The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) is expanding its network in Great Britain: Baroness Lola Young has come on board as the foundation's ambassador. The parliamentarian from the British Upper House wholeheartedly supports sustainable fashion from Africa. Effective immediately she will promote the foundation's initiative Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and its work in the British Isles.
Back in December 2011, the Aid by Trade Foundation presented its initiative Cotton made in Africa at an informational meeting chaired by Lola Young in the House of Lords. The foundation'sgoal is to helppeople help themselves through trade. To this end, its initiative Cotton made in Africa creates an international Demand Alliance to buy sustainably produced cotton from currently around 230,000 African smallholder farmers. As ambassador, Baroness Young will advocate for the interests of AbTF and CmiA in future. "The issue of 'ethical fashion' is close to my heart and I see Cotton made in Africa's work as very valuable and most impressive. I am really looking forward to supporting this dynamic initiative in the British markets and I hope I can make a small contribution towards fighting poverty in sub-Saharan Africa," says Baroness Young
In October 2011, the Aid by Trade Foundation invited Lola Young to attend the foundation's annual stakeholder conference in Zambia. She learned about the work of the AbTF and CmiA and visited cotton farmers and a ginnery. "We can talk all we like about fair trade, water usage and ecological impact. When you meet the people who are experiencing change, who raise your awareness of how precious water really is and explain how a dry period with low cotton yield forces a family to live on just one meal a day, your efforts are no longer abstract. They become very concrete. Talking to the people there about the challenges they face was a new and enriching experience for me."
Lola Young has been a crossbench peer in the House of Lords since 2004. She is currently setting up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethical Fashion. Her focal points are art and culture, caring for children and young people, mental health and equality. Baroness Young is a member of the EU Committee for Social Policy and Consumer Protection and in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Prior to her career in politics, she headed the cultural division of the Greater London Authority. In 2011 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire.
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.
In cooperation with the Aid by Trade Foundation, OTTO Austria will support a school project in Burkina Faso starting in March 2012. The program will offer 5,000 African smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative basic education in the form of alphabetization courses. The aim is to kick off a sustainable process of development.
In honour of its 20th anniversary, OTTO Austria will be donating 0.50 euros for each item sold from its ECOREPUBLIC collection to the school project for a period of one and a half years. "We also want to excite our customers about this great project and promote the sale of sustainably produced textiles. We anticipate that more than 50,000 euros will go to the alphabetization program," explained Harald Gutschi, spokesperson for OTTO Austria management. The program receives additional support from the Deutschen Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) and Welthungerhilfe (WHH).
Illiteracy has a considerable negative impact on the country's socio-economic development, and is a concrete place to start: by summer 2013 around 5,000 men and women will have learned to read and write in a course in the Bazega Region (central south). This program is OTTO Austria's contribution to laying the groundwork for sustainable development for smallholder farmers and their families.
Social and ecological responsibly plays an important role for every member of the Otto Group. OTTO Austria has therefore focused on and sold sustainably produced textiles under the ECOREPUBLIC brand name for a number of years. Cotton produced by the Cotton made in Africa initiative is also used in production.
The Aid by Trade foundation created the CmiA in 2005 to improve the living conditions of African smallholder farmers. The initiative is creating an international demand alliance to purchase sustainably grown African cotton at market price. Additionally smallholder farmers profit from trainings that teach efficient cultivation methods and from public private partnership projects, such as the alphabetization project in Burkina Faso.
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.