Our Supply Chain & Fairtrade Cotton

The Koolskools supply chain and Fairtrade Cotton

The Koolskools vision is to establish a unique ethical manufacturing and supply chain, using exclusively Fairtrade cotton, in our Koolskools-manufactured garments, that benefits everyone buying into it – producers, manufacturers and customers alike.

One of Koolskools main aims through sourcing Fairtrade cotton is to make a long term contribution to the ability of Fairtrade cotton producers in developing countries to shape and enhance their own lives.

By using recycled polyester where possible, we are also helping to protect the planet.

Koolskools can achieve all this, but your help in buying our Fairtrade cotton garments is crucial.

Our Fairtrade Cotton

All of Koolskools Fairtrade cotton is sourced from India, where cotton farmers face very difficult challenges in coping with the fluctuating global cotton price. The direct effects of the on-going “yo-yo”’ing of the world cotton price are devastating for developing country cotton farmers. Around 280,000 (non-Fairtrade) vulnerable Indian cotton farmers have committed suicide in the past 20 years out of the desperation caused by this phenomenon.Please see the separate website section “Why Does Fairtrade Cotton Matter?”.

Koolskools recently visited India for the first time under the project. They spent two very humbling and rewarding days with cotton farmers in one of India’s largest cotton producing regions, Odisha.

Koolskools presenting scholarships to children of Fairtrade Cotton farmers
School children in Odisha proudly displaying their scholarship certificates, funded by the Fairtrade Social Premium.

Koolskools met and talked with many Fairtrade cotton farmers, their families and communities, and learnt all about their day-to-day challenges. Koolskools were also able to get a precious first-hand glimpse of the real difference that Fairtrade is making to their lives, through the Fairtrade Minimum Price for their cotton, and the Fairtrade Social Premium benefiting their communities.

During this very special visit, Koolskools were honoured to be asked to present over 300 scholarships to children of Fairtrade farmers in the Odisha region for the purchase of basic school books and materials, paid for from the Fairtrade Social Premium. It was thoroughly rewarding to see the real difference that Koolskools and other UK companies purchasing Fairtrade cotton for their garments – and of course our customers in buying those garments – are making to the lives of these economically challenged cotton farming communities.

The Pratima Organic Grower Group is one of the Fairtrade Cotton Grower Co-Operatives from which Koolskools purchase their Fairtrade cotton. Pratima Agro and Paper Ltd operates a ginning unit and works with 4,000 farmers from more than a hundred villages in the contract production of organic cotton. Pratima is located in the Balangir district of Odisha in Eastern India, and is a beacon of hope in a predominantly agrarian region, with more than 70 percent of the population dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Balangir is known for its extreme poverty, with more than 62 percent of households identified as living below the poverty line. Please see the separate website section “Why Does Fairtrade Cotton Matter?”.

Our Factories

The Pratima Organic Grower Group, Odisha, operates a ginning unit (seen here) and works with 4,000 farmers from over 100 villages on the production of organic cotton.
Our strong partnership with our inspirational Fairtrade-licensed factory in Mauritius originally laid the foundations for the entire Koolskools ethical clothing project.

Koolskools started working with the Mauritius factories – spinners, knitters, dyers, embroiderers and manufacturers – in 2010 and the business relationship has gone from strength to strength since then, with many tens of thousands of garments made with Fairtrade cotton having been imported by Koolskools to the UK from Mauritius in the first years of our project. Sadly, in more recent years, the manufacturing challenges in Mauritius have forced us to move to India as a main manufacturing base.

We are also working with ethical factories licensed to handle Fairtrade cotton in India, where we are cultivating traditional Koolskools sustainable business partnerships with factory management and workers.

A real team approach has been cultivated between those on the production side and Koolskools and its school and corporate clients in the UK. Koolskools conducts regular visits to its principle and secondary factories in Mauritius, and has a policy of visiting all of the factories that supplies its Fairtrade cotton garments in Mauritius and India.

Koolskools search for ethical factories has taken them to Africa and India. Pictured here is the prospective partner Fairtrade/organic cotton spinning mill in India.
It was important for Koolskools to learn about the challenges facing Indian cotton farmers during their recent visit. Andy is pictured here holding a cotton bud and flower.

Some Facts About Cotton

Did you know that:

  • The oil from the cotton seed is used in some margarines, crisps and as salad dressings.
  • The cake made out of crushed cotton seed is used as feed for the cattle that pull the ploughs in the cotton fields.
  • The oil from the cotton seed is also used in some beauty products like lip balms, shampoos and moisturizers and also for making plastics.
  • Even a £5 note contains a by-product of cotton.

The cotton production and manufacturing process

1. First the fields need to be ploughed.
2. Next the cotton seeds are planted. Farmers have to buy seed every year if they want good quality cotton.
3. Cotton flowers about 30 days after planting, and within 80 days the cotton plant fruits - called "fruits bolls".
4. 40 - 50 days after that the bolls burst open and fluffy fibres appear.
5. After 6 months growing the Fairtrade cotton is then sorted, it is then taken for a process called ginning.
6. Ginning separates the fluffy lint from the seed. The ginning machines are often very large.
7. When the cotton arrives in Mauritius, the cotton is then spun, which means the individual fibres are twisted together into yarn.
8. After this the thread is woven into cloth.
9.The cotton is then ready for dyeing, cutting, embroidering and making into Koolskools Fairtrade cotton garments.

Watch the Video tour now!

Would you like to take a closer look? Watch a complete video tour of the Koolskools production and manufacturing process.

Videos of the koolskools production and manufacturing process

During a recent visit to the factory in Mauritius, Koolskools wanted to learn in detail about how their ethical clothing was actually being made. They thought that an interesting way for them to learn about the processes in the factory for handling the Fairtrade cotton and how the Fairtrade cotton garments were manufactured was to video some of the stages of manufacture.

So in this section we take you on a journey through the factory, from the pre-production process, through dyeing and cutting of the Fairtrade cotton/polyester cloth, all the way through to the stage where those Koolskools client schools who have made that ethical choice can see how their individual school logos are embroidered onto their Fairtrade cotton/polyester polos.

We then show a typical ‘warts and all’ discussion between the Koolskools founding partners and Mauritius factory managers on some of the issues surrounding ethical trading. Finally, we show a personal message from the managing director of our principal manufacturer to UK school students about the benefits of Fairtrade cotton and what it means to wear a Fairtrade cotton garment.

The pre-production process

The cotton dyeing process explained

Red nose day in the dyeing factory

Lunch time for the dye factory workers

Polo Production Supervision

The intricate art of cloth cutting

Koolskools polos – double stitching in action

The polo placket

Collars and cuffs

A Koolskools polo shirt is prepared for embroidery

Koolskools state of the art embroidery

The Factory prints on Koolskools hoodies

Koolskools interview Managers about fairtrade cotton