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The Swiss eco fashion landscape: Selected facts not only for consumers

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Upcycled fire hydrant number plates as belt buckles. By STREETBELT http://streetbelt.ch

The Swiss are not exactly a chatty nation. I should know, after all I’ve grown up in and around it’s economic (read: financial) capital Zurich.

The country’s economy remains stable despite woes in the rest of Europe, salaries – and prices – are both playing in their own (high) league, and much money is spent on quality, rather than quantity.
Chances are this is just a first article, and there will be much more to come as time goes by. There is a lot positive stuff happening here, in all quietness, but with good, and rather successful outcome for all concerned parties.
But for a start, let’s just slightly scratch the surface, and present you a few, for the Anglo-Saxon world possibly surprising, facts in relation to sustainable fashion.

  • The Global Organic Cotton Community Platform (GOCCP), a knowledge and contact sharing platform for every one with a (business) stake in organic cotton, was initiated by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Swiss development NGO Helvetas, the Dutch NGO ICCO, and US based Textile Exchange. GOCCP is available in German, English, French and Spanish.
  • Helvetas has been involved since 1997 in Mali, Burkina Faso, and later also in Senegal, Benin and Kyrgyzstan with the goal to support the communities in growing organic cotton. Since 2003 the farmers in Mali produce certified organic cotton, and so do the farmers in Burkina Faso since 2004. In 2004, both of these farming communities were in addition also FLO certified. The communities in Senegal, Benin and Kyrgyzstan are currently implementing the approaches that worked successfully, not the the least on an economic level, in Mali and Burkina Faso.
    Among the buyers of Helvetas organic cotton are the UK’s Marks & Spencer; the Swiss Migros, Switcher and Manor; and the German Elmertex and Hess Natur.
    Helvetas in fact is the largest organic ‘made-in-Africa’ cotton supplier world-wide, and runs since many years an international organic cotton competence centre out of their Zurich head quarter.
  • Switcher is probably Europe’s longest running casual and sports wear brand, that has made sustainable development a part of their DNA. Although they existed previously, it was after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the company decided to become ‘sustainable’ in every sense of the word. Today this means: They only buy hand-picked cotton [note: which means, none of it is heavily subsidised US cotton], 16% of their cotton is organically certified, another 4.5% is fairtrade certified, theiy are CO2 neutral, they have created an ethical charter to be signed by every employee, and 134 of their manufacturing steps are fully traceable. Alternative materials such as recycled PET are used where possible, but there are still substantial amounts of non-organic fibres involved.
    (Source [DR/FR/EN])
  • Both of the two major retailers, Migros and Coop, have organic cotton and fairtrade cotton in their program. They have each developed their own ‘bio’ labels in order to communicate their own specific take on sustainable textiles to their consumers.
    Specifically, these are the labels:

    • Swiss Coop's Naturaline label

      Coop's Naturaline organic cotton label

      Coop Naturaline Bio Cotton:
      Coop Naturaline garments are in fact ‘bioRe’ cotton products. ‘bioRe’ is the trade mark of Remei AG , a company which not only grows their own organically certified cotton in India and Tanzania, but also follows fair trade criteria in their manufacturing sites. They are, hence, a one-stop-shop for organic + fair trade cotton garments. Each garment can be traced by number code from where the cotton has been grown, to where the garment was produced to it’s retail destination. Their entire supply chain is expected to be SA8000 certified sometime in 2011.
      Quantitatively, Coop claims to be the world-wide largest retailer of fair trade, organic garments, with 440 different styles on offer.
      Their product range encompasses women’s, to men’s, children’s and babies’, and home textiles.
      (Source [DE/IT/FR only])
    • Migros Bio Cotton

      Migros' Bio Cotton label

      Migros Bio Baumwolle:
      Migros was among the first to buy organic cotton from Helvetas’ Mali communities in 2003. Today the co-operation with Helvetas remains active, and in addition they buy organic cotton from India and Turkey. Normally garments carrying this label are made from 100% organic cotton fibre, unless e.g. elasticity is required, in which case at least 80% of the fibre is organic cotton.
      The product range encompasses women’s, men’s, children’s and babies’, and home textiles.
      In addition, Migros has also a baby and children’s wear range made from FLO certified cotton.
      (Source and Source. [DE/FR/IT only])

Shopping sustainably in Zurich, Switzerland:

  • List and map of shops with organic and fair trade cotton clothing, incl. the names of specific product lines where required. Courtesy of Textile Exchange.
  • Changemaker - Sustainable Lifestyle, Marktgasse 19 (Niederdorf), 8001 Zurich. Phone: +44 (0)44 251 21 20. Clothing, interiors, decoration, and gifts.
  • Wink – the healthy clothing store. Ottenweg 35 (near Kreuzplatz), 8008 Zurich. Phone: ++41 (0)43 243 74 27. Young, hip clothing store with a dedication to organic and fair trade fashion and accessories. Some main stream fashion lines in stock (e.g. UGG). Clothing, shoes, accessories.
  • Fairytale select – sustainably elegant. Balgristweg 27, 8053 Zurich. Phone. ++41 (0)43 819 37 93. On appointment only. Exclusive, high-end fashion and interior show room and shop. Organic and fair trade fashion and accessories, and exquisite Japanese table ware.
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