Making Green with Green
IN RESEARCHING ORGANIC apparel, one supplier asked why anyone would need an organically produced shirt. “You’re not going to eat it,” he said. When it was explained that the term “organic,” when applied to clothing, meant it was produced without pesticides or harmful fertilizers, the supplier still saw no purpose and asked what difference it would make to the shirt.
It was a bad way to begin delving into a major trend in the promotional products industry, but it touched upon wide-spread misconceptions about the terminology. It also cast some light upon industry practices and viewpoints, which do have far-reaching implications.
The consequences of ignoring environmental concerns have been measurable for some time but are just now beginning to appear in American culture. The realities of global warming are supported by the research and data of scientists across the globe. Pollution is epidemic in some places, and mercury, as a result of mining and energy production, has prompted the government to warn Americans not to eat fish taken from many U.S. waterways.
So it is not the shirt that minds the pesticides: it is people and animals.
When talking about apparel, organic has little to do with the end product and much to do with the process. Whereas with organic foods the difference is
discernible in taste, when it comes to fabric, very little distinguishes an organic item in a crowd. “It’s hard to identify organic cotton or any other kind of organic fabrication,” said Brinden Asher, director of marketing at Los Angeles, Calif.-based Bella. In January, the company launched its organic line and “people are just really ecstatic about the product,” said Asher.
Morey Mayeri, president of New York’s Royal Apparel, also said the look of organic apparel is “really no different.” Royal Apparel has had organics in its line for the last three years and is further along in the development of the products. Right now, the company’s organic products are available in seven different colors. According to Mayeri, Royal Apparel is considering a slightly different look to its organic clothing in order to differentiate it. This may include tags as well as seam stitching differences. Bella, new to the organic market, has not yet codified the dyeing process for organic products. Asher said it is likely, “when we come out with color, we’ll bring out specialty colors.” Right now, Bella offers organic fabrics in the natural color of the cotton. This is an off-white color due to the fact that the cotton has not been bleached.