Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Organic food companies will not buy organic apparel

With the addition of the American Organic Standards for Fiber Processing, Version 6, the OTA makes the quality of organic products for textiles a reality. The question is: is the organic food industry ready to support their cousins, to help build demand for the organic textile products? Over the last 5 years, several companies have been working to replace the non organic t-shirts used as advertising by organic food companies, with organic product, only to be told that the garments are "too expensive" verses traditional t-shirts or fleece wear. This seems to be oxymoronic at best. Organic food products sell at a premium because the consumer learned what they were taught about the quality, health, and value obtained from organic products. It would seem that the organic food producers would be the first group to support the production of stylish, distinguishable, organic textiles, by purchasing organically produced garments that meet the new organic standards and promote civil society. Sure, these garments will cost more than the products produced in Chinese factories, made from non-organic cotton, but the same advantages that drive the growth of organic foods also can be the qualities that create a fertile marketplace for organically produced textile materials.

In this case, existing organic food markets, distributors, and producers, that use printed t-shirts as promotion or work wear, can be the nucleus for a growing, sustainable customer base for organic textiles. The same dynamics that are creating new sustainable jobs in agriculture through organic foodstuffs can recreate a more sustainable local and global textile industry. However, this can only occur if there is market demand. Every time an organic textile producer loses an order to the non-organic product, especially when the customer is an organic market or food producer, there is a not so subtle message of "no difference" between organic products and non-organic products. Our goal is to make "All Things Organic" and sometimes that means putting your money where it can do the most good...Especially when we are trying to build value in a new standard and teach the consumer.

One of the stated principals in promulgating a new textile organic standard is to create the demand for greener chemistries and production methods for textiles. This occurs when there is enough demand to interest the technology leaders. Currently, organic textiles are the flea on the back of the world textile elephant. Does this remind anyone of the situation that existed in organic foods in the 1960's? We should be shameless promoters of organic textiles and the first to support the development of this infant segment of this ancient industry, not the one's behaving like the big box retailers, whose only idea of value is how cheaply something can be made. Gandhi spent time each day spinning cotton in support of the local Indian textile market, can we not emulate him and support a new niche for organic produce?

Wear organic!


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