What is the difference between organic and non-organic cotton?

Cotton has been used to create fabric since as early as 5000 BC, and is currently the most widely used natural fibre in clothing creation. This means there is an estimated 25 million tonnes produced each year, which is cultivated upon around 2.5% of the world's fertile land. Due to the need to keep up with demand, conventional cotton farming has become aggressive and relentless, using almost 25% of the world's insecticides and 10% of the world's pesticides, which are extremely harmful to those that are exposed to them on a daily basis. This contentious farming method results in 77 million agricultural workers suffering from poisoning and 83% of the harmful manmade nitrogen fetrtilisers in use being released into the environment each year. Farmers deal with poor social conditions, unfair wages, poor health (including mental health) and high debts to account for pesticide purchase. 

In order to combat the poor conditions for agricultural workers and the damage to the environment caused by non-organic production, organic cotton farming is on the rise with production growing by around 50% each year. This is fantastic news for farmers, since hazardous pesticides are banned in organic production, making it much safer for them and their families. Not only are conditions better for workers, they are also vastly improved for the environment. Organic cotton growth produces up to 94% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional growth, locks CO2 into the soil and encourages plant biodiversity, while allowing farmers to grow food alongside their cotton crops in order to feed their families.

What are the benefits to me of choosing organic cotton?

The fact that organic cotton uses none of the hazardous pesticides or toxic chemicals present in non-organic fabrics means that the skin it comes into contact with will be safe from allergenic and carcinogenic chemicals that could lead to allergies, rashes and respiratory problems. Tests on conventional cotton have revealed traces of fire retardants, pesticides, formaldehyde and toxic dyes, all harmful substances that are not present in organic clothing. While everyone can benefit from wearing organic fibres, babies and children are most at risk of skin and respiratory damage as they are still developing and have more delicate skin than adults.

What are some other sustainable fabrics that are available?

Organic Wool

The nature of wool dictates that it is a natural, durable, renewable and biodegradable fibre - all great points to begin with. Organic wool production, however, puts emphasis on the health and wellbeing of the sheep that provide the wool as well as the environment. Conventional farming can cause unnecessary stress to the animals involved and in some cases cruelty, as well as promoting a non-organic diet that may be contaminated with genetically modified material. Harmful substances are not used in organic textile processing, while some tens of thousands of toxic chemicals are used conventionally, including those used during non-organic cotton production. The end result is, like with organic cotton, a residue-free garment that is kind to the body as well as the environment.


The benefits of wearing bamboo fabric are huge - it is anti-bacterial, breathable, soft, warm and is moisture-wicking and therefore great for sportswear. As for the environmental benefits from its production, there are also many. A natural and renewable material, bamboo is intrinsically pest-resistant, grows incredibly quickly, has a very small footprint to height ratio and can also rebuild eroded soil. It can be grown without any chemical fertilisers or pesticides - meaning none of these are transferred to your skin upon wearing.


Another fabric made from a natural crop, hemp is fast growing and produces an impressive yield per acre. The material’s leading characteristic however is its durability, which enables it to be used for clothing, accessories, furniture and home furnishings, whilst being able to withstand harsh weather or working conditions. Hemp can be woven on its own to create fabrics, or blended with others such as cotton or silk in order to take on some of their characteristics whilst retaining its existing virtues.

Where else can I find beautiful sustainable fashion and accessories?

As sustainable fashion grows in popularity and accessibility, there are many amazing creators from all areas of the fashion world. Here are some of our favourites:

Birdsong / Sancho's Dress / People Tree / H&M Conscious Collection /
Freedom of Animals / Edun / Lagamta / The Green Room at Asos / Feral Childe

Is sustainable fashion just for hippies and eco-warriors?

We certainly don’t think so - not that there is anything wrong with being either of the above! Just as free range farming and recycling household waste has become the norm in much of modern society, we are hopeful that sustainable fashion will too become more of an integral part of the fashion industry. If you are unsure whether the silhouettes, prints and styles have evolved just as they have in the fast fashion sector, take a look at the variety of designers and shops above and see if you can tell their credentials just by looking at them.

There are also lots of ladies and gentlemen in the public eye that have been showcasing sustainable designers as well as supporting and creating ethical fashion in the past two decades. The list includes Livia Firth (who has worn countless upcycled, vintage and repurposed gowns on the red carpet), Emma Watson (who has collaborated on sustainable collections with People Tree and Alberta Ferretti), Lily Cole (co-founder of ethical knitwear label The North Circular), Pharrell Williams (launched denim line made from plastic waste found in the ocean) and Michael Fassbender (who wore a sustainable Armani tuxedo to the 2012 Oscars ‘Green Carpet’ event).

Where can I find more information on sustainable fashion?

There are so many brilliant resources on the web that can answer any further questions you may have about sustainble fashion. From blogs to news articles, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, there are plenty of people adding to the conversation every day and helping to spread the word. Below are ten of the top resources for information on sustainable fashion:

Moral Fibres / Eco Warrior Princess / @FashConscience /
Ecouterre / The Good Wardrobe / Eco Fashion Talk / Make it Last /
Guardian Sustainable Fashion / @EcoFashion2015 / Centre for Sustainable Fashion