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A sustainable cotton shirt only costs an extra 50 cents

Julia Bernert

Published on 31.03.2020

“Sustainability is important to us, as is economic efficiency – but we don’t see any contradiction in these aims.” This quotation stems from Mathias Diestelmann, CEO of Brands Fashion from the north German town of Buchholz, and provides an initial insight into the philosophy of this innovative enterprise. Environment-friendly materials, stringently applied ecological and social standards and transparent supply chains all provide the basis for the company’s products. Kalina Magdzinska from Brands Fashion’s sustainability team gave an interesting insight into what the company does in her talk at PromoTex Expo in Düsseldorf in January of this year.

Brands Fashion was founded in 1996 and is, in the company’ own words, brand leader in the field of sustainable workwear in Europe and the USA. Their customers include major discounters, do-it-yourself chain stores, famous football clubs, but also environmental organisations and other companies from the field of workwear, corporate fashion, merchandising/promotion and private labels. The company also founded its own label, Shirts for Life, in 2014.


Company clients really do get the full-service treatment, including design and product development, collaboration with their own creative team, being able to purchase materials and add-ons and utilise production in partner and sister companies in the Far East and Europe. The company provides support throughout the whole chain, from the initial draft design right through to delivery of the finished article. It also provides help with comprehensive quality assurance measures and checks that are carried out by independent test institutes. Brands Fashion offers the latest tailor-made solutions for storage, logistics, webshop and IT as well.

In accordance with the company slogan, SOCIAL.GREEN.FASHION, a lot of importance is also attached to sustainability. Here too, Brands Fashion plays an exemplary role in that potential clients are informed about any extra costs by transparent and proactive communication right from day one. Anyone concerned that this may put off any potential clients is in for a pleasant surprise, as Brands Fashion only charges € 0.50 more per garment for an ecologically-sound fair-traded cotton T-shirt in comparison to a conventional product. This is primarily thanks to the close long-standing partnerships the company has with its suppliers (details regarding this survey are available from

This ensures that Brands Fashion is free to source  GOTS-certified, fair-traded fabrics or those made from recycled synthetic fibres, that can then be dyed using sound ecological methods and manufactured under fair conditions in different locations in Bangladesh, India, China, Indonesia and Europe. A great deal of importance is attached to transparency here too, which is why the company works closely with independent neutral institutes and different certification authorities, including GOTS, Fairtrade Cotton, Cradle to Cradle, Grüner Knopf, Oeko-Tex, Made in Green and others. This ensures that attention is paid to ecological and social aspects as regards the raw materials used, production, and right through to garment usage.

The whole process is open to scrutiny thanks to a tracking code which has already been incorporated into the care labels used on the company’s own brand, Shirts for Life. This tool, called “Trace My Shirt”, is also used by other Brands Fashion customers to ensure transparency throughout the entire supply chain.

The success of this policy is not just demonstrated by the company’s steady growth. It is also illustrated by the steady increase in the proportion of products certified by GOTS or Fairtrade Cotton and greater customer satisfaction. Major discounters use the services of Brands Fashion today for the goods that they sell and also for their employees’ corporate fashion. By providing its staff with safe workwear, without particularly stressing the matter in the media for marketing purposes, a company also demonstrates the esteem in which it holds its employees.

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Text: Reiner Knochel / images: Brands Fashion GmbH