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Clothing Company Considers Environment
North Texas Daily
Gabriel Monte
July 17, 2003

American Apparel, a T-shirt manufacturer based in California, plans introduce its new line of shirts called The Sustainable Edition T, which is made of organically-combined cotton.

The Sustainable Edition T is the company's latest step to a more environmentally and socially conscious line of clothing.

American Apparel has always been dedicated to socially responsible business practices, such as paying living wages; now, with the support and cooperation of the Organic Consumers Association [OCA], the company is setting its sights on environmental responsibility.

Currently, Nike is the largest clothing manufacturer that has adopted the organic fabrics into their inventory.

However, said Chris Treter, OCA Clothes for a Change coordinator, the athletic apparel manufacturer imports its organic fabrics from Third World countries such as Pakistan and Turkey.

Treter said this method is less expensive for processing and infrastructure.

Working closely with American Apparel, Treter plans to localize the production of organic cotton on a large scale and predicted that in three years, the company will surpass Nike as the largest source of organic cotton in the country.

If successful, Treter hopes to encourage more farmers to switch to organic cotton, which is a more environmentally-friendly product than conventional cotton.

"[Conventional] cotton is one of the most toxic crops," he said, adding that conventional cotton is the second most heavily sprayed crop, using 25 percent of the world's pesticides.

The pesticides seep into the water system, which affects surrounding ecosystems and has been linked to increased cancer cases.

Organic cotton, on the other hand, is cultivated using different farming techniques to deter pests and prevent poisoning the land. Though more hard work is involved with organic cotton, it brings the farmers more profit than conventional cotton does.

Right now, American Apparel buys yarn spun from transitional organic cotton harvested in the San Juaqin Valley in California, said Dov Charney, American Apparel senior partner.

Transitional cotton is organic cotton made by farmers who are phasing out pesticide use.

It is a three-year phase during which the farm is monitored for chemicals in the soil and after which the cotton is considered pure organic.

Charney and Treter both plan that in four years, 80 percent of American Apparel's products will consist of organic cotton.

Some NT students, including Plano senior Rachel McMahon, are doubtful that demand for organic clothing would pick up soon.

"I don't think people are aware of pesticides used in clothes and fabrics, so I don't think there would be a demand for organic clothing," McMahon, a general science major, said.

Treter hopes that this move will start an environmental consciousness in the fashion industry and increase consumer demand for organically-grown products.

"As soon as consumers are aware of the negative impact of conventional agriculture,consumers will go to organic products," Treter said.

Rumana Rahman, business economics sophomore from Bangladesh, India said that as long as organic clothing is cost-effective and environmentally-friendly, its demand will increase.