We are in the midst of #OrganicSeptember, a campaign launched by the Soil Association to celebrate and promote the benefits of choosing organic produce. It is a fantastic initiative, but there seems to be far too little attention paid to an important category - organic textiles.
We all know that organic produce can provide many benefits both to our health and to the environment. Pesticides used on mass farmed fruit and veg can cause illness and allergies, let alone irrevocably damage our eco systems and water sources. Many of us now choose organic food where we can. Beyond what we are putting in our bodies we are also taking more care of what beauty products we are using on our skin. Sales of organic health and beauty products in the UK have grown 40% from £31.8 million in 2012 to £44.6million in 2014, a trend that is set to continue as more of us demand authenticity and transparency in our product choices. The most stylish women in the world are quick to pepper their instagram accounts with beautiful images of their clean living lifestyle and organic food an beauty choices so why are we not applying the same ethos to the clothing that we wear on a daily basis?
The textile industry is world’s most polluting industry second only to oil. The demand for ultra cheap clothing at a super fast turn around has meant mass production of huge quantities which require increased use of chemicals and water. An incredible 25% of the world's chemicals are used in the textile industry. It is no wonder when so many cheap clothes items actually have an aroma of chemicals that can linger even after several washes. Even designer brands have margins they need to stick to and organic fabrics do not get much of a look in. Do we really want to expose our largest organ, the skin, to clothing that has been produced this way?
The lure of a bargain price, mass produced blouse or dress often seems too much of a temptation for many of us. It’s like giving into fast-food - we know its bad for us and if we took a moment to think about what was in it and how it had been sourced we’d almost certainly think again but the short term satisfaction culture we are accustomed to has made it too easy not to. We think it makes us feel good…. for a moment. If the documentary film Supersize Me helped to open our eyes to our addiction problem with fast food then Andrew Morgan’s True Cost Movie should do the same for fast fashion. In his powerful film (which should be complusory viewing in schools) he covers the horrific affects chemicals in the fashion industry can have on farmers and producers including birth defects and cancer.
Studies have revealed a correlation between the presence of cancer of the buccal cavity and pharynx and occupation in the textile industry. We have to worry what that will do to the millions of under regulated garment industry workers who don’t have access to protective clothing. In terms of water pollution the figures are staggering - in Jakarta, Indonesia 80% of water pollution in the main river comes from the textile industry. The waste water is pumped out into rivers which local people rely on. If the question of what the chemicals in clothing can do to your own body is not enough to convince you then what these chemicals do to garment workers working with them on a daily basis and to the environment as a whole should. The benefits are of choosing organically produced clothing are crystal clear. So why are fashionistas not taking more notice of organic fashion? They chucked the fast food habit decades ago - what about the unhealthy fast fashion habit? There seems to be a misconception that organic fashion means dull, neutral, overly earthy aesthetics. This is absolutely not the case and we like to prove this time and time again at Gather&See.
Take a look at Barcelona based CUS’s Autumn Winter collection - it is full of fashion forward, colourful pieces that have been picked up by fashion editors and street style bloggers first, drawn to the intricate designs. Super cool Kowtow has made a name for itself in designing edgy, modern organic pieces including Autumn’s must have trench coat and a drop-waisted, high necked dress that feels so right for this season - both pieces made entirely of organic, fair trade cotton. British brand Beaumont Organic’s name says it all but you might be surprised to find perfectly cut plaid shirt dresses and the the softest of baby blue shifts (Prada eat your heart out) and gorgeous chunky knits. Not only are these pieces a delight to style and wear they feel fantastic on your skin - for us it is a no brainer.
4 years ago Greenpeace launched the Detox campaign targeting the fashion industry and asking it to clean up its act. Things are improving and several big brands have made a commitment to detoxing their production process, but there is still a mountain to climb. A little detoxing of our own wardrobes is a great place to start. By choosing organic, you are taking responsibility for yourself, for cotton farmers, for garment industry workers and for the environment. In the words of ethical fashion hero Livia Firth, “Call it ‘Eco Fashion’ if you like, but I think it’s just common sense.” Choosing organic clothing really can make a difference….and you will look fabulous.