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Jack & Jones Is Making Organic Cotton Its 2023 Priority

Sustainable changes are underway at Bestseller.

For 2023, Bestseller’s biggest menswear brand, Jack & Jones, expects to increase its direct-to-farm cotton usage significantly. Most of the amount will be used for its “never out of stock” (NOOS) program, which covers approximately half of Jack & Jones’ total turnover and focuses on styles that can be used season after season.

Bestseller said it cannot quantify how much is “most” as its business requires a certain level of agility up until its collections have been sold to its various markets. However, from 2022 to 2023, Jack & Jones’ direct-to-farm usage increased by 440 percent, according to Gregory Simsick, Jack & Jones’ NOOS supply chain manager. The company has been sourcing through a direct-to-farm model for some time now, but in the first years, it was focused on preparing its supply chain for the approach and data required, making previous figures relatively low.

“Of course, there are still lots of areas where we can improve,” Anders Gam, Jack & Jones’ brand director, said. “But a development like this one in a difficult market is not something we should simply downplay.”

The direct-to-farm approach ensures a 100 percent traceable cotton journey as well as a verified premium for the farmers, Bestseller said. When sourcing through direct-to-farm, the Danish apparel brand knows where its raw materials come from, the communities that grow it, what impact its investment has, and how its pre-financing of seeds has helped.

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Direct-to-farm cotton represents more than 25 percent of Jack & Jones’ expected total amount of cotton for the year. The menswear brand is well on its way to reaching Bestsellers’ Fashion FWD Lab’s target of sourcing 30 percent of its entire cotton supply from organic or in-conversion cotton by 2025. Of the amount of cotton that Bestseller sources, the amount that goes to Jack and Jones differs each year; as a brand using cotton as its primary material, it constitutes a significant part, but Bestseller said it won’t know percentages as final consumption for the year remains to be determined.

“It’s a great commitment and it signals that this is the way forward,” Gam said. “One of our main environmental impacts lies within the materials we use, so moving from conventional cotton to direct-to-farm has a substantial impact.”

Only around one percent of the world’s cotton is grown and certified using organic practices, Bestseller said, so it has enrolled cotton in the process of becoming organic—called in-conversion cotton—in its portfolio of branded and certified cotton to encourage more farmers to convert to organic cotton farming. Courtesy

Last year, Jack & Jones booked lint primarily from two direct-to-farm programs—OCA and Artistic Milliners—corresponding to 1,500 metric tons of cotton lint for different NOOS styles. Booking lint focuses on an early commitment from Bestseller’s side, which means the brand is all in before the seed even goes into the ground. Here, the company is pre-booking volumes with specific groups of farmers to secure their take-off.

“We estimate that the total number will increase to more than 6,600 [metric tons] lint in 2023; the equivalent to 18.5 million cotton T-shirts,” Simsick said. “Most of the volume will go into our NOOS program. Each time we convert a NOOS style from conventional to direct-to-farm cotton, the percentage will increase notably due to the sheer volume of our program.”

The NOOS program covers approximately half of Jack and Jones’ total turnover. Bestseller declined to share any quantifying details surrounding that volume, however.

Direct-to-farm is a sourcing model used by Bestseller to create a secure market for organic and in-conversion cotton as well as a premium payment for the farmers. Last year, Bestseller saw a decrease of 10 percent in its overall organic cotton percentage, down to 11 percent from 2021’s 21 percent. This is because organic cotton sourcing has been a challenge for the company in the past few years, primarily through conventional sourcing methods where there have been industry-wide integrity issues.

“The industry issues mentioned refer to the problems that the industry has experienced in regard to the conventional sourcing of organic cotton—as in the unfortunate fraud cases where genetically modified cotton has been certified as organic,” Danique Lodewijks, senior project specialist at Bestseller, said. “This is something we can avoid all together using a direct-to-farm approach where we follow the cotton from seed to store.”

The drop demonstrated the need for a dedicated direct-to-farm approach to improve the numbers for this year.

“This approach—where we book cotton lint before harvest season—can help us to secure the future supply of genuine organic cotton, with long-term planning and multi-year agreements with farmers,” Lodewijks said. “Simultaneously, it’s a more attractive business case for the farmers.”

Besides ensuring the organic premium upfront, Bestseller supports the farmers and their ongoing commitment to organic cotton. Booking cotton lint before harvest season directly signals to the farmers that there’s a demand for organic fibers, Lodewijks added.

“When sourcing direct-to-farm, we know where our raw materials come from and the communities that grow it, as well as what impact our investment has,” Lodewijks said. “We see observable benefits to crop and soil health, and the environmental impact from cotton production is lowered through farmer education programs, reduced use of agrochemicals and promotion of water-efficient growing practices.”

Bestseller has decided to increase its direct-to-farm approach with different partners, such as the multi-stakeholder organization Organic Cotton Accelerator in India, CmiA Organic in Africa, as well as long-standing suppliers such as Bossa and Calik, both in Turkey, and Artistic Milliners in Pakistan. In December, Jack & Jones became the first label to debut Milliner Organic denim. Bestseller said this is in response to the severe imbalance between global demand and supply of organic cotton and ensuring the investments benefit the farmer communities directly.

“Direct-to-farm focuses on more than just securing the supply of organic cotton,” Lodewijks said. “It’s also about supporting farmers and improving their livelihoods to benefit the entire local community.”

