The recent exposure of Primark’s failure to be aware that some of its manufacturing had been outsourced to factories using child labour has put the spotlight once more on fashion’s growing ethical and organic sector.
The past decade has witnessed the birth of hundreds of ethical or organic clothing brands, which manufacture their product with natural fabrics such as bamboo, hemp, Tencel, rayon and soy, while brands including Junky Styling and Goodone are successfully recycling and recreating new garments from old ones.
However, for many brands the high production costs mean it is difficult to make a garment both ethically and organically, so one is often sacrificed for the other, leaving the consumer to choose between people and planet.
H&M, New Look and Topshop are just a few of the big players that have launched high-profile organic ranges, while even Tesco offers a fair trade T-shirt option, and it is estimated that the organic cotton market will be worth £60 million this year – a 50% increase on last year.
But buying a fair trade T-shirt from Tesco may not be the most ethical choice in the grand scheme of things. From our point of view at The Hemp Trading Company (THTC), I must urge people to think more about the details of that choice.
Cotton – organic or not – is still a very thirsty plant. It is estimated that 2,500 litres of water could be saved per T-shirt if 55% hemp is used instead of 100% cotton, organic or not. It is, therefore, important not only to buy fair trade, but to take an open-minded approach to some of the many natural fabrics now on the market.
Gav Lawson is co-founder and chief executive of The Hemp Trading Company