Although Feather Baby offered organic styles several years ago, we no longer do so, even though sometimes you’ll see the word “organic” associated with our brand in old online postings.
Why did we drop organics? Well for a start, it’s extremely expensive. Organic farming means smaller crop yields. Farmers add pesticides for one reason only, to end up with more cotton to sell. Without pesticides, the farmer ends up with less cotton because the pests gobble up a lot of the plants. The result is cotton that costs 20% more, which pushes up the retail price of a romper from about 40 bucks to nearly 50 bucks. Gulp! That's a huge difference, far more than most shoppers are willing to pay, even for top-of-the-line Pima cotton.
Secondly, it's very difficult to audit the supply chain of organic cotton, starting with the farmers who grow it, then the cotton mills that process it, and finally to the knitters who produce the fabric. And those are just the people of make the fabric and doesn't include all the hands that make the clothes, including the dyers, printers, cutters, sewers, and finishers. Even while we lived in Peru, working hands-on with our suppliers, it was nearly impossible to verify organics through the entire supply chain.
Thirdly, with several years of experience in the apparel business, we've become skeptical of a lot of brands that label themselves organic, especially products coming out of India and China. The industry isn't policed well and the incentive to cheat is huge. Big box brands can market their clothes as "organic" simply by printing the word on a tag or in an ad. It's nearly impossible to verify.
Moreover, when bamboo clothing brands started calling themselves organic a few years ago, the term became a marketing joke to people like us who've devoted their careers to making clothes from naturally soft cotton. Bamboo is just old-fashioned, synthetic rayon with a sexy new name. Although bamboo trees grow without the need for pesticides, the ugly process of turning bamboo wood into fabric is extremely chemical-intensive, as you can imagine, and uses an enormous amount of energy. Even worse, the amount of water required to clean up bamboo rayon’s chemical mess is obscene.
Lastly, the pesticides farmers use to grow cotton are sprayed on the leaves of immature plants before they sprout cotton fibers. Mature plants with visible cotton fibers don’t require pesticides. Any residue remaining gets washed out of the fibers during the various cleaning processes. Yes, the pesticides can stay in the soil and affect the water supplier, which can be a problem. But compared with the harsh chemicals used to turn bamboo wood pulp into soft fabric, the benefits of cotton seem obvious.
Stick with cotton and wool. And buy high-quality clothes from companies like Feather Baby that won’t pill, will last longer than most others, and can be passed down to your friends and family.