(Arlington, VA) Today, Rare China and Shokay announced a new partnership to create the world’s first sustainably-produced, traceable Yak Cotton blend. This unique partnership will bring together the Tibetan yak herders of Qinghai and the cotton farmers of Xinjiang who are transitioning towards organic cultivation. Shokay and Rare’s partnership makes it possible to know how the fabrics are produced and where they are from – right to the farm.
Founded in 2006, Shokay, the leading socially responsible premium yak down brand, has its collections in more than ten countries including the United States, Germany and China. Shokay works closely with herders in Western China to implement best practices from combing to segmentation of top grade yak down. This stimulates the local economy and allows for over one thousand households in the region to earn a sustainable living whilst preserving their traditional lifestyle. They also commit 1% of their revenue towards Shokay’s Community Development Fund, which supports programs in education, women empowerment, and environmental conservation.
Shokay will begin purchasing Extra-Long-Staple in transition cotton from Rare’s Xinjiang farm partners and will produce a Yak Cotton blend series that offers conscientious designers an affordable and beautiful year-round fabric. Shokay has over 12 years of experience in developing premium yak and blends alongside renown research institutions and strategic manufacturing partners. The unique properties of yak and cotton will create a fabric that is light weight, breathable, and buttery soft.
Rare, the leading behavioral-change organization in conservation, has been implementing numerous sustainable agriculture initiatives in China since 2015. Rare promotes the adoption of organic cotton in China by implementing community engagement campaigns, providing farmers with sustainable agriculture technical training, supporting compliance with European and China organic certification protocols, boosting government adoption, and creating market linkages with brands. Rare currently supports six farms who are collectively transitioning 3,295 acres of land to becoming organically certified in three years.
Supporting farmers through the in-transition period is key. During the three-year transition period prior to farmers receiving the organic certification, farmers mostly sell their cotton to the conventional market, bearing all the risks of transitioning towards organic and not experiencing any of the financial benefits. As a result, there is a high risk of defaulting back to conventional practices. Therefore, growing a reliable supply of organic cotton requires brands to support farmers right from the beginning of the three year in-transition period to becoming organically certified.
Dale Galvin, Managing Director of Rare’s Sustainable Markets group said, “We are excited to launch this partnership to develop an innovative, sustainable and traceable material to prove that that sustainable agriculture can be commercially rewarding.”
Meanwhile, Carol Chyau, Co-Founder and CEO of Shokay, said, “We are deeply excited about the prospects of this joint project with Rare. Rare and Shokay have both consistently shown their ability to marry sustainability and commercial viability, and we whole-heartedly believe that this partnership will be no exception.”
The Yak Cotton blend will offer designers and brands with more options to adopt sustainable material and provide a competitive advantage for both fibers. The merging of these two fibers creates a new product category that offers affordability, luxury comfort and a sustainable path forward for farmers and herders. Rare and Shokay are in active discussions with various supply chain partners that can offer multiple Yak Cotton blend products across the supply chain.
The partnership signals to China’s agricultural sphere that sustainable agriculture is a promising vehicle for investment, alongside improving environmental and social outcomes.
A 4-star Charity Navigator-ranked NGO, Rare is a leader in using behavior change to achieve conservation goals globally. Rare inspires people to take pride in the natural resources that make their communities unique, while also introducing practical alternatives to environmentally destructive practices. Rare has trained more than 350 community leaders and government employees in 56 countries in campaign planning and social marketing, equipping them to deliver community-based solutions based on natural and social science, while leveraging policy and market forces to accelerate positive environmental change. Rare then works to scale that impact to help deliver the same kind of change around the globe. Learn more at http://www.rare.org and on Twitter at @Rare_org.
Shokay is a sustainable textiles company with a passion for developing products using unconventional materials. Shokay is best known for having identified yak down as a luxury fiber which is warmer than wool and more breathable than cashmere. Since its start, Shokay has expanded its yarn and fabric collections to include other sustainable materials, from in transition cotton, to lyocell, bamboo, oyster shells composites, and recycled PET. Their vision is to minimize environmental impact and make transparency an industry standard through offering brands the latest yarns & fabrics that are thoughtfully made. From raw material to finished products Shokay innovates with sustainability at its core. All products come with hang tags to ensure the highest quality, traceability, and social impact. Learn more at www.Shokay.com and on Instagram/shokaylab