> Consumer Awareness


WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS ?

Neither recessions nor unstable economies seem to have put a damper on the fast-growing organic textiles industry. Experts are acknowledging a ‘maturity’ emerging in the industry, with more brands and retailers possessing the confidence to talk about the work they initially kept low-key due to fear of ‘getting it wrong’ or raising their heads too far above the parapet. More people want to know about the social and environmental credentials of what they buy, and that their dollar really does count. ‘Telling the story’ of organic cotton and bringing consumers closer to the producers is an exciting, relatively untapped, opportunity to help make this happen.

 

WHO'S DOING WHAT ?

Case Study: Patagonia A powerful way to win hearts and minds is through story telling. The following ‘story of discovery’ told by the founder of the outdoor retailer Patagonia requires no further introduction... After a trip into the San Joaquin Valley, California to see where his cotton was coming from Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia was shocked at the lunar landscape of the cotton fields, the amount of toxic pesticides used in agriculture and the effect it was having on soil, water and human health; describing the cotton belt he witnessed as a ‘killing field’. Yvon soon realised that out of all the textiles they used at Patagonia, cotton was probably the biggest villain – and it didn’t have to be. Hadn’t farmers grown cotton organically, without pesticides, for thousands of years? Indeed, only after World War II did the chemicals originally developed as nerve gases become available for commercial use as pesticides and weedicides.

This first-hand experience was a turning point for Yvon. “How could we continue to make products that lay waste to the earth this way?” In the fall of 1994, Patagonia made the decision to make all cotton sportswear 100 percent organic by 1996. They had eighteen months to make the switch for 66 products – and only four months to line up the fabric. They found that there simply wasn’t enough organic cotton commercially available to buy through brokers... “So we went direct to the farmers who had gone back to organic methods. And then we went to the ginners and spinners and persuaded them to clean their equipment after running what would be for them very low quantities. We had to talk to the certifiers so that all the fiber could be traced back to the bale”. And they succeeded. Every Patagonia garment made of cotton in 1996 was organic, and has been ever since.

“Although we first intended Patagonia as a way to free ourselves from the limitations of the original climbing business, precisely those limitations have kept us on our toes and helped us thrive. We still pursue climbing and surfing, activities that entail risk, require soul, and invite reflection. We favour informal travels with friends – doing what we love to do – to the camera-covered event. We can’t bring ourselves to knowingly make a mediocre product. And we cannot avert our eyes from the harm done, by all of us, to our one and only home.”

 For more information please visit Patagonia - fabric: organic cotton

FURTHER READING 

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