The main themes for our future clothing production will be to use the least amount of water in the creation of fibres and the least amount of Co2 producing energy in the manufacture of garments. This does not mean that we will all need to walk around in sackcloths. If you look at the clothing produced in pre history you will see an amazing level of ingenuity and sophistication, showing what can be created with limited resources.
The global market place is not a new phenomenon – trade has existed
for millennia between different groups of peoples, going back to Neolithic people times when basalt from volcanic regions was sought after to make sharp tools.
The way in which we now trade in labour – offsetting labour costs in one part of the world against another – seems purely exploitative and should not be a part of our future. On the other hand, buying products made using local craftsmanship from different parts of the world should be encouraged. As Andrew Simms from the New Economic Foundation has stated - the manner in which we trade with each other needs to fundamentally alter.
In the UK, our once proud manufacturing base needs to have a new breath of life. BE will take its part in this process by employing small UK factories.
In place of businesses muscling in on the new green market place, we need to work together and support the necessary research into ‘eco fibres’, looking at all the available options for a more sensible approach to our future needs.
Let’s not get blinded by the false claims of success from GM producers, however. Simply look at the evidence now accumulated over the past ten years. The most common GM cotton, bt toxin, shows consistently higher debt cycles for farmers to be locked into and lower yields. The final irony being that the toxin which kills the
bo weevil, (which is the one pest that this cotton is supposed to deal with) is not effective from the outset, and after several years resistance builds up, resulting in a need for greater use of pesticides to deal with this and other secondary pests.
Thanks to Pesticide Action Network organic cotton farmers in Africa are supported through conversion to organic farming methods, and whilst the percentage of organic cotton produced worldwide is only about 3% of the total, there is no excuse for large manufacturers using up this supply.
The following is a quote from Damien Salfillipo’s of PAN in reply to a question that we put to him about this issue:
“Of course the issue of availability of organic cotton is a major barrier for the large companies. However what we expect these companies to do is to get actively engaged in helping production to grow, ie work with farmers organization and NGOS (such a PAN for instance). If they are willing to work with us, we can put them in touch with farmers groups who are willing to start the process of converting to organic cotton, but who are unable to do this for lack of support. Large companies can use organic in conversion, and help farmers (provide advanced payment, commit to purchasing part of the upcoming harvest, etc…). It is easy to shop around for organic cotton that has already been produced and benefit from the hard work of producers with the help of NGOs and donor money. It would more beneficial to actually help farmers go thro ugh the difficult conversion process. To use organic cotton is good. To help farmer switch from conventional to organic is even better.”
BE will be working on low tech production such as hand weaving whilst at the same time working with the textile producers who are finding bold new ways of clothing us all.
Consumers are the key to bringing about change. Buying less and investing more in the clothes that we do possess has to be a positive change for the better.