Engelbert Strauss, the mail-order and retail company, is the latest Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) demand partner. The cooperation represents CmiA's first entry into the important work clothes market.
Engelbert Strauss is supporting the Cotton made in Africa initiative and the expansion of sustainably produced cotton with its new "Art of Work" line. The colourful shirts with artistically interpreted, quality ostrich designs will be available at the company's online shop, its catalogue and in company-owned workwearstores in late summer 2013. The entire ten-piece collection, comprising t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts for men, women and children, bears the official wine-red Cotton made in Africa label. "Cotton, the all-natural raw material, enjoys great popularity, especially in the working world. In Cotton made in Africa we have found a partner that offers this commodity with social and ecological added value," says Henning Strauss, grandson of the company's founder and co-owner.
CmiA promotes sustainable cotton farming in sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative has created an alliance of international textile companies that buy and process the sustainably grown cotton cultivated by around 435,000 participating small-holder farmers for the world market. The cotton marketed by CmiA has a considerably smaller ecological footprint than conventional cotton.
Engelbert Strauss is a leading manufacturer of work clothes and work safety equipment. The company is the first in its branch to take a conscious step towards sustainability, thus expanding efforts on behalf of social issues on the African continent.
The exhibit "Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa" returns to its country of origin in two ways: a selection from the heart of the show - the portraits of the Cotton made in Africa smallholder farmers -- is currently on display in public spaces in Cotonou as part of the Biennale Regard Benin. Additionally, the models were presented with their portraits, which had already been shown in the House of Photography, Deichtorhallen Hamburg.
Tina Stridde, Managing Director for the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), who accompanied Watson on his travels though Benin emphasises: "From the very beginning we knew it was important to bring the exhibit back to Benin. Without the people and our partners there, the project would never have been possible. We would like to express our thanks to all those involved."
Cotton made in Africa at the Biennale Regard Benin 2012
Printed on comparatively grainy advertising media, eleven of the large-format Watson prints will initially be on display in Cotonou. Here the photographs from the country's cotton region represent a world that is far-away and foreign to Benin's urban dwellers.A plan to have an additional series travel through the north of Benin is also in development. The photographs are on open display from February 16 to April 16, 2013 in four-square-meter display cases owned by the Sonaec Company in Cotonou's central square, Ganhi Market, and in the windows of the Hôtel du Port in Boulevard Marina. The exhibit was made possible by the Aid by Trade Foundation in cooperation with the House of Photography, Deichtorhallen Hamburg and organised by the South-North Cultural Forum as part of the Biennale Regard Benin 2012 programme.
Stephan Köhler, responsible for the exhibition in Benin, first saw the photographs at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg in September: "It immediately made perfect sense to me to bring Watson's photographs back to Benin as soon as possible and display them in a public space, perhaps even as part of the Biennale Regard Benin."
Models receive their portraits
The models photographed by Watson in December 2011 received prints of their portraits prior to the exhibit. As part of a celebration all participants were presented their photographs, including 21-year-old Boukari Kaoulatou, whose impressive portrait was one of the most distinctive at the exhibition at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg.
Famous fashion and advertising photographer Albert Watson travelled to Benin in 2011 on behalf of the Aid by Trade Foundation to photograph the living environments of the smallholder cotton farmers there who participate in the Cotton made in Africa initiative. The "Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa" exhibit was held from 14 September 2012 to 13 January 2013 in the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The show attracted around 35,000 visitors.
More information on Biennale Regard Benin 2012: www.regardbenin.net und www.facebook.com/RegardBeninBiennial
Cotton has been traded globally for centuries and, along with coffee, cocoa and tea, numbers among the most important export goods. The Aid by Trade Foundation established the "Cotton made in Africa" (CmiA) initiative to improve the earning potential and sales opportunities for cotton from Africa. real,- recently came on board as a CmiA partner, once again demonstrating the firm's dedication to corporate responsibility.
Starting November 19, the first articles bearing the CmiA seal will go on sale at real,-. Overall 20 different items of women's, men's and children's fashion, home textiles, socks and underwear will be available. "Cotton is a valuable raw material our textile suppliers use in many of their products. We would like to offer the people who produce this raw material for us active support in improving their own living conditions. So we decided to become a 'Cotton made in Africa" partner", explains Dirk Ankenbrand, real,- Textiles Area Manager. Cooperation with the CmiA Initiative is not limited to this one campaign either, and other similar projects will follow in the near future.
The real,- SB Warenhaus GmbH is part of the METRO GROUP. real,-. Under the real,- Group umbrella, the firm operates 316 self-service stores in Germany and another 110 in Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. For more information please visit www.real.info and www.metrogroup.de.
Dutch fashion fabric producer Vlisco Group is to partner with Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) and will be the initiative's first partner to both produce and market its products to local consumers in Africa. Initially this will be a traditional sponsoring relationship and CmiA and Vlisco will share marketing and communication resources. For Vlisco Group, the demand for CmiA sustainable African cotton is crucial. Vlisco will be CmiA's first partner to create a complete textile supply chain on the African continent. The company will do this through Vlisco Group brands Vlisco, designed and produced in The Netherlands, and its three brands Woodin, Uniwax and GTP designed and manufactured in Ghana and Ivory Coast.
