Turkish fashion company Koton joins Business Call to Action by integrating rural women into its textile value chain
Istanbul, 12 May 2017 – Koton, one of Turkey’s premier textile manufactuers, joined Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a pledge to integrate 2,900 low-income women in south-east Anatolia into its growing value chain by 2018. To achieve this goal, the company offers training and employment opportunities that increase their household incomes by up to 50 percent and provide many women with their first formal employment.
Launched in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that engage people with less than US$8 per day in purchasing power as consumers, producers, suppliers and distributors. It is supported by several international organizations and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In Turkey, rapid growth in living standards has created a huge increase in demand for consumer goods. However stark inequalities persist, especially in rural areas where there are few employment opportunities. While women from rural areas of regions such as Anatolia are known for their handiwork, there are few accessible markets for their creations.
Koton was established in 1988 when founder Gülden Yilmaz invested USD 2,000 to open a small clothing store. In the years since, the company has grown into a global fashion brand and Mrs. Yılmaz has become one of Turkey’s most successful women. Yet she remains committed to empowering other women’s success through entrepreneurship.
Last year, the company began engaging women artisans from Anatolia in producing the company’s fashion apparel. Although producing its “Hand-Crafted Collection” by hand costs more than using machines, the women’s artisanal craftsmanship adds value to Koton’s brand: urban customers love the look and feel of hand-embellished textiles.
To capture the essence of traditional embroidery, the company reached out to women from the south-east Anatolia, an area with little access to formal employment or markets for its handicrafts. The embroiderers work in the offices of Koton’s NGO partners, within their home region.
Koton’s team creates the designs, distributes basic clothing pieces to the artisans and collects the embroidered pieces. The company’s supply chain team also visits the artisans weekly to provide quality assurance and ensure that the embroiderers have everything they need to create beautiful, high-quality products.
“Employment of women and participation of our women in the labor force is a very important subject in Turkey. As a strong women’s brand, we take it as one of our missions to ensure women’s inclusion in the economic system and they get the equality of opportunity. The idea of the project was first brought up by our daughter Deniz. Immediately after we launched the project, we included many housewives in it. As we see the material and immaterial impact of the project on women’s lives, we felt even more excited and started looking for new locations to expand our project”, said Mrs Yılmaz.
Koton rolled out its Hand-Crafted collection in 60 stores in 2016. The collection initially consisted of 22 patterns, with over 11,626 individual items in total – each one embellished by hand. Although the craftswomen Koton contracted were already skilled embroiderers, most were housewives who had never before been paid for their work. They now receive regular pay for their products, providing a major boost to family incomes.
According to Paula Pelaez, BCtA Programme Manager, “By targeting low-income communities, inclusive businesses like Koton are breaking new ground for innovation. Combining tradition and modernity, this inclusive enterprise is empowering women by celebrating their traditional skills and craftsmanship.
As a result consumer demand, the company has expanded its handmade offerings in 2017. Koton plans to integrate at least 2,900 low-income women into its textile value chain. In addition to online sales, it aims to offer its Hand-Crafted Collection in 500 stores by 2018 – providing incomes to even more rural women and boosting their families’ living standards.
For further information:
BCtA: Aimee Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org
Koton: Özlem Gürler at email@example.com
BCtA membership does not constitute a partnership with its funding and programme partners, UNDP or any UN agency.
About Business Call to Action (BCtA): Launched at the United Nations in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. BCtA is a unique multilateral alliance between key donor governments including the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UK Department for International Development, US Agency for International Development, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland, and the United Nations Development Programme — which hosts the secretariat. For more information, please visit www.businesscalltoaction.org or on Twitter at @BCtAInitiative.
About Koton: Since its founding in 1988, Koton Mağazacilik Tekstil San. ve TİC.A.Ş has been committed to providing customers with top-quality products and building a strong value chain that includes local producers. The company aims to give its customers a privileged shopping experience while introducing the latest trends. Now a global brand, Koton has more than 140 stores in cities including Dubai, Moscow and Paris, in addition to online sales. Its special-edition Hand-Crafted Collection aims to unite Turkey’s craft traditions with modern fashion at an affordable price. To hand-embellish its handmade pieces, the Koton employs women embroiderers from the rural south-east Anatolia region through a network of partner NGOs. For more information about Koton’s inclusive Hand-Crafted fashion line, visit its web site here.