The closet

Don't hesitate to open it wide.

Chapter 6: Heading to the first export

By Santi Mallorquí, CEO of Organic Cotton Colours. January 2015 marked the first year we obtained cotton fiber from our own network of farmers in sufficient quantities to export and spin in Barcelona. It was a complex process as we had groups of farmers spread across 3 states: Piauí, Paraíba, and Pernambuco, with different communities within each state and a total of 150 farmers collectively. Effective transport planning was crucial to optimize costs, although at that moment, our priority was to manage it within just twelve days—the time I would spend in Brazil. I wanted to return with the certainty that everything had been resolved correctly. The cotton was stored in a warehouse with its large access door blocked, and there was no physical way to remove the bales without tearing down a wall. This was just the beginning of a series of challenges we had to overcome with great enthusiasm. The bales weighed 70 kg and were challenging to handle. Their volume did not allow for a 60-meter journey on foot to the truck. We had to borrow a loading cart from a supermarket to move the bales with some dignity and hire a group of young people to handle the material and load it onto the transport that would take it to the port, where it could be handled with proper forklifts. The next challenge was to issue all the invoices correctly to hire both truck transport and container loading and dispatch within the established deadlines from the Port of Suape, Pernambuco. We spent four days locked in an office. Every two hours, a new obstacle emerged, altering our planned agenda—moments of nervousness and desperation. In the following photo, you’ll see the legal path of the invoices that must be issued for a proper export. The necessary legal requirements are not easy to obtain, requiring the hiring of a specialized company to create a plan (as shown in the photo) and thus avoid surprises like the ones we encountered the first time. I especially remember Gilceu, an independent truck driver with his truck hired by the transport company to take the last material to the port cooperative. At seven in the evening, when we managed to have the truck well-loaded, the transport company canceled its contract by phone. We heard Gilceu shout furiously. He explained what was happening, and reluctantly, we had to empty the entire load and hire another company. Although the truck belonged to a family member, we needed a transport company to hire it for the service. Once again, with much faith and pulling some

Read more

Chapter 5: Ensuring the linted seed

By Santi Mallorquí, CEO of Organic Cotton Colours. In the previous chapter, I told you how we ended up losing the 2013 crop season. The reason was that the government NGO assisting the farmers stopped receiving funds from the state, communication was cut off, and no one knew how to redirect the situation. There, I learned that we had to act without intermediaries and create our own network of farmers committed to our project. The next trip to Brazil was in August 2014. We traveled a good part of the northeast, visiting previously selected families; I had the feeling that “the third time was the charm.” Diógenes Fernández was already part of the OCC team and turned out to be the person we needed; he knew the terrain and was well-received among the farmers and Embrapa. Embrapa is a federal agency that supplies seeds and provides technical assistance to farmers. Without them and without the invaluable almost personal assistance of Fabio Aquino, head of the organic cotton department, our good intentions would have been in vain. Obtaining the seeds is already a delicate process because they may be contaminated with genetically modified species. This happens because many types of seeds circulate, and not all farmers are aware of the importance of knowing their origin, due to pollination from adjacent fields. It is also common for contamination to occur in the ginning process if it has been carried out in a company that combines conventional and organic cotton. It was crucial to start on the right foot and ensure good seeds. Normally, they are marketed lint-free, meaning without fuzz, considered cleaner and with less risk of transporting insects. However, aggressive chemical agents are used to remove the fuzz around the seed. So, obtaining enough lint-free seeds in our 3 colors was quite a challenge. Technical assistance posed another significant challenge, given the enormous distances that had to be traveled on dirt roads to meet a group of families at their residence. In the best cases, 6 to 10 families are grouped into “settlements,” which are like small groups of houses surrounded by crops. Each settlement is part of a regional cooperative. They receive training and follow-up for the plantations at home, so to speak. Among families, they help each other in preparing the fields and in the manual harvesting, which can take a month, as only the plumage in optimal ripening conditions is collected. On that trip, we visited cooperatives in 4 states: Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, and Pernambuco. We felt the danger of traveling the interstate roads in

Read more

Chapter 4: Diogenes, the missing piece

By Santi Mallorquí, CEO of Organic Cotton Colours. In this fourth chapter, I continue recounting our first trip to Brazil. Now it’s time to meet the farmers, the new stakeholders of OCC… Farmers, the New Stakeholders of OCC We wanted the farmers to feel a connection with us that went beyond a buyer and seller relationship. It was about showing them that they were part of the project as much as we were. They needed to become our “stakeholders” in the field. Their story added value to the project, and beyond cotton, Organic Cotton Colours was committed to the families working on it. My goal with the project in Brazil was always to create a circular economy business where, in addition to generating profitable activity, the people involved would see improvements in their social, economic, and working conditions, along with improvements in the environmental health of the region.  Over the next 6 months, we organized a meeting where all stakeholders would participate. Farmers from 5 states in the northeast (Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará, Paraíba, and Pernambuco) belonging to the so-called Rede and grouped in more than 6 cooperatives (a total of over 450 farmers), 3 members of Embrapa, NGOs, government support organizations, and local journalists. In early February 2014, I traveled to Brazil again to hold a meeting with all of them. This time accompanied by Joaquim Barbosa, our team member in Portugal, with whom I have a close trust relationship, and Ángel Sánchez, who could not miss the beginning of this new project. Despite his delicate health at that time, I was sure he would give everything to witness this key development in the future of the company he founded. Five months after the trip, in July 2014, after many years of struggle, Ángel passed away. In Brazil, we spent two days meeting, working to lay the foundations for the future OCCGuarantee project of Organic Cotton Colours in which each person would have a place. This last trip was the beginning of OCCGuarantee as a business model and  commitment of Organic Cotton Colours. We built the groundwork for how we wanted the relationship to be structured. Despite that, I still felt lost about how to manage the project remotely. I knew that success depended on having someone in Brazil actively involved in the group’s development. From the meetings we had in Brazil, there were two key people to whom I am ever grateful for their unconditional support. Fabio Aquino, responsible for Embrapa, and Pedro Georges, father of the Agroecological Network of the Northeast and president of the

