Mill-led efforts to facilitate the fashion industry’s shift to organic cotton are paying off.
The first crops from the Milliner Organic Project, an organic cotton initiative launched by Pakistan-based denim mill Artistic Milliners, have just been certified with an in-conversion badge from the Control Union (CU), a third-party certification firm. An “in-conversion” certification confirms the transition to organic farming. The same firm recently awarded a certification to Pakistan-based vertical denim company Soorty for its Soorty Organic Cotton Initiative.
Jack & Jones, the Danish apparel brand owned by Artistic Milliners’ longstanding partner Bestseller, will be the first to debut the crop in a denim collection scheduled to land in stores this December.
Bestseller, which also owns Vero Moda and Only, was one of the first to support the Milliner Organic Project in 2021. The collaboration aligns with its target of sourcing 30 percent organic cotton by 2025.
“We can really see how important it is to focus on a direct-to-farm approach that ultimately aims to take cotton production to the next level. Not only when it comes to traceability and access to organic cotton, but making the livelihoods and well-being of farmers and their communities just as important,” said Danique Lodewijks, Bestseller’s sustainability senior project specialist. “It is definitely not easy, but it is the way forward.”
The Milliner Organic Project launched in 2020 as a pilot program promoting visibility and workers’ rights throughout the entire scope of the cotton supply chain, from picking to spinning. Developed in partnership with WWF Pakistan and the Government of Baluchistan, the program satisfies 13 of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and especially benefits cotton pickers—often women—who, through the program, are able to access life skills training and better picking resources.
The direct-to-farm sourcing model makes it possible to better trace the supply chain and see the direct benefits it has on the community. It also helps to create a more secure market and better payment for farmers.
To-date, the program works with more than 2,000 farmers across 9,300 acres of land to support the organic cotton transition. Farmers involved in the project have already seen the benefit of participation, with greater yields and reliable support.
The denim supply chain is turning to organic cotton now more than ever, as the crop’s lack of chemicals and pesticides translates to fewer health burdens for farmers and a lesser impact on the environment. According to Omer Ahmed, CEO of Artistic Milliners, these benefits are just the beginning.
“This season’s harvest is the first of many to come from the Milliner Cotton Organic project,” he said. “As I said before, this will be a game changer in the cotton industry of Pakistan. We are here to bridge the gap between organic cotton supply and demand for our long-standing brand partner Bestseller.”
The move aligns with the brand’s sustainability efforts which include incorporating more circular systems, using innovative fibers and developing solutions for post-consumer waste by 2025. Many of these goals will be driven by the Fashion FWD Lab, a Bestseller initiative that aims to foster innovation through collaboration.
In February, the brand introduced a line of gold-level Cradle to Cradle (C2C)-certified jeans made from 98 percent organic cotton and 2 percent Roica V550 degradable elastane. The jeans are fully recyclable, with pocket linings, trims and thread made of materials that are better for the environment. C2C-certified buttons are detachable for easier recycling, and back patches are made from jacron, a wood pulp fiber that resembles leather.
That same month Jack & Jones was named the “best men’s collection” by the Rivet x Project Awards in Las Vegas.