam
5. Short supply chain
Anyone who’s somewhat familiar with the fashion industry knows that the supply chains are often long and garments travel a long way in order to end up in our closet. Xander Slager worked in the fashion industry for several years. Together with his co-founder Nelleke he is determined to bring radical change with their brand New Optimist.
Xander: “The philosophy of New Optimist is localism instead of globalism. We try to do the complete opposite of the standard in the fashion industry by producing all our garments in a local atelier in Amsterdam where we offer social employment to people who have difficulty accessing the regular job market.”
“On top of that, all the pieces we create are designed for circularity . This means we use upcycled and organic materials but we also pay a lot of attention to the longevity of a garment and we make sure everything can be recycled again.
By doing this we want to create a company that fits into the Donut Economy. In the future we would like to create different ateliers in different cities in Holland and maybe even other countries. This way, we want to prove that this business model can actually work just as good as a ‘normal fast fashion brand’.”
Visit New Optimist
Do you support the mission of New Optimist and like the idea of actually being able to see where your garments were made? Make sure to pay a visit at New Optimist in Amsterdam!
6. Slow fashion business model
Do you want to join the slow fashion movement without missing out on all the fun of trying out new styles? Meet the genius idea of clothing libraries! Elisa Jansen is co-founder of LENA library, a clothing library in the city Centre of Amsterdam.
Elisa: “At LENA Library you can borrow anything you want for as long as you want. All our items in the library have credits. This varies from blouses that you can rent for 50 cents a day to a dress or coat for 1 euro a day. When you want to start borrowing you pay a starting fee of 10 euros and then you only pay what you’re borrowing. This makes the system very flexible and easy to use.”
“Thanks to our library you can make a sustainable choice but still experiment with your style and enjoy fashion. At our library you can also buy pieces if you enjoy borrowing them. We see this as a ‘try before you buy’ system. Once you’ve borrowed something you’re definitely sure that something fits you well, is easy to combine and will not be laying around in your closet, doing nothing!”
Visit Lena Library
Do you want to experiment with your fashion with a minimal impact on the environment? Head over to LENA library in Amsterdam.
The last and probably most important sustainability pillar for us as a sustainable fashion platform is transparency. COSH! Founder Niki de Schryver started her first call for more transparency in the fashion industry in 2013 when she worked on the fully transparent fashion brand Honest By. With COSH! she continues to work on this mission. “When we screen brands at COSH! we do not simply read the sustainability page of a brand. We dig deeper and also compare it to the actual products on their webshop. Because it’s one thing to say that you’re sustainable, but it’s a whole other thing to actually be able to prove it. Thanks to my experience in the fashion sector it’s also easier for me to pick through the greenwashing.”
“When we read something on a brands’ website that is unclear or doesn’t seem right we reach out to the brands. By actually opening up the conversation we try to create a positive impact on the fashion industry. Very often brands simply don't know something wasn't as sustainable becquse their textile supplier gave them insufficient information or they wanna do better and they just don't know how. With COSH! we also want to help brands with our knowledge in order to push the fashion industry forward towards a more sustainable approach.
Want to discover sustainability screenings of brands that are available locally to you? Check out cool, sustainable brands in our brand checker!