Introduction

In the 21st century, we are now going through a lot of changes with respect to the environment and human life. Everyone is in a hurry and wants immediate results and instant solutions. Fast fashion has come into existence which is an additional cause of problems to our nature. Have we ever thought of our environment, which gives us abundantly and selflessly? Have we really thought of our health?  Our ancestors were self-satisfied with what they had, and were thankful for what they got from nature, but are we? As humans, we think more and demand more. We must acknowledge the harm done to the environment and unknowingly to ourselves! This is the time that we must realize our responsibilities towards nature. The use of organic textiles can contribute to controlling pollution and make products free from the toxic effects. This article reviews organic fabrics.

Organic Fabrics

The term Organic fabrics, also called Organic textiles are Eco-friendly textiles. They are grown in controlled settings with no pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals. Only natural fertilizers are used and the soil and water are monitored. If a fiber is “certified organic” its growing conditions have been monitored and certified by an agency from one of the several Organic Trade Associations worldwide. A fabric can be called organic as long as 95% of the fabric contains the organic fabric (Telio, 2014). Organic textile stresses on farming and processing that neither involves the use of synthetic or chemical pesticides nor genetically modified or radiated plants. This in turn ensures minimum damage to the environment.

In order to safeguard our environment some preventive measures to be taken, using the technology that can maintain the balance of our ecosystem and make the resulting product free from toxic effects (Dr. S. Kavitha, 2015). Organic clothing is one such way where different designers and manufacturers are making developments in Eco-fashion. Environment-friendly clothing is accepted by people of all age groups. Generally, there is no chemical retention from organic clothing (Nagpal, 2018). The use of organic fabrics in fashion is surely the future of this industry to flaunt the fabulous designs we like without harming the environment (Kasawlekar, 2016).

 Fig. 1. Tags of organic fabrics

Cultivation and research on Organic Fibres

The world of organic clothing has taken initiative for the better. The fibres can be grown in organic conditions to be used in the  fabrics are Cotton, Linen, Hemp, Jute, Bamboo, Soy, Eucalyptus Tencel, Corn fibre, Banana fibre, Ramie, Silk, Wool Milk fibre and a few. Organic fabrics are primarily made from materials grown in compliance with organic textile standards like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). These may be prepared from cotton, jute, silk, wool or any other material that is grown organically. For example: Organic cotton is grown in the farm that has been without the use of chemical pesticides and defoliants for at least three years. Fertilizers that are used in an organic textile include compost, manure, naturally derived mineral and plant fertilizers and crop rotation (Telio, 2014). Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Punjab, are a states involved in organic textile production. University of Agricultural Science Dharwad in Karnataka is also a part of organic textile agriculture; the aim is the establishment of decentralized participatory cotton breeding programs that will allow the improvement of organic cotton in the future (Shreekant, 2014). “Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)” a sub- component of Soil Health Management (SHM) scheme under National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) aims at development of models of excellence in organic farming through a mix of traditional wisdom and modern science in value chain mode to install sustainability, ensure long term soil fertility buildup, resource conservation and to offer safe and healthy food grown through organic practices without the use of agro- chemicals. PKVY also aims at empowering farmers through institutional development through clusters for not only in farm practices management, input production, quality assurance but also in value addition and direct marketing through innovative means. Central Institute for Research on Cotton Technology (CIRCOT), Mumbai is working for the development of Organic Cotton.

Need for a better environment

It is claimed that ‘The garment industry accounts for around 10% of carbon emissions globally and is the second largest industrial polluter, after oil’ (Kasawlekar, 2016). Hence for a better living of all and as a social responsibility, we must understand these benefits.

Benefits and Advantages of Organic Farming:

  • No usage of pesticides or other chemicals
  • Organic farming produces very fewer CO2 emissions
  • Organic farming needs far less water thus saving it for another purpose.
  • Fabric is easily recycled without creating any waste residue in the land (Kasawlekar, 2016).
  • It helps in keeping agricultural production at a sustainable level.
  • It reduces the cost of agricultural production and also improves the soil health.
  • It ensures optimum utilization of natural resources for short-term benefit and helps in conserving them for future generation.
  • It not only saves energy for both animal and machine, but also reduces risk of crop failure (Dabas, 2020).

