Fashion With a Conscience
“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”
—Mahatma Ghandi (1869–1948)
Are you exercising and eating organic food, but wearing conventional, synthetic, chemically treated clothes? Learn why natural, organic fiber clothing is not just a gift for your body because it breathes with your skin, wicks off moisture, is naturally fire retardant, repels mildew and bacteria, and more, but is also a gift for the planet.
An Inconvenient Truth about Conventional Clothes
The cotton industry uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and 10 percent of its pesticides. More pesticides are used on cotton than almost any other crop in the world. This causes illness and or death to the cotton farm workers, plants and animals exposed to this danger every day. The chemicals remain in the cotton fabric and are released during the lifetime of the garments affecting those wearing the clothes.
Another artificial fiber is viscose, made from wood pulp. It may sound like a natural material, but to make viscose, the wood pulp is treated with toxic chemicals, like caustic soda and sulphuric acid. Hazardous chemicals are also found in sheep dips, which are used to make wool and have been linked to illnesses among sheep farmers.
Most conventional and conventionally manufactured clothes are treated with moth and other retardants, containing synthetics, optical brighteners, aggressive azo-dyes, chemical fabric treatments, formaldehydes and other toxic substances. In fabrics, formaldehyde is used as a fire retardant, to bind pigments and create stiffness. In cottons and cotton blends, formaldehyde adds wrinkle-resistant and water-repelling qualities. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and can cause dermatitis, allergies, as well as other reactions.
You might have noticed that textiles from conventional clothes, having high, chemical fiber contents, are not as comfortable and that your clothes may get statically charged. Your natural body odor may change. Even so-called natural fibers, such as linen, silk and cotton, when bought conventionally, are treated with a multitude of toxic retardants. The side effects are skin reactions caused by the toxins seeping into your bloodstream and adding to your body’s toxic load.
In many parts of the world, garments are dyed, or bleached, using chemicals without proper precaution, affecting the workers, killing plants and animals, leaking into the sewers and rivers and causing an ecological imbalance that affects ecosystems worldwide.
Natural fibers, when grown conventionally, pose significant problems and harm to the environment. Many of the clothes we wear today are made from synthetic materials, such as nylon and polyester. Nylon and polyester are made from petrochemicals that pollute the environment and contribute to global warming. They are non-biodegradable, so they do not break down easily and are difficult to dispose of. Part of the process of manufacturing nylon is releasing nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 310 times stronger than carbon dioxide and which also contributes to global warming.
In the era of finally acknowledging global warming, organic, environmentally and socially conscious apparel has become very hot. It is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the organic industry. According to Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, “the growing sector of environmentally-conscious consumers wants to be able to purchase everything organic, from the food they eat to the clothing they wear.” From sportswear and maternity clothing to fine organic linens and blankets, organic fiber products are chic, fashionable and sustainable. Consumer demand will undoubtedly further the exponential growth.
Fashion embodies our lifestyle: Serious in the morning, casual after work and sexy at night. And you can still be all that—naturally—without the toxic skin contact.
Colorful, eclectic and fashionable, eco-designers have fun with natural fabrics. Their fashion unites couture, social and ecological consciousness. To both designers and consumers, it is important “how” the garments are made. Design is only good when it is made under fair working conditions.
Hemp is one of the oldest, cultured plants of mankind. In the past, hemp was labeled as grungy and alternative looking. Today, it is considered first-class, non-toxic, breathable basic wear. It is naturally resistant to mold and most pests, eliminating the use of pesticides and herbicides. It is also extremely durable, versatile, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Hemp is eight times the tensile strength and four times the durability of cotton and a better, quality fiber, economically competitive to cotton. It is anti-static, dust-free, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and resistant against moths and dust mites. Hemp has a natural brightness eliminating the need to use chlorine bleach. For people suffering from allergies, it is often the fabric of choice. Best of all, hemp provides natural UV protection, shielding 96 percent of UV rays. Its texture can either be soft or rough.
Hemp clothes have become a common staple of many celebrities, including Woody Harrelson, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Phil Collins, according to a Venice, Calif., hemp store. The multi-purpose plant is a renewable resource for food, fiber, energy, a natural insulator and a source material from which more than 25,000 products are made.
Bamboo flooring has become a chic, cheap and ecological alternative to hardwood and parquet flooring, but who would have thought that you could wear bamboo? Fabric, that is. A pure natural product, bamboo is very soft, supple and shiny, like silk. Bamboo grows in the tropics where no pesticides are used. Bamboo has antibacterial properties, so there is no need to use pesticides. Bamboo even preserves its antimicrobial quality after continued washing. Bamboo is four times more absorbent than cotton. Its brilliant shine and soothing coolness make it a very unique, alternative fabric.
“The organic apparel being made today looks and feels as appealing as the apparel made from conventionally produced fabric,” the Organic Trade Association’s DiMatteo says, “and it is grown without the use of the toxic and pesticides that are so prevalent in growing cotton and other fibers for the conventional textile and fashion industries.”
Natural Living—the name is the program! Natural Living magazine covers the entire spectrum of natural living: From holistic health & wellness, eco travel, natural fashion, green home remodeling to sustainable transportation, providing authentic, holistic, environmentally and socially responsible, cutting-edge research and information plus easy tips and solutions for conscious lifestyle changes.
By Kristina Rohr, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Natural Living Magazine