As consumers wake up to global warming and globalization, ethical issues are gaining ground and spinning more and more hard cash in the competitive world of international textiles.
Organic cottons along with fabrics spun from bamboo, soyabean protein fibre, seaweed and ramie—an age-old fibre crop used in mummy cloths in ancient Egypt—took centrestage at a major textile trade fair held in Paris this week, called Texworld.
And textile ground-breaker Tencel, one of the world’s leading companies highlighting health and environmental concerns, said business was growing. “Demand for organic cotton is gaining momentum,” said Ram Srinivasan, general manager, marketing, KG Denim Ltd.
One of 830 exhibitors at the trade fair, more than half of them from Asia, Srinivasan’s firm began producing organic cotton back in 2000, but was forced to give up due to lack of demand. However, three years ago, KG Denim re-launched a 100% green fibre-to-fashion line and it has been a success.
“It was too early at the time,” he said, adding, “Now people have realized that organic is natural and environment-friendly. It’s up to 30% more expensive, but there’s a growing niche market among the upper middle classes.”
Based in both Mauritius and Madagascar, Groupe Socota, too, said sales were burgeoning in fabrics respecting the principles of fair trade that give marginalized producers a bigger share of profits. “It’s very big because of the ethical advantages,” said sales executive Sarah Bower. “Organic hasn’t taken off as well yet, but with global warming, it will.”
Socota uses clean cotton grown in Cameroon, which is then spun in Madagascar, woven in Madagascar and Mauritius, and turned into garments in Madagascar.
Its top customer currently is Britain’s Marks and Spencer, which has launched a men’s shirt range in fair-trade cotton that enables buyers to check the history of the garment on www.historicfutures.com, a consumer tracking system for clothes that uses a code sewn into the garment during manufacture.
Like many textile firms offering certified organic cotton, Hong Kong’s Bros Holding Ltd buys its cotton from Turkey, currently the world’s leading producer with the US, followed by India, Peru and Uganda.
But as buyers worldwide look increasingly to eco-friendly fabrics, the ground-breakers in the field are having to look beyond purely environmental concerns to market their goods. Austrian firm Lenzing, which produces the new-age Tencel fibre made of wood pulp that revolutionized textiles in the 1990s, claimed that the fibre was perfect for people with sensitive skin.
“We have learnt that this fibre is very good for people who have skin problems,” Dieter Eichinger, the firm’s global marketing director, said. The company, he said, was conducting tests in different countries to show its role in helping people afflicted by neurodermatitis, psoriasis and skin irritations in general.