European fashion retail chain C&A is bringing textile production back to Germany with a new jeans-focused innovation hub opening in Mönchengladbach this fall.
The company is working with the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, the Textile Academy NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia), RWTH Aachen University and various startups to set up its Factory for Innovation in Textiles (FIT) with best-in-class technology.
“Together with our partners, we want to set new standards in textile manufacturing,” said Giny Boer, CEO of C&A Europe. “We are thrilled to be producing in the heart of Europe again. C&A’s FIT will combine the digitalization of processes with sustainability, creating new standards for global production.”
The carbon-neutral facility will include highly automated processes throughout the laundry and sewing stages of jeans production, with plans to begin producing almost immediately: The first pants produced at the facility are expected to be available next year.
C&A will work with the Textile Academy NRW to hire and train 100 staff members to follow through on its target to produce 400,000 jeans per year to start, and ultimately expand to 800,000 per year. The company is hopeful that the facility is just the beginning of a major milestone in the denim industry, with the Textile Academy NRW’s Detlef Braun calling it “an important development for the textile industry in our region and a sign of other innovative projects to come.”
Local production has become an increasingly important strategy for companies in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which derailed supply chains around the world. Companies immediately realized the need for easy access to fabrics and greater control over production.
C&A joins other large fashion players with denim innovation centers of their own. Fast Retailing, the parent company of J Brand and Uniqlo, produces garments out of its Los Angeles Denim Innovation Center. There, the company has developed a finishing process that slashes by 99 percent the amount of water used in achieving authentic worn-in looks. At PVH’s Denim Center in Amsterdam, advances in circular production have led to product lines such as Tommy Hilfiger’s 100 percent recycled jeans.
C&A has already made strides in sustainable denim, becoming the first to develop jeans with Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Gold-level certification in 2018, followed by Platinum-level certification in 2020. Its “Beluga Denim,” a 100 percent cotton denim developed in partnership with Pakistan denim mill Rajby and C2C assessor Eco Intelligent Growth (EIG), is completely carbon neutral in the manufacturing stage and produced using a closed-loop process water system.