Guest blog by Hannah Parris, Co-Founder of Mighty Good Undies
We all know the problems with our current obsession with fast fashion and we are familiar with the data and arguments for switching to organic and fairtrade cotton. But sometimes the statistics are too overwhelming and you just need to see something for yourself.
The story of my journey into eco-fashion underwear brand Mighty Good Undies, started with my visit to India in 2011. I wanted to go and see for myself what an ethical supply chain looked like and my research showed that India was the place to go.
So about a million phone and emails and calls later, I found myself sitting in some fields in central India listening to farmers from the Chetna Organics Cooperative talking about growing organic crops. With lots of laughter and a patient translator.
It was only by listening to their stories did the cause of fighting for sustainable fashion come alive for me.
These people wanted to grow and sell organic cotton not because us wealthy westerners thought it was the height of urban cool, but because organic farming meant they didn’t get sick all the time.
I felt like an idiot. Organic cotton wasn’t just about the fact that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by half or reduces water demand, it was about real people and their real experiences. It dawned on me: ‘What if it was me getting sick at work?”. Wouldn’t I want to change that?
And then the farmers added the kicker: many farmers wanted to join Chetna Organics but their ability to convert to organic cotton was limited by the demand for their product.
Later that day, I saw all the community health, education and economic development projects paid for by Chetna’s Fairtrade premium funds, and listened to Chetna organisers as they explained their projects to empower women in their communities and saw how fashion, done well, has the power to transform lives.
Well I was hooked!
At that moment, I made a choice that I needed to find ways to grow markets for organic and Fairtrade cotton so that more farmers, and more workers in Chetna’s production partner Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills, can get the benefits of this alternative form of trade and production.
As environmentalists and feminists it is easy to focus on the negative stories of what is going on in the world -- goodness knows there is many of them in the fashion industry. But is also important to realise that there are many good news stories as well, with good people working hard to change the industry for the better. My brand Mighty Good, sourcing from Chetna Organics and Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills are trying to do just that.
So do the problems with fashion mean I can never go clothes shopping again?!? Well, er, no… but when you are next out shopping be wary of purchasing clothing that seems too cheap -- if you aren’t paying a lot for the garment, then you can bet that there isn’t a lot of money flowing down the supply chain to pay for doing the right thing. Unfortunately the converse isn’t true -- paying for more expensive clothing doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting clothing that was ethically or sustainably made. We all know about the benefits of buying vintage clothes but for items that you can’t, or won’t buy vintage for (think, second hand undies anyone?) there are some things you can do to make better clothing choices:
- Try and find labels that are compliant with an internationally recognised ethical textile standard. My favourite labels include Audrey Blue, Alas the Label, Kowtow, People Tree, Pure Pod, Nudie Jeans, No Nasties, Good Society, OccApparel, Bhalo, Braintree and One Colour.
- Buy the best quality you can afford in a style that suits you and matches what you already have. That way you’ll get a lot of use from your cotton purchase. Remember to only wash in cold water and sun/rack dry to minimise the environmental impact of your use
- Develop a ‘minimal’ wardrobe ethos. There is only 7 days in a week, so why do you need more than 7 outfits for each season? Not only does this cut down the amount of stuff you have in your wardrobe, it makes getting dressed MUCH easier (Tuesday? Ohh, it must be red dress day!).
Mighty Good Undies
Support Mighty Good's campaign to make organic and Fairtrade cotton underwear mainstream and accessible for everyone at www.startsomegood.com/mightygood