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2015-02_dc

D+C Vol.42.2015:2 31 Yes, unfortunately we had a quality issue with a jeans supplier in 2012. We had to make an extra effort to get the quality which people expect from our brand. Today, we are on track with all suppliers once more. It is necessary to learn from mistakes. We’re on a journey, a step-by-step process to meet ever more sustainability criteria. The first step to- wards solving any problem is to acknowledge the reality you’re in. We strive to solve problems in a creative way in cooperation with our suppliers. On the other hand, it makes sense to rely on the support of independent experts, for instance from textile laboratories. When producing jeans, is it possible to rely entirely on environment-friendly components and processing? Organic cotton has a much lower carbon footprint than conventional cotton. There is much less water pollution too. However, organic cotton production does require a lot of water, and the wet processing of jeans – including pre-treatment, dyeing, printing and finishing – involves certain chemicals. It also requires a lot of water and energy. What is Kuyichi doing about it? Do you sell bleached jeans? Luckily, sustainable alternatives are being devel- oped. We are constantly working on improving our processes in regard to denim shading, abrasion and 3D-effects on jeans for example. We do not do sand- blasting or abrasive blasting in the finishing process, but there are numerous steps that can be taken. We are getting better. Given that you make extra efforts, why are your jeans not more expensive than those of the large clothing companies that do not make those efforts? Our profit margins are low, and we opt for creative, low-cost marketing instead of expensive advertising. Even without expensive advertising, Kuyichi has been featured in many of Europe’s most influential fashion and lifestyle magazines, among them Vogue and ELLE. How was that possible? Our true story seems to be great content for the magazines. But our aim is to reach a broad number of people, not only influencers or fashion magazines. Kuyichi jeans are sold in stores as well as online. Which channel is more important? Both channels are important; both have upsides and downsides. We do not consider online and offline as two separate worlds however. For example, our new webshop allows consumers to check where the prod- ucts are made, how they are made and by whom. Such knowledge may also interest consumers who buy Kuyichi products in a store – or retailers who want to provide their customers with more detailed information. Where do you sell most? Our biggest markets are currently the Netherlands and Germany. Is the market for organic jeans growing? In our experience, the demand for organic jeans is rising slowly. However, organic fabric is not consum- ers’ top priority. When they are looking for a new pair of jeans, they are interested in criteria such as colour, price and models. Usually, the fit and comfort are what determines their choice. For a niche group of consumers, sustainability is a criterion too, and so are labour conditions. Who are your main competitors – the big global brands or other organic brands? Kuyichi has many competitors, including the big global jeans brands, as well as a few sustainable denim brands. Our competitors sell jeans in a simi- lar price and quality range in the same stores. Fashion trends change fast in Europe. It feels as if people were switching styles every half a year. How do you deal with this challenge? Kuyichi does not believe in fast fashion. All our clothes are designed to last: they are made of high quality fabrics with a timeless appearance. Slow fashion encourages an approach of systems think- ing, recognising that our collective choices have impacts on people and the natural environment. Do manufacturers bear most responsibility for making the global economy fair, or do the consumers do so? Everyone has a responsibility and must live up to it. Fashion brands play a very important role, as they determine the usage of materials, location of pro- duction, and what prices the factories get for their products. Transparency is also the responsibility of brands. But in the end the consumers decide what they buy. To really change the industry, all parties involved have to do quite a bit. For example, gov- ernments in developing countries should raise minimum wages and strictly enforce labour laws to protect the workforce. Factories need to do a better job to protect workers and pay a living wage. Con- sumers should prefer quality over quantity. And when they go shopping, they should look for certi- fied organic labels and ask shopkeepers about la- bour relations. Critics often argue that fairtrade will ulti- mately remain a niche market with little bearing on the world economy. What impact can Kuyichi have on the global textile market? We would like to inspire others with our sustainable knowledge to do the same or even better. Kuyichi was the first to introduce organic cotton jeans, and now some other brands also source organic cotton for their collections. We’re happy to see that we raised the bar for many companies around us and hope to inspire many more. Monique Voorneman is the head of commu­ nications at Kuyichi. [email protected]

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