One of the primary obstacles consumers face when in pursuit of a more ethical wardrobe is the inaccessible price point. The development of a transparent supply chain, employing sustainable materials and the fair payment of garment workers are all necessary steps brands should be taking in the current climate, but with this comes a new price tag.
Increasingly, the consumer is asked to adjust to a less trend-oriented way of consumption, encouraged to invest in pieces rather than shop weekly, a necessary step as according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation “the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago” (Ellen MacArthur). Buying second-hand exists as a more accessible alternative to new pieces but whilst vintage jeans from the local thrift store can carry with them an enchanting narrative, those pieces which lie closer to your skin necessitate virgin materials. The past years have seen a number of sustainable underwear brands enter the fashion landscape but few have made such an impact as Organic Basics. Christoffer Immanuel, Mads Fibiger, and Alexander Christiansen, all from the town of Aarhus in Eastern Denmark, established the underwear, basics and activewear brand with a clear mission: to address the fashion industry’s “dirty” reputation through “building a simple, responsible, quality clothing brand that people could relate to” (Ethical Brand Directory).
Organic Basics successfully explores the tension between manufacturing underwear that’s kind to your skin and comfortable to wear, whilst endeavouring to complete a contemporary look. From their signature cut out Tencel (fabric made from wood pulp) bralette to their sleek activewear crafted from recycled materials, Organic Basics pieces embrace innovative production practices whilst keeping the planet in mind.
As the name might suggest, Organic Basics works with GOTS certified organic cotton to ensure soft and durable products. Grown on the coast of the Aegean Sea, the cotton is “hand-picked and chemical-free” (OB) guaranteeing a minimal impact on the environment. In addition to its sustainable criteria, GOTS standards assure the protection of those employed to produce cotton: “people are paid a living wage and treated like humans” (OB). In addition to organic cotton, the brand works with a wide range of recycled materials within their unique designs, from wool and cashmere to recycled silver salt. The benefits of the inclusion of recycled fabrics are staggering: the premium recycled nylon is constructed from “pre-consumer textile waste that would otherwise go to the landfill”(OB), the recycled wool circumvents the dyeing process thus “saving water, chemicals and eliminating nasty wastewater entirely”(OB). Perhaps the most innovative of the materials is the employment of Polygiene® within the brand’s activewear: “a safe, bluesign® approved permanent fabric treatment made from recycled silver salt that keeps the fabric fresher for longer between washes”(OB). For truly durable pieces, Organic Basics have developed a method of seamless knitting that ensures “no weak points in the fabric” (OB).
Transparency within the Supply Chain
The fashion industry increasingly acknowledges a living wage as a human right (not to be confused with minimum wage), a recent study by the Clean Clothes Campaign demonstrates that the average garment worker only receives a wage of 18 cents (0.6%) for the production of a T-Shirt that is sold at retail for 29€. To tackle this devastating discrepancy, Organic Basics vows to collaborate only “with trusted, certified factory partners” (OB). Redefining transparency, the brand lists everything from the working hours of each employee in each factory, the number of vacation day each employee receives to individual employee benefits such as transportation, food and insurance.
Going Further Than Clothing
Acknowledging that a brand in today’s climate must go further than just manufacturing sustainable clothing, Organic Basics has developed a number of innovative projects to further minimise the brand’s impact on the planet and address essential environmental issues.
The brand’s Regenerative Cotton Pilot Project addresses the harmful effect the production of clothing and food has on our ecosystem. The project supports farmers to convert from standard farming practices to methods of regenerative farming. Thus far, the project was successful in “converting 62,500m² of land from conventional cotton farming to regenerative” (OB).
Collaboration is essential in the fight to combat climate change, the Organic Basics Fund gives direct funding to people and groups “that address environmental and social injustices at the root cause”(OB).
The effect of the brand’s endeavours can be studied in the annual Organic Basics Impact Report, acting as a source for information and a platform in which the brand can be held accountable.
With little prior knowledge of the fashion industry Christiansen, Fibiger and Immanuel have launched a clothing brand that both manufactures clothing designed to last the test of time, whilst taking transparency and accountability to a different stratosphere: a true example that an authentically sustainable fashion brand can exist in today’s climate.
by Eliza Edwards