Read more

Chapter 3: Brazil, the great discovery

By Santi Mallorquí, CEO of Organic Cotton Colours. In this chapter and the next, I illustrate our first trip to Brazil and the birth of the OCCGuarantee project. In the last article, I recounted the difficulty and lack of transparency we experienced during our visit to South India at the end of 2012. After that, we were ready to visit any country that met the requirements to obtain colorful organic cotton. It was Ángel Sánchez who saw the potential of Brazil and we started preparing for our next trip. Thanks to an acquaintance of his who had been operating in this country for years, we managed to contact one of the people who has greatly contributed to the development of colorful cotton in northeastern Brazil: Maysa Gadhel from Natural Fashion. Maysa told us that she worked with other activists to take advantage of a visit by Lula da Silva to Pernambuco to post about colorgrown organic cotton on large billboards that he could read from his car. She succeeded in capturing the interest of the President, a native of the region, in the project. Lula da Silva initiated an agrarian reform that gave local farmers the opportunity to own 1 hectare of land. This initiative united farmers from various states, creating a network of small family farmers from different rural regions grouped into cooperatives registered by the Ministry of Agriculture. In January 2013, we began our first trip to Brazil. Although Ángel had planned the trip, he couldn’t accompany us for personal reasons, and my friend Albert Niell joined this exploration trip. It was an adventure we will never forget due to the new and curious situations we encountered. There, we personally met Maysa, who offered her support. She explained how the government, farmers, cooperatives, and NGOs function in the country … In short, she put us in the orbit of the sector and did the impossible for us to launch our project in Brazil. She never asked for anything in return and fascinated us with her dedicated, non-conformist, and passionate spirit. Both Ángel Sánchez, the company’s founder, and Maysa have become my professional guides in the organic textile sector. I will always be grateful for their help and wise advice. Organic Cotton Colours owes them a lot. So, there we were, Albert and I, gathered at the University of Patos in the state of Paraíba with farmers working on colored organic cotton in the area. Although we had a translator and I had been practicing Portuguese, it was challenging to communicate our ideas clearly. Still, and thanks to Maysa’s

Read more

Chapter 2: Exploring the origin: India

By Santi Mallorquí, CEO of Organic Cotton Colours. In this article, I chronologically recount the experiences lived to materialize the OCCGuarantee project of Organic Cotton Colours. In the first article, I narrated how I navigated the obstacles that emerged after taking charge of the company, the main one being a need to find where to obtain our organic cotton. At the end of 2011, I returned from visiting Sally Fox in California, our connection to Fox Fibre Colorganic brand. At that moment, I knew we would have to create our own project to obtain colorgrown organic cotton, as well as our own brand. The first international fair I attended was Biofach in Nuremberg in February 2012. Despite not being a specific textile product fair, we received a very positive reaction, proving the interest in and potential of our products. Among the visitors, an Indian entrepreneur became interested in what we were doing. To such an extent that he asked to come back to Spain with us! The next day, we began to plan our trip to southern India, where he had businesses and contacts to help us establish ourselves there. In June 2012, Ángel Sánchez, the company’s founder, and I traveled for the first time to the vast Asian cotton country with a excitement and countless uncertainties to resolve. There, a man we didn’t know, who didn’t speak English, awaited us to lead us on a route to Tirupur. We made a stop in organic cotton fields to witness the planting process, and we saw a man with a shovel tilling the trenches, noticing he was missing several toes. Good Lord, I thought. It was a vast area prepared for intensive organic cotton cultivation. We were invited to dinner at our host’s house, who told us about the possibilities the region offers in terms of manufacturing and finishes. That same afternoon, he showed us the colorgrown organic cotton. In his house, he had several bales of brown color and some fully grown plants in the garden that were in the experimental phase, after 13 years of studies with government agencies and different universities. It seemed like we were in the right place with the person who could assist us in our common goal. In the following days, we were taken to visit various mega dyeing and manufacturing factories, including one that collected plastic bottles from the streets to make recycled polyester thread. It was quite an experience to see the containers washed, shredded, and melted. This unsustainable process only manages to utilize 30% of the material needed to produce a

Read more