Organic Cotton In Japan, And Your Other Choices (Think Bangladesh, Cambodia)

What you wear tells a lot about you. Fashion is such a fad. Much like what you prefer to eat or drink. Recently, we had all kinds of bad news about how our garments are produced. More about that below. First the good news.

I'm encouraged that there is a trend to grow organic cotton, and use no pesticides and no genetically modified (patented) seeds from multinational corporations with a dark history, like Monsanto or DuPont or BASF, or Bayer. We know what they can do to our planet when it comes to food, now ask what they are doing to fiber.

Be that as it may, here in Japan there is a vibrant movement for organic cotton.

Tohoku Cotton Project is doing this:

To connect your everyday life with the disaster areas and to create a continuous support system that is not a heavy burden --

That's our promise.

Music : Takeshi Kobayashi
Movie : Kensaku Kakimoto
Photo : Yukihide Nakano
Translation Volunteer : Kei Hamada

Yup, cotton is grown here in Japan, in spite of all the odds, in places like Fukushima and Tottori prefectures. And there is support from SME Support.

Be that as it mayx2 this is all very small scale when you think of the massive amount of clothing bought and sold here... but that is another issue altogether. Here over at Kurashi, we tend to like the tender seedlings of hope and new ideas that do inevitably pop up. As great ideas always tend to do!

Do read on, if you care.

Japan Organic Cotton Organization (J) is the place to start for novel projects how to use cotton in the 21th century. Top image of a cotton flower from their blog.

And yes, they used to grow it here in Japan in ancient times, as well as hemp and silk, without toxic poisons, so we know they can do it now again. Except recent "free trade" agreements and all kinds of rules are rather more encouraging the automobile exporters, while allowing cheap cotton to be imported without much consideration. 15 years ago we were told the World Trade Organization would make all of this a "level playing field" but now we see the results.

Member list here (J) pretty impressive.

Did you know that cotton used to be grown i Osaka?

Jiji/The Japan Times has more: Osaka town revives cotton cultivation

A plan to create a new industry by reviving cotton cultivation is under way in Hannan in Osaka that was inspired by a project in Tohoku to remove salt from fields ruined by the tsunami of March 2011.
Cotton is highly salt-tolerant and can be grown in fields saturated by it because it wicks salt from the soil. The Tohoku Cotton Project took advantage of this feature by growing cotton and turning it into yarn for sale at apparel shops and other firms.
The project caught the eye of Hannan officials as cotton was grown on 40 to 50 percent of its cropland in the Edo Period (1603-1868).
To launch the Hannan Cotton Project, some 2,000 sq. meters of fallow fields (10 percent of its farmland) was leased. Cotton seeds were planted in April 2012.
Hannan chamber of commerce officials tended the cotton as advised by a spinning company, and about 80 students helped harvest it last October.
To establish Hannan’s brand of organic cotton, the crops were raised naturally, without chemicals, meaning weeds had to be pulled and pests killed, chamber executive Hisanobu Deguchi said.
There are still hurdles to overcome, however, as only 30 kg of cotton can be produced per 1,000 sq. meters of land, making it too costly to compete with imports, Deguchi said.
The chamber hopes to win over health-oriented cotton users, like makers of baby and nursing care products, Deguchi said.

Then there are great places like cofucu that cares about you and what kind of fabric you use.

Back in 1999 in an encounter with cotton spinner Mr. Kenichi Kondo who was involved in cultivation of the organic cotton, made Kobayashi Meriyasu aware of using environmentally friendly materials and as a result they started manufacturing organic cotton clothes for a new born baby. This is the birth of cofucu. Since then their safe and comfortable organic cotton baby wears has been favorably received by the obstetrics and gynecology department of Hospitals from all over Japan. In order to fulfill the increase of demand for older age group, they started up baby fashion label cofucu in 2010 by designer Mieko K.
cofucu is inspired by love for nature and feel for rejuvenating energy of children, cofucu brand is a luxury knitted organic cotton baby fashion label designed and made in Japan. cofucu brings fusion of finest quality organic cotton thread and natural dye complemented with superb workmanship, making cofucu brand product luxurious collectable product and not just a fine quality baby clothing. cofucu emphasizes on vividness of color and soft touch bringing out the organic softness which reminisces the baby’s skin feel.
With the love for design and uncompromisingly highest quality material, cofucu brand brings to the market one of the most innovative design, color and superb quality.
Softness and lively color along with extraordinary attention to detailing has become cofucu’s trademark.
cofucu’s exquisite product lines are made of 100% fine organic yarn complemented with its vivid natural dye based on fruits and plants as well as various natural clay based color from around the world. Each item comes with its own particular charm and identity but shares the same highest quality.

