What is Organic Cotton?
When you think of farming you might think of crops, acres of land, some animals, farmers and also maybe, some fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. Fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and GMO seeds are widely used in India in cotton farming. Excessive use of such chemicals harm the soil and contaminate water. These chemicals, become a part of the plant (just like the food you eat, becomes a part of your body), in this case, cotton. This cotton, when used to make clothes, has toxic chemicals in it. Organic cotton is the cotton obtained from natural farming. No chemicals are used while cultivating this kind of cotton (which means that the soil is not contaminated nor is the water and the cotton has no chemical within it at all). Organic cotton is the safest most sustainable type of cotton made available to man, through nature.
What is meant by vegetable dyes?
Since historical times, man has been interested in adding colour to whatever they might have or use. Similarly, today, we love wearing different colours- clothes, footwear, accessories, pens and so forth. The dyes which are used to make clothes are generally synthetic- which means they are artificially made using certain chemicals. These chemicals, when used, in the long run, can cause various problems to the human body. The chemicals, when used in large quantities, pollute soil and water thus rendering water useless. (Imagine, a thirsty bird by a red coloured pond, having no water to drink). Vegetable dyes, on the other hand are dyes that are obtained from natural sources like fruits, flowers and other pigments. Indigo, is not just a colour, but something that grows on plants. Did you know pomegranate gives out a rich yellow colour? These natural ingredients do not harm soil or water in any way. (Now, imagine a thirsty bird by a pond that has pomegranate in it- no problem! Let’s drink away!) Chemical dyes are extremely dangerous as they seep into your skin when you sweat (remember, your skin is a breathable organ!) and these chemicals can harm your body in the long run. (Would you ever be comfortable with licking paints from your hands instead of washing them? That’s because these paints are toxic). Vegetable dyes, on the other hands, do not harm you in anyway as these are derived from completely natural sources.
What is sustainable?
Sustainable comes from the word sustain which roughly means ‘possibility to continue’. Can you sustain running for two hours without stopping? Maybe, yes, if you are a runner or maybe no, if you have no practice. If something is not sustainable, there is a possibility of it coming to a halt. Most of the fashion which is available today is unsustainable. We cannot add more chemical fertilizers, pesticides and modified seeds to the soil because we cannot harm the soil more. Also, a lot of resources are used to make these chemical fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. Where are all these chemicals going to go? How are we going to clean our rivers, lakes and seas? Where are we going to get more water from? What happens to all these clothes once they are discarded? These questions are endless.
The answer to these questions is to always choose sustainable options. Organic cotton, vegetable dyes and good working conditions for artisans means that the garment you have worn is sustainable. The natural fertilisers can always be created (by animals who will always eat and poop, by waste matter that will always get decomposed and enrich the soil), natural seeds can always be grown (imagine how many papaya trees can grow from one papaya fruit) and a happy farmer who can grow cotton happily and sell it and use the money to take care of his family means more organic cotton for you! This is the meaning of sustainable fashion- everyone, and we mean everyone, benefits.
What is ethical?
Ethical means doing and being right. Ethical fashion means that nobody is harmed in the process of making your garment. It means that there is no exploitation of workers (farmers, weavers, artisans, animals and even the planet). Can you imagine someone who has sewn 500 sequins (and sequins are small!) into a shirt in one day, and how much that person might earn? Let’s think about it. If a person has worked the whole day stitching 500 sequins into a shirt, they must earn at least 300 INR a day? Very often such shirts are sold on the streets in India for close to 300 INR (or even lesser). How much do you think actually reaches the person who has stitched the sequins. You will be shocked to know that the figure is around 20-30 INR. That’s just 900 INR a month. What do you do with 900 INR a month? Let me tell you, with all your time taken away and the exhaustion of sewing, at the end of the month, 900 is nothing. It’s plain exploitation.
(Want to know more about this exploitative industry? Get in touch with us, we will show you around and you will never be the same again).
Why is ethical, sustainable and organic fashion so expensive?
In order to understand the answer to this question in depth, one might have to research the complex politics and economics of the world. Very simply put, organic practices are not subsidised by the governments. Which means that, the government is not shouldering the costs you incur when you use organic seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and so forth. The innate belief is also that these natural sources do not come at a cost to the farmer. But, as we all know, they do. A farmer needs money to feed his cattle (who will poop and create fertilizers), he/she needs money to basically stay in the business (farming is hard work and everyone likes being rewarded for their hard work!) Besides, ethical fashion means paying the artisan a fair wage. If artisans are decently compensated for their time, effort and skill, the cost of the product goes up. Which means that your product becomes slightly more expensive.
However, let’s get this right. A sustainable product might seem expensive only when compared with a cheaper often unsustainable garment. We are conditioned to believe that a cheap price is the right price. Hence, when you have to choose sustainable, do not think of a cheaper unsustainable alternative, rather think of how you are contributing to the welfare of the planet, its people and mostly, of yourself.
Warm Regards is changing all of this. We are making organic and vegetable dyed garments that are also ethical and sustainable. We are also making these garments keeping in mind the customer. We believe, everyone, must have access to ethical fashion irrespective of their backgrounds because it is your right to be safe, healthy and lead a life that enriches others.
Safe, healthy and enriching others? What a does that mean?
A Warm Regards’ garment is made of organic cotton which is also vegetable dyed. This means that no chemical is leeching into your body because of your clothes. Very nascent research points out that vegetable dyed clothes contribute to keeping one healthy too as a lot of the natural resources have medicinal properties.
Warm Regards’ garments are also made of raw materials that are sourced directly from artisans, small organisations that support artisans in a fair way. Our aim is to explore the power of fashion in empowering communities. We know that it is possible, we are only making it happen.
I still cannot afford a Warm Regards’ garment. I don’t think it is for me.
We always try and put others first at Warm Regards. As much as we try to bring down our costs, we have our own barriers. There is only so much we can cut off from our weavers’/artisans’ pay (which we almost never do), or cut down from our own profits. We need some funds to keep the business running as well as allow us to lead a sustainable life. However, our experiments continue. We are diversifying our line of clothes (hence, some of our clothes might just be ethical and not organic- but trust us to be completely open with you about those), exploring newer marketing techniques and also sales channels. We are also going back to traditional ways of trade which is meeting our customers directly and selling to them to save all kinds of costs adding to our garments. Please trust us when we say, that we want to benefit everyone.
Still find Warm Regards unaffordable? Write to us. We will keep you informed of our sales and maybe, there is something we can work out. Let’s explore.
Some of your garments are very expensive, how is that possible?
Some of our clothes are created keeping in mind the finest materials like silk, very unique prints and designs. This escalates our costs. These are some products where we let ourselves dream and create outfits that are very limited edition. You can rest assured that these garments are very unique and we won’t mass produce them so you won’t see it everywhere.
These organic sustainable garments lose their colour soon and look worn out after just a few wears. How can I get more from the garment?
An organic and vegetable dyed product is completely natural and is treated with mordants and fixers which do not let the cloth fade easily. However, there are certain steps you need to take to increase the longevity of your garment such as wash them in cold water if possible using your hands and very little detergent. If you do not sweat much or are not exposed to much grime, you might want to skip detergent completely (yes, yes, water is a great cleanser and soap is used only to increase the contact of water with dirt- another myth built by synthetic soap manufacturing companies busted!) You will also need to dry your clothes in shade as the brilliant sun might hasten the fading process. Liken your garment to a flower or a fruit, if it is truly natural, it is not meant to last forever.
However, the common grouse is that if one has paid so much for a garment, it must last longer. Yes, it must and there are ways to do that. However, we need to change our mindset that the only return we get from our clothes is longevity.