According to a report by McKinsey, globally people use more than 100 billion clothing items per year. Clothing and textiles contribute to over 90 million tonnes of waste annually and are the second most polluting industry in the world. More and more people are moving towards a more eco-friendly and sustainable society, and organic clothing helps them to make a direct impact on an individual level.
Why start an organic clothing business?
Chemical fertilisers and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)s harm everyone down the supply chain- the farmer, the end-consumer, and nature. Exposure to chemicals can cause a range of health issues from cancer to headaches. The fast-fashion business model churns out cheap clothing at a fast rate. To keep costs down, the tailors are paid a pittance and have to work in subhuman conditions.
Organic cotton is a more eco-conscious and healthier alternative to traditional textiles. Major global brands like Levis and Stella McCartney are making their business models sustainable by using organic or recycled fibres. Other must-dos are making fewer pieces and using less energy.
According to a Nielsen Survey in 2015, 66% of consumers were willing to pay more for sustainable fashion.
What is organic cotton?
Organic cotton is grown without the use of any toxic chemical fertilisers or pesticides. The cotton is from ‘original plants’, meaning that the plants have not been genetically modified, or have not been treated with any chemicals. The environment-friendly processes are extended to the entire manufacturing chain including packing.
Unlike food, organic cotton does not have to be certified in any way to be labelled ‘organic’. There can be just a small percentage of organic cotton in a product to call it organic. The product can be made of a fabric with only a very little percentage of cotton. Such apparel can be dyed using chemicals, and you can still call it organic. You can put the fibre percentages on the labels of your garments.
You should aim to use as much organic cotton as possible in your clothing line. One of the important certificates for organic clothing is Global Organic Textile Standard or GOTS. It is a third-party standard that will verify and certify the entire supply chain, and ensure that the product will be organic once it is finished. It will help you ensure that your product is handled correctly all the way through. The GOTS symbol will help you and your clients know that they have been made from 100 per cent organic fibres and have not been dyed with chemicals.
Production of organic garments uses less water and creates a negative carbon footprint through special farming methods. For example, digital printing uses less water than screen printing. Special farming techniques are available that leave a negative carbon footprint.
Other Eco-Friendly Fibres to Make Clothing
Organic cotton is generally used in 95 per cent of organic clothing. Other materials that can be used are as varied as aloe vera, banana, hemp, or soy. Some of the best fibres are:
As a raw material, viscose from bamboo is very eco-friendly. It grows like a weed and doesn’t require insecticides or pesticides.
Similar to viscose, Tencel uses wood that is sourced from responsibly managed forests as raw material. A biodegradable solvent called N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMMO) is used for its transformation process.
It is a fibre extracted from the flax plant. Its transformation process is totally mechanical, so no chemicals are required.
How to start an organic clothing business?
Many young professionals are looking for eco-friendly business ideas. If you have a passion for clothing and want to do something about the environment, starting an organic apparel line is just perfect for you.
1. Make a business plan
Set your eco-friendly business idea in motion with the help of a business plan. Study the industry trends on organic clothing, and write down your vision on paper. Select a name for your business and think about the organisational structure.
Write down your mission statement. For example, it can be to go green without leaving a carbon footprint. Prepare a marketing plan and analyse how much profit can you make.
2. Register your business
Complete the paperwork for registration and apply for a GST license.
3. Explore Organic Fabrics
Talk with mills and organic fabric suppliers, and request them to send you samples. You can use them to develop your designs.
4. Business Model
It is not very difficult to make organic clothes. The rule of thumb is that organic products are 10 to 15 per cent costlier to make than similar non-organic products. But you can sell them to clients at a much higher value.
A made-to-order model makes financial sense for your eco-friendly business of ethical fashion. If you have limited resources, and do not know what sizes are going to sell, it is better not to invest in inventory.
Organic clothing for Kids
While you are thinking about eco-friendly ideas for business, why not start a sustainable clothing brand for children? You can make fabric from exotic plant-based fibres. This will be soft and non-allergic to kids.
Affluent Indian mothers are very protective of their children. So this product is sure to find a good response.
“Electricity free” fashion
“Ancient couture’ or ‘electricity free’ fashion are organic cotton apparels that have been inspired by history. They are entirely hand-made by artisans and are now the toast of the fashion world. There are just four ingredients-Sun, plants, water, and the skill of the artisans. The cotton is grown organically and spinning, weaving, knitting or sewing-everything is done by hand.
Future Development of the Organic Clothing Market
Arguments in favour of organic clothing
1. Though the trend of organic products started with organic foods, people started to care for the environment as well. There is a growing market for organic clothing in the global fashion and retail industry.
2. Many spinning and textile mills are involved in the processing of organic cotton. This favours economies of scale and cuts down the cost of the product.
3. Blending a small percentage of organic fibre at the weaving stage is a way to lower costs.
4. There is a gap in the market as most high-end retailers stock polyester blended apparel. Many brands dealing in 100% cotton clothing come at high price points, but lack in style.
5. Many well-known fashion retailers like Zara are going green. According to its parent company Inditex, all the fabrics are going to be organic or recyclable by 2025.
6. The infrastructure for knitting organic cotton yarn is well established. If you are venturing into the organic garments space, it would be a good business idea to start with knitted apparel.
7. The involvement of large fashion brands in organic clothing raises the interest of customers and improves the chances of purchase. So, all parties in the supply chain are benefitted-from artisans to designers and retailers.
1. Finding organic fabric suppliers and GOTS-certified manufacturers can be difficult. Make sure to ask your suppliers if they can work with GOTS cotton.
2. Conventional clothes are priced cheaper than organic clothes. To counter that organic clothes have to be better designed and rationally priced.
3. Fast fashion players are very aggressive; so competition will be tough. You have to play on the strengths of organic clothing, i.e. its durability and quality.
So, if you are searching for eco-friendly business ideas, starting an organic clothing business can be both profitable, and morally satisfying. Though high pricing can be a barrier to the market, streamlining the supply chain can help you to stay afloat.
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Q. Why is organic clothing more comfortable than conventional clothes?
Ans. This is because organic clothing is made from natural fibres that have not been treated with harsh chemicals.
Q. Which category of organic clothing is seeing rising demand in the Indian market?
Ans. Womenswear and kidswear are seeing the maximum demand.
Q. What are the machines that I will require to manufacture organic clothes?
Ans. The machines that you must buy include a cutting machine, sewing machines, and finishing equipment.
Q. I don’t want to use plastic in my line of sustainable apparel? Is there any alternative for plastic buttons?
Ans. Yes, you can use Mother of Pearl buttons or can make buttons using fabric.
Q. Which are the main global markets for organic clothes?
Ans. Demand for organic clothes is high in the developed markets of the EU, Japan, and the US.