According to Jan van der Horst, Director of Corporate Affairs at Vlisco and responsible for CSR and sustainability: "This cooperation fits with Vlisco Group's policy to increase the use of locally sourced materials in its entire supply chain in the long term. Based on our local presence in the markets, where Cotton made in Africa is also active, we want to take it a step further, and approach smallholder farmers and show them how their cotton is sold on the African market through our products." This will make Vlisco the initiative's first demand partner to not only purchase and process cotton directly on the African continent, but also market the finished products in its stores in Benin and Côte d'Ivoire. CmiA and Vlisco Group plan to use this holistic approach to establish a complete textile chain in Africa.
Vlisco Group is a design house that develops, produces and exports colourful African print designs for the Western and Central African markets, and African consumers in large metropolitan centres such as New York, London and Paris. The Vlisco Group has four unique brands in its portfolio: Vlisco, Woodin, Uniwax and GTP. Each of these brands has its own style, brand identity and consumer target group. The designs of Vlisco Group have been an integral part of the culture of Western and Central Africa since 1846 where for women the colourful patterns and fabrics are as prestigious as any piece by an internationally renowned designer.
The Group launches quarterly collections of fashion fabrics under its flagship brand Vlisco, designed and produced in Helmond, with matching accessories including handbags, scarves, belts and jewellery. Since it was established in 1846, Vlisco designs and fabrics have grown to become an essential part of African style culture, with deep-rooted influences across all layers of society. The unique Vlisco signature enjoys worldwide recognition in the art, design and fashion worlds.
The Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Initiative will begin working with around 30,000 smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe starting with the cotton harvest 2012/13. The objective here, as in the other six project countries, is to improve the famers' living conditions. Zimbabwe ranked 173rd of 187 countries on the United Nation's 2011 Human Development Index, making it one of the least developed nations in the world.
On the ground CmiA is working with the Cargill cotton company and the German Investment and Development Society (DEG). The Initiative estimates that the Zimbabwean famers will harvest around 18,700 tonnes of ginned cotton from their on average 1.9 hectare fields in the 2012/13 season. Christoph Kaut, responsible for development policy at the Aid by Trade Foundation, the umbrella organisation for CmiA: "On the whole around 200,000 people -- smallholder farmers and their families -- will profit from this collaboration in Zimbabwe. This is a great success for the people in the project areas and our initiative."
Agriculture accounts for about 19 per cent of Zimbabwe's gross domestic product. Cotton is grown almost exclusively by smallholder farmers and, after tobacco, is the second largest cash crop in the country.
In training seminars, the smallholder famers who work with Cotton made in Africa learn sustainable and efficient methods for cultivating their fields, thus increasing both yield and income. CmiA has built up an international demand alliance to facilitate cotton sales and provide the farmers access to the global market. Partner firms such as Puma, Tchibo, C&A and REWE purchase the sustainably grown cotton and process it further.
Yesterday the Deichtorhallen Hamburg opened the Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa exhibition in the House of Photography. At its heart are 36 large format photographs taken in Benin that portray the smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and their living environment. The show also includes numerous other photographs taken by legendary photographer Albert Watson of such reknown stars as Mick Jagger, Kate Moss and Clint Eastwood.
Well over 800 guests came to celebrate the photographer and his new show. Watson himself was there, as were numerous representatives from Africa who were in the city attending the Aid by Trade Foundation Stakeholder Conference held the same weekend. Among them was cotton farmer Yaya Arouna who travelled to Hamburg to see for himself where his portrait was placed in the exhibition.
Aid by Trade Foundation founder, Dr Michael Otto, hosted the exclusive preview and was followed by a number of speakers: Dr. Dirk Luckow (Deichtorhallen Artistic Director), Prof. Barbara Kisseler (Senator of Culture), Ingo Taubhorn (Exhibition Curator) and Tina Stridde (Director Aid by Trade Foundation).
Other guests included Hans-Jörg Neumann (German Ambassador to Benin), Hans-Joachim Preuß (Board Member GIZ -- the Society for International Cooperation), Dr Wolfgang Jamann (General Secretary Welthungerhilfe), Dr Michael Bornmann (Executive Board Member DEG - German Investment and Development Society), F.C. Gundlach (Founding Director of the House of Photography) and Barbara and Dr Thomas Mirow (Senator a.D.). Singer Sade Adu flew in privately from London as Albert Watson's special guest.
About the exhibition
The Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africaexhibition will be held from 14 September 2012 to 6 January 2013 in the House of Photography at 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 their living environments in order to 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. Besides two of the Cotton made in Africa retail partners, OTTO and Tom Tailor, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is another important sponsor of the project.
For additional photographs taken by Albert Watson in Benin please have a look here.