Image: La Rhea Pepper, Organic Cotton Farmer, Co-Founder and Senior Director, Textile Exchange
Cheaper, faster. Whether you’re in food, fashion or business, it’s hard to avoid these two prevailing mentalities. Today, they are the driving forces behind what we eat and what we wear, ignoring the real costs of what keeps us sustained and what keeps us clothed. At first glance, connecting the worlds of fashion and food might not seem like an obvious leap, yet they are both inherently connected. Simply put, we can vote with our fork and we can vote with our wardrobe.
Consider a t-shirt, unlike produce, it doesn’t grow straight from the ground, but the cotton has to be grown. Just as we have producers to thank for the food on our table, we have the producers who grow fibers to thank for our clothing, and when it comes to advancing sustainable textile production, there are lessons to be pulled from the world of food. For just like the local food movement needed restaurants, chefs and markets to advocate for the work of producers, advancing sustainable textile production will require a similar community. As Kristine Vejar, author of The Modern Natural Dyer and owner of Oakland’s A Verb for Keeping Warm puts it, looking at our culture surrounding food is a good example.
“Farmers are participants in helping create changes in the way we eat, but it also is very important that there are restaurants and groceries available to cultivate those markets and to educate.” says Vejar.
“It is so important to have designers (chefs) and shops (markets/restaurants) dedicated to helping and participating, and that hopefully over time, the average customer will pay more for the materials so the farmer can focus on farming and cultivating the best materials,” Adds Vejar.
We have chosen to introduce you to nine female farmers who are all helping to change the face of sustainable textile production, whether they are running a sheep ranch, growing industrial hemp or cultivating dye gardens.
While to the average consumer, their names may not be as well known as those of designers, their farming is essential to the advancement of sustainable fashion, and a system where regional, local production isn’t just a pipe dream, it’s a reality.
Image: Paige Green Photography
Breeding and growing cotton since the early 1980s, Sally Fox is responsible for the first commercially viable method for mass-producing colored cotton. Hand breeding ancient, naturally pest-resistant varieties of cotton into long staple cottons that can be spun by conventional mills, Fox revolutionized the industry, providing companies with something other than heavy-bleached, white fibers. Not to mention that she did so with organic and biodynamic practices…
Read the full article by Anna Brones here.