Who is… CKS?
CKS is a Belgian brand that designs high-quality, colourful and very wearable clothes for women and children.
When the label participated in a Close The Loop trajectory back in 2018, it was still a part of the Benelux fashion group FNG (which also housed brands like Brantano and Miss Etam).
In the meantime, CKS has found a new home under the wings of Claes Retail Group (CRG), together with JBC and Mayerline.
CKS already works with organic cotton and recycled polyester, but wants to increase the percentage of these sustainable alternatives to regular cotton and virgin polyester with each collection. In the longer run, the Basics collection will even be made entirely of organic cotton. Also high on CKS’ list of fave materials: viscose, which is made from bamboo or eucalyptus pulp. But not just any viscose will do: the brand specifically requests variants that come from well-managed forests (proven by FSC or PEFC certification) and with a production process that doesn’t involve zinc sulphate or chlorine-based bleaches. In addition, CKS checks whether its viscose manufacturers recycle the chemicals they use and purify their water. The CKS catalogue also contains items made from lyocell and mulesing-free wool (increasingly of the recycled kind).
CKS sets its eyes on quality and longevity, accomplishing these goals with the help of materials that remain beautiful and that customers can enjoy for many years. Moreover, CKS items can typically be worn in every season, and they invite mixing and matching.
CKS clothes are mainly made in Turkey, China, Italy, Portugal and – to a lesser extent – in Tunisia and India. The brand keeps transportation emissions to a minimum by sourcing its fabrics near the production facilities.
CKS has its own Code of Conduct that all suppliers have to stick to. The Code contains, among other things, a ban on forced labour, child labour, excessive working hours and discrimination, and it obliges partners to pay fair wages to their employees, who should all work under an employment contract. Not relying on pinky promises, CKS organises third-party audits at all its factories, turning the results of these checks into checklists and effectively helping their manufacturers to do better. In addition, the brand uses its own Restricted Substances List that suppliers have to sign. This list was drawn up by Modint (the network of, and knowledge centre for, the fashion, interior design, carpet and textile industries), based on the European list of forbidden chemicals.
On the road to sustainability, CKS not only receives support from Modint. In 2017, the brand also joined the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), an organisation that thoroughly inspects CKS’ production locations to see if they comply with the FWF Code of Conduct. Among other vital rights, the Code stresses the importance of freedom of association and a safe and healthy work environment.
CKS supports a lot of charities, like Rode Neuzen Dag (Red Nose Day), raising money for young people with mental health problems by selling specially designed sweaters in 2018 and a more extensive collection the year after. Also in 2018, CKS launched a collection at Techno for Humanity in collaboration with Amelie Lens, raising an impressive sum for Animal Rights Belgium and the Netherlands.
Furthermore, CKS’ shopping and shipping bags are made from sustainable materials, like 100% post-consumer waste plastic.
CKS clothes are made to last, but the brand is also on a mission to inform its customers on how to take good care of their items. Hence the ‘Clevercare’ labels on the products, as well as the tips on the CKS website that include sustainable laundry habits, drying practices and repair instructions.
Tossing out old stock is not CKS’ style. With the help of its partners, the brand repairs these items or recycles them into new beauties. In addition, CKS regularly collects used clothing, sending treasure after treasure to the thrift store for a second life (and some touch-ups, if necessary). Likewise, clothes with manufacturing defects are sorted and repaired by de Kringwinkel, which welcomes them with open arms. Finally, CKS organises sample and stock sales to help items from previous seasons find an owner.
What does sustainability mean for you?
Valerie Geluykens: “To us, sustainable entrepreneurship is all about showing respect. And every link in the chain has its part to play. Together we strive to do better, improving things step by step. That’s the only way to make a positive impact on both people and planet.”
What challenges are you currently facing?
Geluykens: “We’re facing challenges in multiple areas. Sustainability is an ongoing process, not something that is set in stone, so trying to keep our bearings in this shifting context is already quite difficult. And things get even harder if you take pricing into account, too. We want to become more sustainable, but we also want to retain a competitive edge and invite consumers to join us on this green journey. This inevitably means we have to make choices.”
Which lesson(s) do you want to share?
Geluykens: “To make progress, you have to take it step by step and team up with the right partners. In addition, it’s not only important to get everyone on the same page, but also to build a knowledge-sharing culture. If your entire team speaks the same language, the ride is so much smoother.”
This page was last updated in March 2021. Curious to find out where CKS stands now? Feel free to get in touch with them via firstname.lastname@example.org!