The story of a cotton towel
This week, we launched our new collection of organic cotton towels. These have been produced by a group of hand loom weavers in rural India, using cotton that has been grown according to organic principles.
The weaving group is a conglomerate of small self-help groups, comprising both men and women. The aim of the group is to provide employment opportunities to local families so that they have an alternative to migrating to the city.
I visited the weavers last year and was really impressed by the quality of their weaving. I also visited the bioRe project, which supplies the organic cotton they use. BioRe's objective is to improve the livelihoods of small farmers by helping them adopt organic farming methods. It does this through practical support and advice based on its own research into organic seeds and infrastructure, such as for natural fertiliser and biogas production. It even experiments with biodynamic agriculture, which incorporates astrological considerations into the planting calendar.
BioRe is situated in Madhya Pradesh - the heart of India's main cotton growing area. Travelling to the centre, I passed fields and fields of cotton, most of which will have been grown from genetically modified seed (GMO cotton accounts for around 95% of the cotton grown in India). The CEO was very frank with me when I arrived, telling me about the challenges farmers face due to the prevalence of GMO cotton, such as a lack of organic seed on the market and the rise of 'super pests' that have become stronger after developing resistance to the toxins in GMO cotton. Organic farming in India is clearly a challenging endeavour, but the rewards are clear to anyone who travels through this part of India. In contrast to the fields of monocrops that I passed on my way, BioRe seemed like an oasis of biodiversity, with many varieties of plants and birds twittering in the trees.
While cotton production in India is currently dominated by GMO seed, the tide appears to be turning. The problems of GMO cotton are becoming more widely known, and climate change is causing a rethink of the extractive and monocultural approach to agriculture that is typical today. BioRe's model of socially and environmentally sustainable textile production is a model for the future that will hopefully be replicated in the years to come. Until then, we are honoured to work with this organisation and to collaborate with it in producing our first collection of towels.
To shop the collection, click here.