The successful young designer from Hamburg, Julia Starp, has designed an eight-piece spring / summer collection exclusively for OTTO. The collection is made of, amongst other things, the sustainably produced cotton from the Cotton made in Africa initiative, which makes it clear once again: Sustainable fashion is fashionable and stylish.
With the "ECOREPUBLIC by Julia Starp" collection, OTTO kicks off its spring/summer 2012 season with trendy outfits of lasting quality. The collection focuses on the use of sustainable materials that were produced by methods that took environmental and social aspects into account. In addition to organic cotton, cotton from the Cotton made in Africa initiative is used.
The initiative promotes the cultivation of cotton in sub-Saharan Africa by equipping the small farmers with knowledge of modern, efficient farming methods combined with a limited use of pesticides. Thereby it currently helps to improve the living conditions of around 230,000 African small farmers and their families.
Julia Starp has gained widespread recognition with her sustainable creations, which have been worn by German celebrities such as Barbara Meier and Sabine Kaack. In 2012 her collection will once again be on show at the Berlin Fashion Week.
"Exclusivity and sustainability are not opposites for me. To the contrary, my creations will only be complete with sustainable materials," says the 29-year-old. With trend-conscious designs of tops, t-shirts or a jacket, Julia Starp shows that sustainability and fashion can be brought together, stressing: "It's important that my fashion can be worn for more than one season - this is part of my philosophy of sustainable fashion."
Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the Deichtorhallen Hamburg are sending star photographer Albert Watson to Benin. Over the next two weeks, Watson will photograph the cotton farmers who work with the initiative. The resulting pictures will be displayed next year in the House of Photography as part of an exhibition of Albert Watson's work entitled "Albert Watson -- Memories and Visions feat. Faces of Africa".
Cotton made in Africa promotes the cultivation of sustainably produced cotton in Africa to improve the living conditions of the 240,000 smallholder farmers currently active in the initiative. This exceptional collaboration with fashion and commercial photographer Albert Watson will provide insight into the cotton farmers' world and transport a better awareness of Africa and CmiA's work. "It is all about rendering the people behind this initiative visible: Who is Cotton made in Africa really? Who are the people behind it and what do their lives look like?" explains Tina Stridde, Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, the CmiA's sponsoring organisation. The photos will illustrate the initiative's goal to improve social conditions in the smallholder farmers' lives. In addition to the cotton harvest, currently underway, Watson will also visit traditional markets and a tribal king in Benin to get an impression of the diversity of life in Benin and its people.
The completed photographs are scheduled for exhibition from 14 September 2012 to 6 January 2013 in the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The "Albert Watson -- Memories and Visions feat. Faces of Africa" exhibition will be part of a show that includes the photographer's vintage and Polaroid works never shown before. Curator Ingo Taubhorn notes: "Albert Watson is well-known as a fashion and celebrity photographer, but he is so much more: He toils uncompromisingly on the image and can just as easily turn his scrutinizing gaze on social realities. Which is why I am looking forward to seeing what stories the smallholder farmers will tell in his pictures."
Albert Watson is a living legend in fashion and commercial photography. His prominent motifs include stars like Mick Jagger, Alfred Hitchcock, Kate Moss, Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson, to name just a few. In addition to famous people, Watson also enjoys photographing the people he meets during his travels. In 1998 he published "Morocco", an illustrated book that has often been described as a visual hymn in honour of that African country.
About the exhibition
The "Albert Watson -- Memories and Visions feat. Faces of Africa" exhibition will be held from 14 September 2012 to 6 January 2013 in the House of Photography in the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The exhibit consists of two parts: Albert Watson's newly created photographs of Benin from December 2011 comprise its heart. They depict smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and visualize the social effects of the initiative. The accompanying exhibition will show never before published vintage and Polaroid works from the famed fashion and commercial photographer.
C&A, one of Europe's leading fashion groups, today joins the Cotton made in Africa initiative's Demand Alliance. In 2012 the company plans to take up 1,000 tonnes of sustainably produced African cotton for its textile products. This additional demand supports the initiative in improving the living conditions of some 240,000 smallholder farmers and their families in Benin, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Malawi and Ivory Coast.
The Cotton made in Africa initiative thus gains an important partner and further strengthens its international Demand Alliance. C&A is not only a very strong brand but also a company that places great importance on sustainable and responsible business. "We're happy to respond to our customers' demand for fashion produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable way", says Phil Chamberlain, Head of Sustainable Business Development at C&A. "Cotton made in Africa offers us a great opportunity to use a high-value raw material with added social value in our textiles." With this sustainably produced cotton, C&A widens its already extensive engagement in the organic cotton sector. In 2012 it plans to take up 1,000 tonnes of African cotton; in 2013, 1,500 tonnes and in 2014, 2,000 tonnes of Cotton made in Africa are to be processed into C&A textiles.
"Rather than sending financial donations to Africa we're being proactive in helping create stable demand on the global market for sustainably produced African cotton", is how Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, explains the initiative's approach. "Gaining C&A as a Demand Alliance Partner is a great success for us on the European market." Cotton made in Africa provides participating smallholder farmers with cultivation methods that both conserve the environment and raise crop yields, while providing training and education for adults and children. Besides C&A the Otto Group, PUMA, Anvil and Tchibo are also Demand Alliance Partners.