Circular Design Guide

Bestseller has also released its Circular Design Guide, aiming to further push the circular development conversation. The Danish brand launched the first guide last year, and the updated version aims to set ambitious standards for how Bestseller will work with and design circular collections.

“It was a huge effort to launch [the] Circular Design Guide last year, and we’re sticking to all the principles and strategies,” Camilla Skjønning Jørgensen, Bestsellers’ innovation manager, said. “Now we’re simply expanding with more layers and new knowledge, as there is no doubt that this is a dynamic area where everyone is getting wiser almost daily.”

Circularity isn’t just on the agenda of Bestseller; the European Union (EU) is making it mandatory. New legislation currently being prepared will advance the EU Commission’s textile strategy, which aims to shift toward a climate-neutral and circular economy where products are designed to be more durable, reusable, repairable and energy efficient.

“Since the first edition, we have collected further knowledge and experiences on what is necessary as well as useful to know for product developers—such as designers—when designing for circularity,” Emma Bach Nørbæk, Bestseller’s project specialist and co-creator of the guide, said. “Among other things, we have added a section on circular business models. Although it’s not the product developers who have to implement these business models, it’s extremely important that they have in-depth knowledge of them. They set new requirements for how we must design our products in the future.”

·       Cross-industry collaboration is also a contributory cause to Bestseller choosing to make its circular design tool publicly available to anyone interested. Courtesy

The guide outlines the four steps of circular design: raw materials, production, use and recovery. Bestseller’s current minimum criteria for designing for circularity for raw materials is creating with Fashion FWD-approved better or best materials. Production must consider how to minimize or avoid waste, design for durability, and adhere to a mono-material composition recovery with a minimum purity of 98 percent. Within the “use” tenet, four methods are ranked in preference: reuse, rental, repair and redesign.

Bestseller offers advice for product purpose. It considers how and when the product will be used, whether more than one person will use it, whether its purpose will change, and whether it needs to be designed for a specific circular business model like rental or resale. Product purpose is essential to define as it enables designers to create products with functionalities that underline the purpose. It also explores product lifetime—asking how long and often the product will be used. Defining the product lifetime will help brands make the right choices regarding raw materials, fabrics and construction.

Looking specifically at the production stage of circular design, Bestseller said the industry must optimize the way it uses resources in production to create the least waste possible or none at all. This is achievable by using fewer inputs, minimizing cut-off waste by changing lay patterns, recirculating product waste and opting for digital processes. Taking it a step further, Bestseller recommended diving into designing products for customization to ensure the user would use the product more and longer.

For the use stage, the guide looks at durability and strategy. When making products intended to last, physical durability matters. But non-physical durability plays a role, too—thinking about how willing a person is to wear a garment longer and more often. Brands might consider the aesthetic, emotional responses, comfort and ease of care when looking to ramp up the abstract strength. Another way to make a garment last is by giving the wearer several use options and making it as relevant as possible to as many as possible. Designers might think about the modularity, multifunctionality and styling, as well as adjustable and genderless sizing.

The recovery stage starts when clothing comes to end-of-use. In a circular design process, recovery can happen through both recyclability and compostability. For Bestseller, even if it designs for compostability, it wants to products to be recycled several times before their true end of life. Depending on the fiber type, color and other considerations, the garment can be either mechanically or chemically recycled. After recycling, the resources return to the standard production processes to be transformed into clothing once more. Bestseller said that when it designs for recyclability, it wants to ensure that clothing can be turned back into clothing. But if that’s not possible, making sure that it can be recycled into other applications though fiber-to-fiber is the priority. Designing for mono-materiality is a method used to keep the content of the garment to a single type so it can easily enter recycling processes at all levels. At Bestseller, this means that a garment should consist of at least 98 percent mono-material. Designing for disassembly is a method used to optimize the recycling process and remove problematic elements. That time-consuming process of separating and removing elements is still often done by hand. Consider which trims and materials are necessary for the design.

“It’s both straightforward and very complex at the same time—before we can design an actual product, we need to thoroughly understand who we are designing for as well as what purpose the product is supposed to serve. Who uses our product and how much do they use it? The least sustainable product is basically the one that is never used,” Nørbæk said, referring to the guide’s new sections on product user and product purpose. “Garments must be developed, produced and used for as long as possible. And they should also have a purpose when they’re worn out. In short, a product must always be designed for its entire lifespan.”

The guide was created as part of the ReSuit project, funded by Innovation Fund Denmark and led by the Danish Technological Institute to push the boundaries of design, recycling, technology and consumer behavior. The guide was also produced in collaboration with researchers at Design School Kolding, a partner in the ReSuit project.

Last April, Bestseller became involved with Textile in Transition, a multi-year project targeting transparency and fairness across the organic cotton sector. Textile in Transition aims to improve decent working conditions in organic cotton production and secure the livelihoods of thousands of farmers while boosting the supply of organic cotton. Bestseller was also among the companies that partnered with Better Cotton to help deliver new traceability solutions and bring greater visibility to the cotton supply chain. The panel pulled together an initial 1 million pounds ($1.26 million) of funding to work with suppliers, NGOs and independent experts in supply chain assurance to develop an approach that meets the industry’s needs.

And in February 2022, Jack & Jones continued its commitment to circularity with 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 C2C-certified detachable buttons for easier recycling.