Organic denim brand Kuyichi is heading for greener pastures with a heightened focus on sustainability. This spring, the Dutch jeans label from Haarlem, 12 miles west of Amsterdam, is increasing its use of organic fabric to 97 percent from 72 percent. “So we’re almost 100 percent organic now,” explained Leo Cantagalli, chief executive officer at Kuyichi.
This story first appeared in the November 9, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The company, for which denim represents nearly half of its assortment, is launching three new sustainable styles of the fabric for spring: dry-processed, no-water-wash jeans; a 12-ounce recycled cotton model, and a pair made out of Tencel instead of cotton. “Most of the well-known fabric suppliers have research departments for sustainable materials by now,” the ceo said. “And manufacturers are renewing their laundries in buying new technology. They are taking initiative and [conducting] research on how to contribute to clean fashion.” The stepped-up organic direction means that prices will increase about 5 percent, pushing retail prices to 99 to 189 euros, or $139 to $265 at current exchange, with the bulk of volume at 110 to 130 euros, or $154 to $182.
A pioneer in organic denim, Kuyichi was launched in 2001, and Cantagalli has seen the shift to green accelerate among his peers in the last three years, calling the current period “an ecological revolution. As far as Northern Europe is concerned, there is no way out.” He estimates that the market share of green denim in Europe will be around 1.5 percent for 2011 while, according to the Global Market Report on Sustainable Textiles published by Textile Exchange, global retail sales of organic cotton products grew 20 percent in 2010 and could increase to an estimated $6.2 billion in 2011.
Kuyichi’s 2010 sales volume was 14 million euros, or $18.6 million at average exchange for the year, and is projected to hit 18 million euros, or $25.2 million at current exchange, this year. Volume is still dominated by its home market in the Netherlands, but is growing briskly in Germany and England. Canada and the Middle East are on tap for 2012.
The Kuyichi concept is being translated into a retail network that uses LED lights and sustainable materials such as panda-friendly bamboo. “In every store there is one wall dedicated to real green plants. They help clean the air,” the executive explained. With single units in Holland, France and Ireland and two in the U.K., in the next year two new stores are planned for France. London and Berlin are slated for one each and there’s also a shop-in-shop concept ready to go.
“It transports our message,” Cantagalli said. “We are a fashionable brand first, but we’re also sustainable.”