Each piece of Monsoon Blooms underwear and apparel is handcrafted from Fairtrade organic cotton. The cotton is sourced from small farms across India who work under the guidance of Chetna Organic, and processed into bolts of fabric at the Rajlakshmi Cotton Mill (RCM). From the time the cotton seeds are planted right through until the the fabric is ready to be posted to us, it is governed by the certification of Fairtrade (FLOCERT) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
100% ORGANIC COTTON
The organic tag has become something of a gimmick, tightly associated with high prices and, in the case of garments, questionable benefits. Here are just a few reasons why we believe organic cotton is hugely important and not to be mistaken for a dubious fad…
Non-organic cotton is having a devastating impact on Indian farmers
Genetically-modified (GM) cotton seeds are ruining the lives of thousands of farmers across India. The seeds – which now make up over 90% of Indian cotton crops – have been sold in by multinational corporations claiming they have the ability to fight off pests and yield a faster, better standard of cotton. The farmers go into significant amounts of debt to buy into these big promises and keep up with modern farming, not knowing that these seeds require far more water than their native variations and will not withstand their unpredictable rainfall. Even in the case of consistent watering, the pests have now shown the ability to build up a resilience to the GM seeds, so their failings have moved beyond the blame of weather. With so many farmers unable to earn money or repay their debts, this vicious sales pitch has resulted in a devastating number of suicides and bankruptcy.
Our bodies are capable of soaking up the toxic chemicals on non-organic clothes
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, capable of soaking up much of what it comes into contact with, including any chemicals sitting within your clothes. Chemicals absorbed by the skin bypass the liver, the organ in charge of filtering toxins, meaning they are left to float in the body and, worst of all, interact with other chemicals - the harm of which cannot be measured. Wearing non-organic clothes is kind of like wearing something that was once soaked in fly-spray and left to dry in the sun. Letting your skin soak up harmful pesticides cannot be conducive to perfect health.
Non-organic cotton farming is having a catastrophic effect on the environment
Thanks to its heavy pesticide use, generic cotton farming has been named the world's dirtiest crop. Although it covers just 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, its use of the world’s insecticides and herbicides is far greater, sitting at 16% and 6.8% respectively. When used in agricultural farming, some of these pesticides transform into nitrous oxide, a destructive greenhouse gas known to be 300 times more harmful that carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming. On top of all this, these harmful pesticides used to produce non-organic cotton kill many insects, not just those that interfere with cotton farming. This meddles in our natural ecosystem and reduces biodiversity, often resulting in a new influx of pests that can withstand the chemicals at play. To put a long story short, generic cotton farming is guilty of environmental sin.
Cotton can be found in much of our food, and so too can its chemicals
Despite the fact that cotton is not a food and cannot be broken down or digested by humans, cotton fibres that are deemed too short for spinning into textiles are now being used as stabilisers, thickeners and fillers in numerous food staples such as canned beans, cereals, mustard, cheese and sports drinks. Cottonseed meal is also being fed to farm animals and can consequently be found in the meat and dairy products humans consume. Because cotton is not farmed specifically for human consumption, many of the pesticides used on cotton crops are acutely poisonous. The sooner we eradicate non-organic cotton production, the sooner these poisons will leave our food.
FAIRTRADE CERTIFIED COTTON
The Fairtrade label gets A LOT of credit, often likened to charity and glorified for noble businesses without interest in financial success. We think Fairtrade should be viewed as common decency, and expected of all businesses in food, fashion and beyond.
Fairtrade certification encompasses a fairly minimal commitment to social development, decent labour conditions, and environmental responsibility. More specifically, the Fairtrade Textile Standards include;
The support of workers through the strengthening of their individual skills, competencies and abilities
The absence of discrimination, sexual harassment, forced labour, child labour, and abuse of any kind
Having an overall goal of paying at least a living wage to all workers
Not requiring workers to work in excess of 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week on a regular basis
Allowing workers one day of rest for every 6 consecutive days worked and meal and work breaks according to national legislation
Following national legislation regarding regular paid leave, temporary (paid) sick leave, and at least eight weeks of maternity leave
Providing a safe working environment and preventing work-related accidents by minimising hazards in the work place
Not utilising processes that are highly hazardous for the environment or human health such as chlorine bleaching and cross-linking agents with high formaldehyde levels
Following a plan, with timelines, to replace environmentally destructive substances with ecological alternatives
Treating waste water to prevent ground water pollution
Collecting and separating waste according to local requirements and implementing a waste management plan that includes strategies in waste reduction, recycling, reuse and disposal alternatives.
You can view the full Fairtrade Textile Standards HERE.
THE MAKING OF OUR FAIRTRADE ORGANIC COTTON
The Monsoon Blooms Fairtrade organic cotton goes through two main processes before reaching us. Stage one is the farming of the organic cotton carried out under the guidance of Chetna Organic, and the second is the knitting of the organic cotton completed by The Rajlakshmi Cotton Mill (RCM).
ORGANIC COTTON FARMING VIA CHETNA ORGANIC
Our organic cotton is grown on small farms across India under the guidance of Chetna Organic. For the past decade, Chetna has been dedicated to improving the livelihoods of small scale farmers in rural areas by assisting them to transfer to organic farming, and by promoting ecological agriculture based on social, environmental and economic sustainability.
In the past, many farmers have been turned off going organic due to the physical stress associated with more simplified farming practices. Through collective ownership, Chetna Organic has been making eco-friendly, and non-fossil fuel based mechanical tools available to farmers, eliminating the hard labour required of workers, often women, and reducing the economic investment required for going organic.
The full list of ways in which Chetna is working seems endless. Most notably they are; increasing the access to non-genetically modified cotton seeds; creating links between organic farmers and international markets; working on natural resource management and research; diversifying the income portfolio of farmer households; supporting local schools; educating children in the importance of sustainable farming; and finding new ways to promote fair supply chains.
Thanks to Chetna Organic, over 5,000 acres of land in India now operate organically, which saves their farming community around $AUD200,000 in cultivation costs per year. Now working with over 35,000 farmers, Chetna Organic is reshaping cotton farming in India and transforming farmers into entrepreneurs. Needless to say we are pretty happy we found them.
COTTON KNITTING AT THE RAJLAKSHMI COTTON MILL
Post harvest, our organic cotton is processed into knitted bolts of fabric by the capable hands at The Rajlakshmi Cotton Mill (RCM). For over 80 years RCM has been growing in both size and spirit, guiding their 1,000 strong workforce by principles of sustainability and fairness. They operate well beyond the basic human rights stipulations demanded by their Fairtrade certificate, providing their employees with packages inclusive of transport to and from the job-site, company sponsored meals, health plans, funding for their children's education and much more. Certified by Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade International, and Social Accountability International (SAI), we trust the ethics of RCM from the bottom of our hearts.
GOTS – Being certified by Global Organic Textile Standard means complying with high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and adhering to social criteria as well. It covers all stages of the cotton's journey, from harvesting of the raw materials through to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing and labelling.
SAI – The SA8000 Certification was established by Social Accountability International (SAI) in 1997 and has evolved into a way for organisations – mostly factories – to demonstrate their dedication to the fair treatment of workers. SA8000 reflects labour provisions contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. It also respects, complements and supports national labour laws around the world.
You can find out more about RCM by visiting their website, rcm-organic.com.
When starting Monsoon Blooms we embarked on a fairly substantial learning quest to find out as much as we could about organic cotton farming, natural plant dyeing and ethical manufacturing - specifically in the context of India. If you're a little intrigued by the topic, you can view our resource list HERE. You can also view the complete farm to front door journey of Monsoon Blooms underwear and apparel HERE.