There are a few limitations with organic farming such as:

  • Organic manure on plant nutrient basis may be more expensive than chemical fertilizers if organic inputs are purchased.
  • Production in shifting to organic farming declines especially during first few years, so the farmer should be given premium prices for organic produce.
  • The guidelines for organic production, processing, transportation and certification etc are beyond the understanding of ordinary Indian farmer. (Dabas, 2020)

Present Scenario

Different types of garments are made from organic cotton, such as salwar-kameez, dupatta, skirts, short kurtis, t-shirts, shirts, etc. Its consumption has increased from past few years. However its market share is more in big and metropolitan cities like Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangalore and Pune. Due to various ill-effects of chemically treated cotton fabrics on our skin, many NGOs, farmer groups and designers have began to spread its awareness amongst the common public. Organizations like Maharashtra organic farmers association, Vidarbha organic farmers association, etc offer help to cultivate such crops or themselves doit.  (Growing Market for Organic Clothing, Jan 2018)

In order to give organic clothing a boost an open house session is arranged for designers, farmers, retailers, researchers, etc having significant role in cultivating, processing, manufacturing and selling the organic clothes. Here Indian people associated with this field meet people from other countries. They share their ideas, viewpoints and discuss over how to improvise the whole process right from cultivation to selling of finished products. To start organic farming, farmers should have certification for it. But the main drawback which comes in the way of increased sales of organic fabrics is its- high price. Its price is double than the normal cotton fabric.  (Growing Market for Organic Clothing, Jan 2018)

Rotative mode of cultivation is done for growing organic cotton which is a costly process. Moreover the total amount of cotton produced by such process yields 14-20% less crop in comparison to crops grown by using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Wearing organic clothes is more popular among upper-middle class and high- class people. It is the latest fashion fad. But considering it as a fashion would not serve the purpose of ecological conservation, therefore people should realize its benefits and make it a regular wear. If the demand increases the production would be increased, as a result the overall production costs will decrease.  (Growing Market for Organic Clothing, Jan 2018)

The above discussion might put forth the message that organic cotton is the latest invention and was not used before, but the reality is that such cotton was cultivated in old times also, and it was widely worn till 1950s. There are certain regions in India where the farmers still grow cotton by traditional eco-friendly method. Suyodhar, Jayadhar, Khandesh, Nandicum, some hilly areas of north eastern region and Maljari are some of the places where it is grown.  (Growing Market for Organic Clothing, Jan 2018)

Cotton that is grown by irrigation using polluted water from factories is poised to create health hazards.Re-farming of organic cotton was first started in 1991 by Managing director of Maikaal Fibres Ltd.- Mr. Mrigendra Jalan and Mr. Patrick Hohmann (Managing director of Swiss cotton yarn trading company). Initially started with few handful of farmers, has now more than 1,000 farmers associated with organic farming. This movement gained momentum when Coop which is the biggest retailer of ecological products in Europe, arranged the supply chain model of organic cotton. (Growing Market for Organic Clothing, Jan 2018)

Efforts by the Designers to use Organic textiles for the sustainable fashion

Many of the Indian designers have taken initiative to bring about conscious change to the fashion industry by putting the people and the planet before anything else and some of those are Livari, No nastie, Upasana, Ayurganic,Satva, AND, Shani Himanshu,  Ruchika  Sachdeva,.Shraddha Nigam And Mayank Anand, Anupamaa Dayal, Karishma Shahani, Paromita Banerjee, Aneeth Arora,   Rajesh Pratap Singh, Anavila Sindhu Misra, Mia Morikawa. Many more are taking the world of fashion a step forward to morality.

Certification and Labelling 

Certification obtains and maintains the highest level of integrity through its accreditations from numerous government and industry organisations. There are numerous certifications out of which 3 are given below.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) 

The worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. (Global Organic Textile Standard, 2019).

The number of GOTS certified facilities showed yet the greatest rise ever from 5.760 to 7.765 in 2019, the highest figure so far and an increase of 35%. The GOTS certified facilities are located in 70 countries with continuous growth in both production and consumption regions. Countries with the largest growth in GOTS certifications in 2019 (global-standard.org, 2019)

The GOTS Protection Officer Otto Kersten held webinars with retailers and online shops to inform about correct labelling and how to identify GOTS certified brands to prevent trademark violations. Further, a resubmission (follow-up) system to handle complaints and a more detailed complaint form to receive qualified information have been implemented. (global-standard.org, 2019)

Protection

The GOTS Management is continuing its enforcement efforts to ensure reliability and accuracy in use of the GOTS certification mark for the textile industry, including mattresses, fashion, and all textile products globally. (global-standard.org, 2019)

Comprehensive Rules for Ecological and Socially Responsible Textile Production

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) was developed through collaboration by leading standard setters with the aim of defining requirements that are recognized world-wide and that ensure the organic status of textiles from harvesting of the raw materials through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing all the way to labeling in order to provide credible assurance to the consumer.

