On a Thursday evening in November, and as an arctic chill wreathed Warsaw, European fashion retailer C&A presented its spring/summer 2020 collection; a beautiful show which reflected the rising awareness of sustainability and the importance of caring for our environment. 

Over two hundred fashion media and influencer guests gathered inside Fort Legionów; a historic building situated amidst the prosaic, block-like architecture of modern Warsaw and the muted, taffy-coloured hues of the Old Town. The fortress’ inner courtyard was transformed into a magical “urban meadow” which would later double as C&A’s runway. As GRAZIA arrived on set prior to the show, crew members were busily potting plants and intertwining the lush greenery around the magnificent steel frameworks at the centre of the catwalk. Water features were being tested, tiny white flowers were being arranged, grassy stalks were being trimmed and plants with long viney leaves covered the fortress’ brick walls and archways.

As showtime arrived, the high-street brand sent dramatic draping, feminine floral prints and ruffled hems down the grass-trimmed runway; a city-slick, urban dress-code set against natural surroundings. Similarly, the Ladies Premium line made a strong case for broad blazering with 80s and 90s-inspired power shoulders. Select pieces in each C&A collection, like this candy pink blazer and pant combo, are made with recycled materials, natural fibres and/or organic cotton.

“The collections reference the rising importance of sustainability within society and the industry, as well as the significance of the small things people can do to make a difference in their desire to live a more conscious life,” says Brigitte Danielmeyer, C&A’s director of buying for the Ladies division.

Being eco-conscious, however, is nothing new for C&A. The brand has been fervently working on initiatives that will help protect our ecosystems and provide employees with dignified work for many years now. “C&A has always been a pioneer for sustainability,” Danielmeyer continues from a little nook inside the dressing room backstage. “We are doing much more than people know. We need to communicate this message a little better because we have so much to say.”

As guests journeyed through the fortress that evening, different rooms showcased different collections meaning fashion press and influencers could really observe the quality of the collections up-close. Some pieces in C&A’s swimwear line, for example, are made with 80 percent recycled nylon.

To touch, the swimwear fabric is thick, the silhouettes favour high waists and the muted moss and burnt ochre colour-way is cool. Stylish and more sustainable, a C&A bikini or bathing suit is a suitcase essential for the woke consumer come the summer.

For Neale Pickering, Senior Design Manager for C&A’s Clockhouse line, his hero sustainability pieces are his team’s denim creations. “We had this 80s/90s-influenced denim objective where select pieces in the range are made with recycled cotton,” he tells GRAZIA. In fact, C&A remains the world’s leading buyer of certified organic cotton, a startling fact we learn on our backstage tour. Nearly half of the cotton the brand sourced in 2018 was certified organic cotton or sourced as Better Cotton.

Each year, the company continues to strive to produce as many of their garments as possible in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Interestingly, according to their Global Sustainability Report released in June, the company saved 1 billion m3 of water in 2018 (the equivalent of 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools) and avoided 116,000 tons of CO2 emissions (the same as the yearly CO2 emissions of over 70,000 passenger cars).

The brand was also the first fashion retailer in the world to produce a pair of jeans which met the Cradle to Cradle™ gold level certification, a third-party standard which measures a product’s circular capabilities. When you head into a C&A store, the brand’s more sustainable products are identified with a #WearTheChange swing-tag.

“C&A is not short-term,” insists Danielmeyer. “This company has existed since 1841 so it’s not about a short pass. It’s about really changing the industry for generations to come.”

Yes, C&A may have been quieter in communicating their message in the past. But make no mistake, they are now sounding the alarm on why sustainability should be the new normal – and part of our everyday approach to style.

C&A’s Ladies and Ladies Premium will be available in C&A stores and online from March 2020. The Clockhouse collection will be available from December 2019.