April 09, 2021

What is organic clothing? and why is it better for me?

By Elisa Rerolle
What is organic clothing? and why is it better for me?

Let's compare organic clothing vs. regular clothing.

Picking and buying an item of clothing doesn’t just expand your outfit possibilities: it is an opportunity to invest in a stronger, softer, better garment. It is both healthier for you and for the planet. Diving into a dress or a T-shirt’s history before it reaches an online shop can reveal a much darker - or lighter - side than the bright print and perfect cut may originally suggest. These consequences impact both you and the planet on a larger scale.

Beautiful linen scarf paired with organic cotton smock

Purchasing thoughtfully, like choosing organic clothing, comes with benefits for both the planet, for the laborers, and in terms of the quality of the garment; everyone and everything benefits from it. Modern Shibori is, at its core, “considered clothing,” meaning every decision at every step of the process is carefully weighed in order to create the most beautiful, best quality, and most societally mindful garments. Organic cotton comes with many advantages: softness, durability, and a smaller environmental impact.

Organic cotton contrasts with non-organic, genetically-modified cotton, which is grown in conditions that are harmful to laborers and the environment. Genetically-modified cotton - which is most of the cotton being produced - works with sterile seeds. This means that, every year, new seeds must be bought from big corporations in order to grow a crop of cotton, instead of seeds carrying over every year. 

According to this U.C. Berkeley College of Natural Resources article, the fact that “farmers cannot save and re-plant seed” takes control away from them, and is damaging to both them and the environment. Though these GMO techniques are promoted as “biosafety,” many feel that farmers lose freedom, creating “bioserfdom."

More consequences arise as chemicals get into the surroundings due to the use of fertilizer, insecticide, and pesticide. This affects both the environment and those farming the land or living in the surrounding areas. Organic cotton practices address and fix these dangers. As mindful consumers, looking for an organic cotton tag supports farmers’ autonomy and saving the planet. Not to mention that the textile will have a higher quality (but keep reading, we’re getting there).

Longer lasting garments

Jenny Fong, Creative Director and Founder of Modern Shibori, who dyes all the company’s clothing, finds organic fabric to have great dye uptake and that it feels wonderful to work with. This is because organic cotton’s fibers have not been damaged by chemicals and therefore are longer and more strongly connected. This makes them more durable and higher quality. Organic cotton clothing is the kind of clothing that lasts season after season to create a wardrobe that lasts. 

Gorgeous organic linen smock

There is another reason for cotton fibers to be stronger and longer lasting. Because the cotton is handpicked, it gets a lot less damaged. This, combined with the lack of destructive chemicals mentioned above, is a second reason that the textile produced is a lot stronger. This toughness is the foundation of timeless, enduring pieces that can be passed down through generations. 

Lasting, quality pieces are the cornerstone of building a core foundation for your closet - or developing a capsule wardrobe. Selecting versatile items of clothing is a smart way of building efficiency: you gain numerous outfits in a few individual pieces; if they last you over many years, you gain a dependable wardrobe, while keeping fast-fashion throw-outs out of landfills.

Beautiful luster and better for your skin

The undamaged cotton fibers also have the added advantage of being softer to touch and wear all day. That investment is a gift that keeps on giving! The fact that they are picked by hand and not by machine can literally be felt by touch.

The lack of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides used during the production of the non-organic cotton also means that organic clothing has a lot fewer chemicals in its final state. Seeing as your article of clothing sits on your skin all day, this means fewer toxic products are getting absorbed into your body. Keeping pesticides out of the land and waterways also means keeping it off of you!

Bonus: organic cotton is hypoallergenic. It’s always safer to go with that option, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Smaller destructive impact on land

Organic cotton uses a much smaller quantity of water to grow because growers use different methods of irrigation. This article shows how a regular cotton t-shirt “takes 2,168 gallons of water” when an organic cotton t-shirt “uses just 186 gallons of water.” While organic cotton doesn’t use chemicals, non-organic cotton production represents “25 percent” of pesticide used in farming worldwide. This chemical use destroys the environment - plants and wildlife - through water runoff. The production of organic cotton has a much smaller impact on the planet than regular cotton.

Hemp and organic cotton black and white outfit

On top of that, the same article shares that “organic farming requires crop rotation techniques that naturally sequester carbon and keep it from entering the atmosphere” which means that “organic cotton emits about 46 percent less CO2 than conventional cotton” when it is farmed. Choosing organic cotton over conventional cotton is a perfect example of how purchasing power has real world complications or benefits, and that the planet is worth investing in and saving.

No microplastics

Choosing organic textile over synthetic materials has another huge impact. Organic cotton is entirely biodegradable. This New York Times article states that cotton covers 25% of all fibers used in creating textile, but that “synthetic fibers or rayon are often blended with cotton thread, especially if there is a cotton shortage … or the price of cotton goes up.” This inclusion of plastic has huge ramifications.

When plastic-based clothing gets washed, “the filaments can make it into sewer systems and eventually into waterways.” Even if caught when going through filtration plants, they can be put into the sludge these facilities generate and “sent to farms to be used as fertilizer” where “the fibers can make their way into other water systems, or into the digestive tracts of animals that graze on the fertilized plants.”

As microplastics ultimately end up in the oceans, they pollute and run the risk of being ingested by sea creatures. This BBC article reports that the microplastics are carried along the main currents of the ocean, the same currents that “supply oxygen and nutrients to deep-sea creatures” meaning they settle “into biodiversity hotspots, increasing the chance of ingestion by marine life.” The numbers are astounding: an analysis of the Mediterranean seafloor near Italy found “up to 1.9 million plastic pieces per square metre.”

In conclusion, as educated consumers, you shop with your heart on your sleeve: you value quality, durability, and ethical pieces over fast fashion temptations. Modern Shibori chooses to invest in both the land and its customers by using exclusively organic cotton.

Your health and comfort - and the health of laborers and the planet - starts with organic fabrics. Will you invest in your clothes?