The Aid by Trade Foundation yesterday presented its initiative Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) during a round table at the House of Lords in London. The Ethical Fashion Forum had brought together representatives from the textile and fashion industry in order to draw public attention to the issue of African fashion and production.
Besides CmiA about 30 participants had been invited to the British Upper House to present the best fashion business practices in Africa. CSR, sourcing and buying professionals from retailers such as ASOS, Burberry and Roland Mouret, as well as representatives from industry bodies, networks, smaller businesses and entrepreneurs gave vivid insights into their work and experiences.
Stephan Engel, Managing Director at the Aid by Trade Foundation, who presented the approach of Cotton made in Africa said: "Exchanging ideas and practices with all those retailers and organisations was a fantastic opportunity for us to call attention to CmiA in Britain." The initiative intends to take sustainably produced African cotton out of its niche and into the mass market. Abi Rushton, Associate Director to the Aid by Trade Foundation, commented: „The UK market is one of the leaders in ethical consumerism and offers great potential for the initiative and the smallholder farmers who work with it."
Reliable Hosiery is the first Canadian company to join the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) demand alliance. The Aid by Trade Foundation, CmiA's supporting organization, and the Canadian hosiery manufacturer signed a contract last week. This agreement further strengthens and expands CmiA's international demand alliance and will grow the distribution end of the initiative. Having a direct effect on the smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, the initiative works with and ultimately supports sustainable cotton cultivation.
Founded in 1959, Reliable Hosiery is the leading manufacturer of hosiery products in Canada. Unusual for a North American garment firm, its entire production line is still located in Montreal. "Taking responsibility is important to us," said Hermann Gruenwald, president and owner of Reliable Hosiery. He strongly believes that even in a highly competitive global economy, retailers and consumers have a desire to support sustainable initiatives like this one. "This applies equally to our employees here in Canada and to the people who produce the raw materials for our products."
Cotton made in Africa provides a source of cotton that is both environmentally and socially friendly and as such contributes directly to changing the lives of smallholder farmers in Africa for the better.
Reliable Hosiery plans to offer an individual collection of Cotton made in Africa products and to emphasize the special raw materials in their public relations. Both partners have agreed on exclusivity in Canada for the hosiery products. "With Reliable Hosiery we have brought a highly motivated customer on board who will work closely with us to establish Cotton made in Africa in Canada. We are looking forward to working together," Aid by Trade Foundation Managing Director Tina Stridde said.
Cotton made in Africa works with five African countries and a total of 240,000 smallholder farmers. The initiative's most important goals are to improve farmers' incomes and improve environmental protection in cotton production. To this end the initiative focuses in particular on teaching more efficient cultivation methods through training measures and on increasing the demand of an alliance of textile companies in Europe and North America. Over 20 companies have joined the CmiA initiative and use the cotton to produce their textiles. They pay a small licence fee to the initiative which is passed on to the project countries in keeping with the foundation's credo to help people help themselves through trade. For the outreach to the North American market the Cotton made in Africa initiative is working together with the human rights organization Social Accountability International (SAI) based in New York City. SAI supports the initiative by working to improve the social performance of the spinning mills involved and introducing the program to North American companies.
The Otto Group and the Aid by Trade Foundation have launched a project to promote Zambia's school infrastructure. With the cooperation of the Dunavant Zambia cotton company and the Deutschen Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG, the German investment and development company), the project will ensure that around 7,000 girls and boys in the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative project region will soon have better access to education.
The goals of this cooperative project are to enable as many children as possible to attend school and to improve school infrastructure as a whole. "Education is the key to a better future. Thus, if we want to strive for sustainable development in Africa, we have to start with the education of children. This is why we support this Aid by Trade Foundation project", says Andreas Streubig, Head of Corporate Responsibility for the Otto Group. A variety of Otto Group companies are partners to the Cotton made in Africa initiative, which is dedicated to improving the living conditions of African smallholder farmers.
The project that the Otto Group supports with 150,000 € includes plans for building six new school buildings. This will give many children from isolated rural regions access to a school closer to their villages, so they no longer have to endure the often very long, tiring and dangerous walk to school. Smaller classes and well-equipped classrooms will ensure every pupil has a desk and offer a quieter learning environment. The curriculum will also include a very special subject: classes held in school gardens will teach children important aspects of growing cotton and vegetables sustainably. This integrates key knowledge about environmentally-friendly and efficient agricultural technologies directly into the children's regular class work.
In Zambia, children are officially required to attend school from forms 1 to 7. The country's extreme poverty, however, complicates a well-working school infrastructure as well as the maintenance and equipment of the buildings. Classes of up to 60 pupils are not unusual in Zambia. Also, access to clean water and electricity is the exception rather than the rule for many schools.
To improve living conditions for African smallholder farmers, the Cotton made in Africa initiative is focusing on social projects in Africa in addition to promoting sustainable cotton cultivation. These are funded and carried out in cooperation with local African partners, companies, partners and the public sector.