Organic fashion is here to stay, said Scott Leonard, CEO of Indigenous Designs, at Friday’s “Global Organic Textiles” session. To wit, consumer interest and awareness of eco-fashion is skyrocketing as concepts like “organic” and “sustainable” become embedded in our—and the new presidential administration’s—thought processes. Even in a down economy, the industry’s potential has never been greater—a point Leonard and co-speakers LaRhea Pepper, senior director of Organic Exchange, and Greg Loosvelt of Earth Pledge, all agreed on. “There is a slowdown, but there haven’t been any hard stops,” said Pepper. In fact, organic cotton is now produced in 22 countries around the world.
An even better sign of eco-fashion’s long-term strength is the abundance of high-quality fibers available to designers. Earth Pledge, for example, has a library of approximately 2,000 sustainable fibers to share with designers. From Tencel to hemp to coconut husk, fibers are so versatile and varied that designers can achieve the desired look and feel without sacrificing eco-friendliness. Still, standards and labeling have proved challenging. Although fibers fall under the same regulatory framework as organic food, certifying the finished product organic—or fair trade, for that matter—is more complex thanks to the huge number of what Leonard calls “touch points” essential to create garments from the initial fibers. (Consider blending fibers, dyes, stitching and finishing, to name a few sticking points.) And while the Global Organic Textile Standard (global-standard.org) is picking up steam, misperceptions and confusion in the marketplace seem likely to persist. However, organic fashion is opening doors to new discussions about processing, farming, social and biodynamic issues. And consumers are starting to look at sustainable lifestyles from a holistic perspective in which even their clothing choices hold great green opportunity.
“In addition to considering how much water is used to grow the cotton, we have to be responsible consumers after purchase,” says Loosvelt, a self-proclaimed “landfill walker.” Cold-water washing, limiting dry cleaning and reducing the obsolescence of clothing will affect your footprint, he said.