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Earlier this year, COS launched a new line of sustainable denim, composed of 100 percent organic cotton. Including comfortable, classic styles for both men and women, the pieces are made from sustainably sourced material, which means less energy and water is required during production.
Known for offering timeless, functional wardrobe staples that are made to last, the fashion brand has taken on a new mission—to become completely sustainable by the year 2030. In keeping with this goal, COS has also launched a line of sustainable swimwear.
During the spring, COS partnered with the nonprofit Baby2Baby in order to aid U.S. families in need during the outbreak of COVID-19. Ten percent of sales made between March 27 and March 29 were donated, along with more than 2.5 million items to those affected by the pandemic. And COS’s parent company, the H&M Foundation, gave $500,000 to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
To learn more about the new collections and its commitment to responsible fashion, Whitewall spoke with COS’s global head of sustainability, Nopor Stuart.
WHITEWALL: COS’s goal is to use 100 percent sustainable materials by 2030. What steps is the brand making to ensure that happens?
NOPOR STUART: We have a dedicated, creative team of buyers, designers, and material experts who are all continuously reinventing our ways of working to achieve our 2030 goal of 100 percent sustainable materials.
One of our strengths is that we are completely obsessed with fibers, materials, and quality. One of our streams is our “Repurposed” projects, where we turn our own production waste—such as cotton scraps—into new garments. It is an important step
Whilst this started as a small project a few years ago, thanks to our amazing teams in production, we are now integrating this into our normal way of working across our supply chain. The key for us is to offer recycled and sustainable materials that are of high quality with durability and longevity in mind.
WW: What types of challenges has COS overcome to create a more sustainable manufacturing model?
NS: When we launched COS in 2007, we put a big emphasis on quality through all our aspects of manufacturing—from how long the materials should be resting before cutting them to adding extra quality controlling steps in every part of the process of sewing to finishing. All of these steps require extra time and knowledge, and [the] challenge was to learn how to do it on scale.
For a brand in our price range, this was not common, so it was important that we worked closely with manufacturers who shared our vision of quality.
WW: How is COS’s new denim collection made from organic,
sustainably sourced cotton?
NS: Organic cotton is grown from organic seeds which have not been genetically modified. The farming process of organic cotton requires no chemicals or synthetic fertilizers, and soil conservation is an important part.
The textile industry has come a long way in offering organic materials of high quality. Just a few years ago our material manufacturers did not have many options in long staple high-quality organic cotton. We used to go to textile fairs and ask for sustainable options with our high-quality requirements and were often told there was not enough demand from the rest of the fashion industry.
WW: What does the eco-footprint look like for the sustainable denim in comparison to denim not made so responsibly?
NS: We would need a life cycle analysis to say that in absolute terms, as it depends on many factors, such as where and how the conventional material was made, and how much water was used, et cetera. But we know that the eco-footprint is lower for denims made in sustainable materials.
Then, of course, for a total low eco-footprint we need those denims to last for a long time, be washed as little as possible, and for the customers to care for them with love.
WW: A common concern with sustainability seems to be that it’s higher in cost, yet COS seems to maintain a relatively moderate price point. How does sustainability impact the cost of products?
NS: At its core, COS has had a sustainable approach from day one of starting our brand. We have always had a huge focus on quality, longevity, and durability, and one of the most sustainable things a brand can do is to offer garments that last for a long time—not just because they are durable, but equally because they stay relevant season after season.
Yes, it costs more to buy an innovative material, but COS has done that since 2007, so our processes and pricing are built with that in mind. It is not more costly to work sustainably, as usually the added benefit of sustainability is a higher efficiency. So we can often save costs by implementing a more sustainable approach.
WW: COS is also launching sustainable swimwear for the first time. What can we expect to see?
NS: Our swimwear collection is really a popular part of our brand; customers seem to love it. We focus on modern silhouettes with clever design details, like our wraparound one-piece style that allows the wearer to adjust the front based on their body shape and size. Our swim shorts are [also] designed for comfort—we have a great pair this season that have a clean, tailored design and are made from 100 percent recycled polyester.
WW: Given the current global climate surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, what changes might we expect to see in the fashion industry in the near future?
NS: Given the changing nature of the pandemic, it’s difficult to imagine what the total impact will be to the industry long-term. We are all learning to work in new, flexible, and creative ways to achieve our roles. With that challenge comes the opportunity to grow as individual brands and a wider industry.
I believe the focus on sustainability and corporate responsibility will continue and be heightened through this crisis. Customers are incredibly aware in today’s world of the power of their shopping habits and are demanding more all the time from the fashion industry—this can only be a good thing!