Since its introduction in 2006 the Global Organic Textile Standard has already demonstrated its practical feasibility. Supported by the growth in consumption of organic fibres and by the remarkable demand for unified processing criteria from the industry and retail sector, it has gained universal recognition, enabling processors and manufacturers to supply their organic textiles with one certification accepted in all major markets. With the introduction of the logo and labelling system the GOTS is already visible not only on the shelves of natural textile shops but large-scale retailers and brand dealers as well. This is a milestone in consumer recognition and a strong acknowledgement of our reliable quality assurance concept. (Global Organic Textile Standard)

Fig. 2. GOTS Logo

To identify an organic textile:

If it is certified to an organic standard you can be sure it’s organic… just because a garment is labeled as green, sustainable, or eco-friendly does not make it organic. Cotton clothing is only organic if it is certified to an organic cotton standard.

Fig. 3. Labeling of the product

A survey was conducted in which a total of 59 participated and the age group was between 20-35 years all around people from Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, with the following observations.

The survey shows an awareness and consciousness about the organic textile product among the people from Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. Many of the consumers are aware and are using Organic Fabric who are satisfied with the outcome, people have started buying finding it comfortable, also realized that many of them are aware of the labeling, Few of them didn’t know about the concept, when explained to purchase an Organic Clothing item. Consumers are looking forward and making an effort to bring about a change in our Society.

Conclusion

Today Organic fabrics are becoming a part of the fashion scene. Many designers are coming out with eco-friendly attire, to promote sustainability. Quality has a vital role than how apparel looks or functions, which also includes the way it affects the environment and our lives. This means adopting such types of materials and processes that minimize the negative impact on the environment. The awareness of organic textiles has consumers grown, which is beyond any doubt. The awareness should be at grass root level and the manufacturers/ designers so that all work effectively towards promoting organic textiles. There is certainly a promising future for organic clothing.

Acknowledgment: The author expresses her gratitude towards Mrs. Vidya Thakur, Former Associate Professor, Textiles and Apparel Designing, for the guidance, encouragement for the experiment, and for editing this article.

References

  • Telio(2014, August). Organic and Eco-Friendly Fabrics. Retrieved June Friday, 2019, from https://www.telio.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Organic-Fabrics-Info-Booklet.compressed.pdf
  • Dr. S. Kavitha, S. G. (2015, February). ECO FRIENDLY TEXTILES AND CLOTHING. Retrieved from http://www.ijstm.com/images/short_pdf/1422457932_458.pdf
  • Nagpal, F. (2018, July).Organic Fabrics. Retrieved from https://thedesigncart.com/blogs/news/organic-fabrics
  • Indian Journal of Fiber and Textile Research. (2001, March 26th). Retrieved June 28th, 2019, from file:///G:/21b9420ebbde2565246e4c7b05b2cab1ccd8.pdf
  • KASAWLEKAR, L. (2016, December). Organic Fabrics And Other Green Technologies In Fashion. Retrieved from https://www.thevanca.com/organic-fabrics-and-other-green-technologies-in-+fashion/
  • GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD.(2019, May). Retrieved from https://www.global-standard.org/the-standard/revision-procedure.html
  • Bera, A. (n.d.). ECOMARK SCHEME FOR THE INDIAN TEXTILE INDUSTRY. INDIAN TEXTILES: ACHIEVING EXCELLENCE FOR GOING GLOBAL.
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  • https://amberoot.com/blogs/blog/ensuring-top-quality-of-textiles-used-in-your-clothing-introducing-gots
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  • https://apparelresources.com/business-news/sustainability/gots-version-6-0-released/

 

Ms. Swati Nambi Patali, B.Sc. Textiles & Apparel Designing, SVT College of Home Science, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai- 400 049. Intern at Textile Value Chain

 

 

Mrs. Vidya Thakur, Associate Professor, Textiles and Apparel Designing, SVT College of Home Science.