Our newest lingerie brand Bedstraw & Madder have put together a truly innovative and inspiring business model based around regenerative farming. We spoke to co-founder Primrose Matheson to find out more.
What inspired you to set up Bedstraw & Madder?
We wanted the clothes we wear to be as clean as the food we all like to eat.
Zero chemicals, zero pesticides. We loved the ancient wisdom of natural dyes and the benefits they have for our skin and wellbeing and wanted to revive these.
Vanessa my business partner has been in the sustainable fashion production for the last 15 years. She has seen first hand how dirty the fast fashion industry is and wanted to create clothing that had a positive environmental and social impact. It was because of this we went the extra mile leasing land to grow our own cotton in order to have full traceability of our fabrics whilst sequestering carbon and combating climate change in the process.
Tell us about the name?
Bedstraw and Madder are both plants used for natural dyeing and can be grown in the UK.
What were you doing before?
I was making organic health food. I had a business called Primrose’s Kitchen. Vanessa previously had her own beachwear label and also produced sustainable fashion for other brands.
You are so unique in producing your own regenerative cotton - tell us a bit about the farm and the process.
We started the regenerative cotton project in 2019 with our partner Oshadi in India. He had been visualising a fibre-shed system there for 3 years and we were keen to get involved. Working with the local community in Erode, leasing land to grow the organic cotton to then weave and dye with his community of traditional weavers there.
The importance environmentally is that through the use of cover crops, animal grazing and zero pesticide use soil quality on the land has returned. This naturally acts as a carbon sink, increases biodiversity and helps clean up our water cycles that had previously been contaminated with heavy pesticides.
Socially it provides a strong and viable livelihood for the community on the ground and continues to pass on ancient traditions and wisdom to the next generation.
Although cotton is known as a thirsty crop our goal was to have our cotton rain fed which was achieved through the installation of irrigation systems.
Because we use organic plant dyes any water used in the dyeing process can be recirculated and returned to the soil rather than flushed away.
Most important of all growing our own cotton gives us full traceability in our supply chain which not many brands have. Without full transparency you can’t accurately measure the impact what you are doing has over time and be sure that no slave labour is involved in the production of you goods.
Why did you choose to produce intimates in particular?
We started with underwear because this is your most intimate item of clothing, the clothing you spend the whole day in with it touching your skin.
The fashion industry currently is a dirty business. It is the second largest polluting industry after fossil fuels. 20% of water pollution is caused by the chemicals used in processing textiles. Not only are those chemicals bad for the environment they are also detrimental to our health.
As a naturopath I was well aware of the fact that your skin is one of the largest organs of your body and it absorbs what it touches. We wanted to create clean, healthy clothing with benefits. Applying the same philosophy we have embraced in our move towards organic food, to our clothing.
Tell us about some of the challenges you have faced along the way?
We spent 2.5 years in R and D developing the natural dye methods and colours with our partners and sourcing the most sustainable trims. When you are really committed to sustainability it is so important to dive in and make sure you have explored and evaluated all the options. Covid produced severe delays as factories and farms were opened and closed on a repeated basis which played havoc with timelines for samples and production.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
Our hopes and plans for the future are to convert more land with our partners from conventional farming to regenerative developing further our underwear range whilst moving into other close other skin clothing such as sleepwear and loungewear.
We will continue to run expert panels on the subject of Fixing Fashion at events around the country inspiring a more sustainable approach to fashion alongside natural dye workshops.