With the recent introduction of new Fairtrade Textile Standard and the impressive growth of the organic cotton market, ecowear is – once again – a serious marketplace for the garment decorator to consider


Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage uses Fairtrade-certified aprons from Cotton Roots

Earlier this year, Fairtrade introduced its new Textile Standard and Programme with the aim of protecting workers in the textile industry. Set up three years after the deadly collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 people, the new standard focuses on the working conditions, living wages and rights of the workers across the entire textile supply chain.

While Fairtrade’s new textile standard is still in its infancy, the desire for fairly-made clothes and organic or recycled fabrics is well established and continuing to grow. The Soil Association Organic Market Report 2016 reveals that its licensees for organic textiles saw sales increase by 16% to £21.6 million, and notes that the latest figures from the Textile Exchange show a 67% growth in the global market for organic cotton, which is worth US$15.7 billion.

One company that realised early on the importance of how and where garments were manufactured is Cotton Roots. Some years ago, director Susan Waters had a life-changing moment while sitting on a beach in Scotland watching – and being watched by – seals. The seals and beautiful beach inspired Susan, who already ran a successful business, to create a company based upon fair, sustainable and kind business practices.

Cotton Roots offers its own ranges of Fairtrade-certified, organic and UK-manufactured garments, and has a list of clients with similar values. “Neal’s Yard works with us because we can supply them with organic aprons, Pantone-matched to their colour and manufactured in the UK,” explains Susan. “High quality, UK-manufactured organic T-shirts are another specialism, and we also work with cotton farmers in Odisha, India, to produce Fairtrade-certified polo shirts, T-shirts and aprons.

“River Cottage is committed to Fairtrade and asked us to design a tea towel for them. One day maybe we will get a photo of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall using one. We do, however, have a photograph of actor Emma Thompson and her sister Sophie wearing one of our Fairtrade-certified aprons while campaigning in an anti-fracking bake off. We are very proud of that one.”

Sustainable fashion

Continental Clothing is synonymous with sustainable clothing. The company recently launched Fair Share, a new collection of garments that has been created with the aim of achieving a living wage for garment workers at the production facility. The workers making these garments, all of which display Continental’s usual eye for quality design along with top notch environmental and ethical credentials, have, since the beginning of the year, received an additional premium towards the living wage. The company is aiming to make Fair Share Fairtrade and Organic lines as well (the current styles are Oeko-Tex 100 and Fair Wear Foundation [FW]) accredited, and approved by Peta for vegan use).

The Continental Collection is a premium, blank-labelled fashion brand that combines the latest sustainable fabrics with fashion-forward designs. The brand says that all products are of retail quality and ready to embellish, with minimum own branding and a modern colour palette. Again, all are Oeko-Tex 100 and FWF accredited.

Continental Collection is Fair Wear Foundation and Oeko-Tex 100 accredited

Epona uses only Fairtrade-certified cotton in its garments

Men’s Raw Scoop T from Mantis

From the same stable comes Earth Positive Apparel, with garments manufactured in either GOTS organic cotton or organic and sustainable fabric blends, all with a low carbon footprint. “Earth Positive is a benchmark in sustainable production due to the manufacturing facility being powered by renewable energy,” explains the company. “The brand was one of the first to hold a Carbon Trust footprint logo, and has won many awards.” As well as Oeko-Tex 100 and FWF accreditation, it is vegan-approved.

Salvage Fashion, the final collection from Continental Clothing, is made from 100% recycled materials (60% pre-consumer waste organic cotton/40% post consumer waste polyester) and accredited to the Global Recycled Standard and the Organic Content Standard, as well as Oeko-Tex 100 and FWF. It is also Peta-approved for vegans.

