Category: Sustainability

Friday’s Fabric Focus: Can We Really Trust Organic Fabrics?

Organic GOTS certified cotton
Organic GOTS certified cotton

I’m a fabric-aholic! Self confessed and unashamed.

I started this blog as a way to share this addiction to sewing and fabrics, but particularly my love of fabrics.

Fabric Love

There’s something about textiles that I find irresistible and I’ve built up quite a sizeable fabric collection over the years. I began acquiring bits and pieces of cloth, here and there, long before I started sewing.

I’m coveting batiks from Singapore and Malaysia; silk from Thailand; cotton wax prints from Namibia, Africa; denim from Japan; silk from Italy; Breton striped jersey from Brittany, France; boiled wool from Austria; lace from Switzerland; Welsh woven wool; German jersey – the list goes on and on! I even have ostrich leather given to me by a German ostrich farmer!

I’m as curious as Curious George and like my little terrier dog, have a nose for sniffing out fabric manufacturers wherever I go!

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Switch to Sustainable Textiles

Since moving to Germany and having children, I’ve got more interested in sustainable fabrics particularly those made in Europe. I studied sustainability in Sweden a few years ago which added fuel to my organic-textiles-choosing fire, but sustainable textiles aren’t always easy to find on the high street and tend to be pricier than non-organics.  Frustrated with the lack of choice, I started going to international fashion fabric trade fairs to dig deeper.

Findings

What I found has raised more questions than it’s answered. The organic textile world isn’t as clear-cut as we’d like to think it is. Yes there are a wide selection of organic and sustainable fabrics are on offer and the variety and number is expanding every season and now also includes additionals such as buttons and thread.

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All encouraging signs, but it starts to get murky when we try to define what we mean by ‘organic or sustainable’ textiles and clothing in the fashion industry.

What’s in a Label?

The problem is we don’t have a global brand, global label or global governing body that can certify that a fabric or piece of clothing is organic. Fabrics and fashion are produced all over the world, across many different countries, making it almost impossible to have transparency in every step of the production process.

GOTS and CERES certified organic cotton
GOTS and CERES certified organic cotton

For instance, I was browsing the site of my go-to online sustainable fabric supplier today – Lebenskleidung, winners of the Global Source Awards 2013 for best sustainable fabrics supplier to the fashion industry. When checking out their ‘made in Germany’ linen, I noticed that the linen plant was actually grown in northern Europe and only the cloth was woven and finished in Germany. Just like all ‘Italian-made silk’ starts life as raw imported Chinese silk that’s dyed and printed in Italy and finished with ‘Made in Italy’ labels. Don’t worry, it’s all legit and above-board. I’m telling you this, not to discredit either, just to illustrate it’s not always as clear-cut as it first appears.

What does ‘Organic’ or ‘Sustainable’ Mean?

Here lies the problem – it can mean all sorts of things. It can mean the plant was grown organically, or it can refer to the production or the social conditions of the workers or all of these things at once but it can’t be assumed that a textile or garment labeled as sustainable or organic was necessarily produced in an organic or sustainable way for its entire life cycle – that global label unfortunately doesn’t exist at the moment.

A couple of years ago, German Federal Development Minister Gerd Mueller announced he was going to initiate a global organic textile label, unaware of the complexity and inter-relatedness of the fashion industry and the almost impossibility of the task.

At last count, there were roughly a dozen labels developed and managed independently, each one dealing with a different part of the value added chain. And all of them work well, unfortunately not together.

Until a global sustainable textile label can be created, the hope for the future is that these existing different sustainable labels can unite forces and work together to improve the standards and the overall sustainability of the fashion industry and organic-ness of our textiles.

Friday’s Fabric Focus

I’ve started Friday’s Fabric Focus to discuss the different organic textile labels as well as to feature fabrics and fabric sources I find locally in Europe.

Now let me know what you think

Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you sew with organic fabrics or buy organic clothes? Which organic labels are you familiar with? Please let me know in the comments below.

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Innovative Mud – A European dirty little secret, that’s actually squeaky clean!

I don’t know about you but since I’ve been making my own clothes, I’ve become much more discerning about the stuff that I buy. I’m more conscious of the quality of the materials; who they were made by and where; and how long they will last.

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Jeans are something I’ll probably never make and whilst I’m not particularly brand conscious, I do prefer to give my money where possible, to companies that make products and follow business practices that are sustainable.

But we don’t live in an ideal world and it’s not always easy to find sustainable products at affordable prices. So when I was flicking through the latest copy of ‘Eve’, (a German free magazine available in my local grocery store that promotes organic products www.eve-magazin.de) and read their article about Mud Jeans, an innovative clothing brand from the Netherlands (www.mudjeans.eu), my attention was immediately grabbed!

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This company’s concept is so ‘right on’ that I just had to share it.

Mud Jeans have been making fair fashion ‘for people who care’ according to their strapline, since 2008. Their stuff is organic, ecologic, sustainable, climate neutral and Fairtrade! I haven’t even seen or touched their jeans in the denim as it were but I love them already! I’m just a sucker for innovative concepts and all things made in Europe.

And as if that wasn’t good enough, they’ve taken the sustainability of their business one step further by offering a new ‘Leasing Jeans’ concept. This award- winning business strategy is the first of its kind in the jeans market and what’s catapulted Mud Jeans into the limelight now.

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The idea to lease and not buy products is a win-win concept for consumer and producer. It makes an otherwise expensive item available to a wider variety of consumers because it’s now more affordable and it ensures that the materials remain the property of the company so they can then be recycled. Simple really!

It’s not a new idea though, just new to jeans. I first came across this when I was studying sustainability at Blekinge Institute in Sweden and we discussed a carpet company which switched to leasing as well as selling carpets to improve the sustainability of the company and its products. It’s encouraging to see this business practice being picked up by the fashion industry.

I wish this brand well and hope that this concept catches on and I’ll certainly be checking Mud Jeans out the next time I need some new jeans.

Has sewing your own clothes changed your buying habits? Have any ground-breaking brands caught your eye lately? Does the idea of leasing clothes appeal to you?

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