But back to the issue of what you are wearing, if you do not care - or do not know.

It is not that easy, I know. We all have priorities, and the budget is tough.

So, is what you wear that high on your radar?

If you shop at Walmart or JC Penney or H&M, look for the label. Made in Cambodia. We can find it here in Japan too, I'm sure. Factories pay young workers next to nothing. They protest. The military moves in, kills young workers. Story and video over at Al Jazeera has more details.

Now we learn that the Korean companies respond by - lawsuits against the head of Cambodia’s opposition party and a union for USD 10 million in losses from a strike and subsequent protests.

Time: Cambodia: Four Dead As Garment Protests Turn Violent

Tensions were already high after members of the elite 911 Paratrooper Brigade cracked down on a small demonstration outside a Korean-owned factory on Thursday. Soldiers bearing AK-47 rifles reportedly used steel pipes, batons and slingshots to attack the crowd. “It’s quite telling that the Special Forces were used, as they are only brought out when [officials] consider things really out of line,” Ou Virak, president of the Cambodia Center for Human Rights, tells TIME. At least four monks and 10 other protesters were reportedly detained at the scene.
Friday’s bloodshed is the latest P.R. blow to the global garment industry, which became front-page news following the Tazreen factory fire and Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, claiming 117 and 1,129 lives respectively. Bangladesh boasts the world’s second largest apparel industry, with garments accounting for 80% of national exports, but the international spotlight on subsistence wages and perilous working conditions has since swayed many retailers to source elsewhere.
With some of the lowest wages in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is absorbing much of this excess. Clothing is the country’s largest industrial sector, accounting for some $5 billion per year in exports and some 400,000 jobsaccording to the International Labour Organization. The industry supplies major international brands including Nike, Gap and H&M.

And then you ask, are you buying clothes for your baby and your family from companies that are a part of this?

All the killed workers asked for was a doubling of wages to 160 US dollars (16000 Yen) per month according to Radio Free Asia and UPI.

And if you remember the fire in Bangladesh last year, how could you ever be sure that conditions there are satisfactory, in that factory?

BBC: Arson blamed for huge Bangladesh garment factory fire

A Reuters photographer at the Standard Group garment factory said that burnt garments were strewn at the scene bearing brand names from US and other international retailers.
Officials say that the factory was one of the biggest in the country and as many as 18,000 people worked there.
At least 15 trucks carrying garments were also reported to have been set on fire.
"We think it's an act of arson committed by workers from both inside the factory complex and outside," Mosharraf Hossain, a senior officer in the Industrial Police force, told the AFP news agency.
Police and witnesses said tempers flared after a mosque loudspeaker announced that a garments worker had been killed when police opened fire and used tear gas to disperse a road blockade by workers who had clashed with police near the factory on Thursday morning.
A recent string of accidents in garment factories has put pressure on the government, industrialists and foreign retailers to reform an industry that employs four million people and generates 80% of export earnings.
Demand for reform escalated after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in April, one of the world's worst industrial accidents.

And if you do not know where your clothes are coming from, do listen to guys like this, talking to Phnom Penh Post:

Nam-Shik Kang, managing director of Phnom Penh-based Injae Garment Co, which employs 3,500, said that despite the new plan, he stood to lose out on profits.
“Our factory currently has a full capacity of orders to fill by February, most of it being material equating to about three million garment pieces. We will send to partners in either Indonesia or Vietnam . . . This is a huge quantity and a very big disaster for us and for others,” said Kang, whose South Korean factory supplies Wal-Mart and JC Penny.
“Even if we ship part of our shipment, about one million pieces, we will incur shipping costs of about $200,000 or even $300,000. And it will not even solve the problem.”


Pandabonium said…
A century ago American workers were gunned down as those in Cambodia are now.

It can be changed in an instant when people awaken and decide to chose products from people who respect human life.

There is an old saying to the effect that "cheap is expensive". Pay for value, which should include the impact of the processes involved along with the quality of the finished product. If we demand it as consumers, things will change. We DO have the power. The only question is, do we have the will?
Unknown said…
Lovely post.....! I would like to add something that Iwearme is the organic clothes manufacturers in india. We manufacture wide range of organic t shirts for men. For more details:

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