Epona is well-known in the imprint market for using only Fairtrade-certified cotton when creating its designs. The company says it ensures its garments remain not only practical and sustainable for the ethically-minded customer, but are also fashion-forward. Building on the success of its core ranges in the collegewear market, Epona has launched new products and new colours this season. The new true indigo colour is already proving a top-seller, with Epona noting that it “taps into the 90s style which is currently very popular among our target market”. The colour can be seen on a variety of the brand’s new products, including the Shoreditch Hoodie, Deptford T-Shirt and Clapham T-Shirt.

Mantis offers a range of organic cotton-based styles for men and women, which are designed to provide longevity in terms of both style and quality. “Whilst undeniably beneficial for the purchaser, it’s also a great advantage for any decorator, group or business as more wears equals more logo/brand awareness,” notes Mantis. According to the brand, the Women’s Crop Top (M96) and Men’s Raw Scoop T (M120) exemplify all that is good about sustainable clothing: “Great fabric, credible and modern design, and considered and ethical production.”

For children there is Babybugz, an organic childrenswear brand that uses cotton grown in a way to minimise harm to the environment, resulting in babywear that is soft, smooth and ideal for delicate skin. The Baby Bodysuit (BZ10TLC) and the T Shirt (BZ02TLC) are both popular items with babywear retailers, reveals Babybugz, adding: “This is super soft, smooth, gorgeously stretchy and well-thought-out modern babywear that’s well proven in decoration terms.”

Russell’s V-Neck Fitted Cardigan for women

The Performa Executive slipover from Rowlinson Knitwear

The Galaxy V-Neck Jumper from Sol’s

Stedman recommends its three organic cotton T-shirt styles – James, Janet and Jamie – made from 100% organic, ringspun combed cotton that has been certified by the Organic Content Standard 100. James for men (S-2XL) and Janet for women (S-XL) are available as both crew neck and V-neck, while Jamie for children (S-XL) is available as a crew neck. “You feel closer to nature with our exclusive colour pallet with nine warm natural tones like Indian yellow, lavender purple or earth green,” says Stedman. There is no neck label apart from a small size label.

BTC Activewear offers a number of eco styles, including the Anvil Organic Adult T-shirt (420) and Adult Fashion Basic Tee (490), which are both made from 100% organic cotton. The 420 comes in 10 shades and the 490 in 12 colours, with both palettes including violet and raspberry. Anvil’s Sustainable Adult T-Shirt (450) is made from 50% organic, combed ringspun cotton/50% post-consumer, PET-recycled, pre-shrunk polyester and comes in a range of 11 solid and heather shades. Anvil says it was one of the first in the industry to develop and use organic cotton and recycled PET apparel.

“The three eco tees have been designed with the aim of delivering garments that say something about what the wearer believes in,” notes Anvil. All three are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, come in sizes S-2XL and have TearAway labels.

Also from BTC Activewear is Babybugz, which offers 100% organic baby clothing and accessories, including the Soft Cap (BZ36) and Organic Vest Bodysuit (BZ39).

Bags by Jassz’s Linden Organic Cotton Shopper is available from BTC Activewear

Organic Cotton Draw Cord Bag from Westford Mill

Bags of goodness

Bag brand Westford Mill has introduced some fresh, organic styles as part of its new AW16 collection. The minimalistic Organic Cotton Draw Cord Bag (W118), which is made from 100% soft organic cotton, is available in three sizes (S-L) and can be purchased in two classic colours, natural and black. It benefits from a self-fabric double drawcord closure for added continuity and smarter appearance.

The W820 EarthAware Organic Spring Wristlet further strengthens its growing organic range, says Westford Mill. Made from 100% organic brushed cotton canvas, which is Control Union-certified and a premium heavyweight fabric, the Wristlet is available in two sizes (S and L).

Bags by Jassz, an exclusive brand to BTC Activewear, has three organic styles: the Linden Organic Cotton Shopper L/H (OG3842LH), also available with short handles (OG3842SH) and the Pine Cotton Drawstring Backpack (OGBACKPACK). BTC also highlights the Organic Festival Backpack (W185) and the EarthAware Organic Bag for Life (W801) from Westford Mill.