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Brand to Watch: Coyuchi CEO on Organic Cotton, Renewal and Resale

When luxury bedding company Coyuchi launched 30 years ago, it had few peers in the business of making products with organic cotton.

“In the ‘90s, you had basically Coyuchi, Esprit—which is now defunct—and Patagonia,” said Eileen Mockus, CEO of the Bay Area home goods and apparel company. “And at the time, the volume of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides was higher on cotton than any crop grown in the world.”

Nowadays, organic cotton bedding companies abound, but Coyuchi continues to push the sustainability envelope by pursuing circularity through its Renewed initiative. Partnering with the Renewal Workshop—an Oregon-based company that prepares upcycled products for a second use—Coyuchi realized its GOTS-certified cotton was ideal for renewal due to its single-fiber organic makeup.

“It really makes our product the right product to take that next step,” Mockus said. “We started it with the take-back and renewal program—that’s our second home program where we take the product back, and we work with the Renewal Workshop to prepare it for resale. They’re doing the washing and any repairing and mending.”

Since the initiative launched in 2017, Coyuchi has taken back 68,758 pounds of fabric, and renewed and resold more than 6,000 pounds of product.

During the rollout of this initiative, the company realized about 17 percent of its returned product wasn’t suitable for refurbishment. After much thought the team came up with a solution—to create the Full Circle blanket.

“It was a collaboration with one of our existing blanket vendors who had some experience working with recycled cotton in some of their products,” Mockus said. “This was the first time we limited the fiber that was used with only our fiber and organic cotton.”

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With recycled products like the Full Circle blanket, production usually requires additional material to complete the piece. Mockus said the company struggled at first to figure out a way to use totally recycled materials to make the blanked without inadvertently introducing toxins into the product. So they made the decision to use new organic cotton along with recycled Coyuchi fabric.

“It was challenging to get our heads around,” Mockus said. “If we introduced anyone’s recycled cotton, we don’t want to run into this problem of it’s got heavy metals—that’s the biggest risk. So we were able to use our own fiber with the new organic cotton.”

Another major component of the company’s sustainability story is constructing products that will last for a long time and not be replaced. But for those who like to switch their bedding before it reaches its end point, the Renewed initiative makes it possible for that product to continue its life with another customer.

“The reality is there are a lot of people who tire of things before their useful life has ended,” Mockus said. “So that’s the other avenue our second home program is able to capture. If you want to move through an item faster, it allows you to pass that back to us. Then you may get something new—that’s how we’re working with circularity.”

The company also takes care with the farmers and producers it partners with to source its organic cotton, following a fair trade model. Mockus said that model allows the company to not only ensure those farmers and manufacturers are being paid and treated fairly, but also gives them greater control of the supply chain and its sustainability.

“You recognize that cotton farming is part of our food system, and we should all be paying attention to how our cotton is grown because the health of the soil is the health of all of us,” she said. “It’s tied to greenhouse gases and the health of the planet, and there’s an interesting intersection with the textile industry and what’s going on in farming.”

These sustainability initiatives come at a time of major growth for Coyuchi. While the company fairly quietly grew its business for two decades as a wholesale supplier of bedding to small brick-and-mortar retailers, over the past 10 years it has evolved to a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business, save one flagship retail store in California, where it’s headquartered in San Francisco.

When luxury bedding company Coyuchi launched 30 years ago, it had few peers in the business of making products with organic cotton.
Mockus said the change came as the company saw e-commerce taking off, particularly in the bedding space. And that transition to an online retail model served the company well during the Covid-19 pandemic. As global retailers saw their e-commerce retail sales soar to $26.7 trillion, according to a recent report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Coyuchi experienced significant growth, as well. Over the past three years, the company has seen its e-commerce sales grow by 100 percent, and its customer growth has increased by 200 percent. Courtesy

“We made that transition, and then three to four years ago, we really made this commitment to e-commerce,” Mockus said. “It’s more than a channel—we want to be all in on digital. We had really accelerated our growth rate so as covid hit it was just a further acceleration.”

Mockus said the e-commerce model allows Coyuchi to scale its growth to maintain the benefits of being a smaller organization while increasing its overall business.

“It allows us to operate as a small company, where you want to be more nimble, and we do get that benefit from having that emphasis on what we’re doing for the digital channels as opposed to brick and mortar,” she said.

And as the company continues to grow and evolve, Mockus said the focus on sustainability and circularity will continue to drive not only product assortment, but also how the business operates overall.

“Where Coyuchi is focused right now is continuing to expand how we view circularity in our business,” she said. “That’s what we see in our evolution and how that will play out in the business—it ties to product strategy, it ties to how we want to engage with our customers.”