“Green” Clothes, With No Added Preservatives
The organic agriculture movement is spreading to clothing, creating clothes that have not been radiated or genetically modified, and are produced without synthetic pesticides. What does this mean for you?
By Jenna Hasan
Walking into Saks Fifth Avenue, I go to a table of clothes and pick up a pair of jeans that look similar to the other ones I own, except they are a little darker, thinner and have a green tag in them. The label says “organic,” but last I knew organic was found in the special aisles if the grocery store. I hold them up, and head for an associate to tell me how the heck clothes can now be organic!
The associate says it was a new trend starting. Organic. Well duh, we all knew that harmful pesticides sprayed all over our food was no good, but why clothes? Why jeans?
Clothes are what we wear every day, all day. Our bodies are covered by clothes, and if these garments harbor harmful chemicals and additives, it’s just possible we may become contaminated. At least some people may believe that.
What makes ‘regular’ cotton unsafe? The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies eight of the pesticides used in non-organic U.S. cotton as possible carcinogens. Cotton also uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides. In one year alone, more than 50 million pounds of pesticides were used on U.S cotton fields, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture. Every t-shirt made of conventional cotton takes on about one-fourth of a pound of harmful chemicals.
And it’s possible, say some health- conscious individuals, that these toxic particles may end up in us, through our skin and into our bloodstream. So they’re turning to the “safer” alternative, organic cotton.
This cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. It makes up of less than one percent of cotton production worldwide. The creating of this cotton prohibits the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is a membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. Their main goal is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade. The production of organic cotton increased 152 percent from 2007 to 2008. The leading cotton producers include India, Turkey, China, Uganda, Peru and the United States.
Because of this increase of production, many stores and departments’ stores are starting to carry more lines featuring the organic cotton. Some of the world’s largest companies are now committed to organic cotton, including Wal-Mart and Nike. H &M also created a high-fashioned organic clothing line in 20 of its United States stores. From 2007 to 2008, the doubled the amount of cotton ordered because of the high response rates to the product. Also, Nordstrom began the summer of 2007 offering organic clothing and bamboo active wear. The clothing will have recycled buttons and minimal hardware on them.
At the end of 2006, Levi Strauss & Co. added an Eco jeans brand to their company, made with 100 percent organic cotton, available in many different styles.
The jeans were selling for about 20 dollars more than regular Red Tabs. Red Tabs are the original Levi brand of jeans. The goal of creating this line was to try to “democratize organic,” according to E.J Bernacki of Levi Strauss.
Also a number of high-end designers have introduced this product into their brand, including Del Forte, Seven for All Mankind, Nudie Jeans and Mavi. Also, Stella McCarthy began using organic ingredients and materials in her fragrances and fashion collection.
Katie Allen, a junior at the University of Buffalo, visited shopbop.com and purchased a Venice 291 organic cotton tee shirt for 75 dollars. The shirts message, “let nature rock,” was created to support the “go green” cause. The shirt also features all natural inks that are non-toxic for screen -printing words and images.
“I only have one (organic tee shirt) but it was worth the price to me because I am big on reduce, reuse and recycle products for a healthier earth,” Allen said.
Katie also tried on the “Yosemite” line, which is the organic brand for Seven for All Man-Kind.
“I felt they were thin material and not worth the $183, they didn't seem durable enough. If I had a lot of money I would buy them,” Allen said.
Retail sales of this cotton increased 238 percent between the years 2005 and 2007, according to the Organic Exchange, which is a nonprofit trade association.Even though the trend has been growing since 2006, it’s still being further developed. But not every brand is buying in to the trend to go organic. After all, all cotton sold in the United States must meet strict federal regulations. And many people say this is a safe enough system.Well, maybe.
But to be sure clothing, jeans in particular, are on the safe side, at least know that the darker colors may be better since they are often processed using fewer chemicals. “I think that non-organic is just the same quality, just a bit different feel. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. If prices were similar between non-organic and organic I would pick the organic, but if the price was drastically different, I would pick which ever product was lower in price,” Allen said.