1888 Mills Partners with Cotton Made in Africa

1888 Mills this month will roll out its first line of towels made from African cotton in its partnership with the Cotton Made in Africa project, through which 1888 has the exclusive right in the home category in the U.S. and Canada.

Cotton Made in Africa was established in 2005 by Hamburg, Germany-based Aid by Trade Foundation to promote environmental protection, establish sustainable development and focus demand for African cotton. Entities that provided grants to help fund the program include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BMZ (Germany's agency for economic cooperation and development), Cargill, Dunavant, ICA Talon, Ivoire Coton, Faso Coton and Plexus.

"Africa is one of the largest cotton producers in the world, but infrastructure problems made it hard to get to the global market, so they weren't being paid market prices," said Chris Motley, 1888's director of global strategy and sustainability.

BMZ and cotton trader Dunavant provide research and training to ginners in Africa. The spinning process can take place either in Africa or in a Cotton Made in Africa partner's facilities elsewhere.

The project increases demand for African cotton, thereby making it easier for farmers to obtain micro credits to manage cash flow. In addition, it gives them direct access to the market so they receive the most competitive price. Training through the program helps boost yeilds — and income.

Cotton Made in Africa also employs a track and trace system to ensure the cotton supply has not involved child labor or corrupt trading practices, said Motley. The alliance dovetails with 1888 Mill's corporate mission to "weave a better world."

The first ring spun, combed towels using Cotton Made in Africa will launch April 27 as part of designer Nate Berkus's exclusive line for HSN. In May, Amazon will launch a line of premium towels co-branded for Cotton Made in Africa and 1888 Mills.

"The nice thing about this brand is it has a stand-alone value but also can be used as an ingredient brand for a retailer's private label," said Lexi Schladenhauffen, 1888's vp marketing and design.

Towels for the Berkus and Amazon lines will be produced in at 1888's Griffin, Ga. plant, and the specialized packaging allowed the manufacturer to hire an additional 40 workers at its U.S warehouse. Said Schlandenhauffen: "The sustainability is not just the environment, but sustaining jobs in Africa and in the Unite States."

For mass market accounts, 1888 will shift production to its off-shore mills, said Motley.

To help raise the brand's profile among consumers, 1888 has created a fan page, "Cotton made in Africa," on Facebook.

Home & Textiles Today Staff | News & Commentary

 Home Textiles Today is the market-leading brand covering the home and textiles markets, offering a comprehensive package of print and online products. Home & Textiles Today provides industry news, product trends and introductions, exclusive industry research, consumer data, store operations solutions, trade show news and much more.

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