A few years ago, tons of denim labels were pushing jeans made from organic fabrics, and there were quite a few cute ones available. Higher-end brands like 7 For All Mankind, Earnest Sewn, Aristocrat, J Brand, and Levi’s all made them; heck, even Banana Republic had a pair. Today, though, all of these companies have dropped their organic denim items, which is of course partially due to the recession (sigh), since consumers were unwilling to pay more for organically raised cotton. However, it's also because organic cotton apparently stretches out more than generic cotton, making for poor-fitting jeans. The Times interviewed Rogan Gregory, who stopped using organic denim for his ecoconscious brand Loomstate.
[He’s] had concerns with the fit and washes of the fabric; organic cotton has a shorter fiber than conventional or genetically modified cotton, making it more difficult to weave. “It unravels and is more fuzzy, softer,” Mr. Gregory said. “I thought that was part of the charm, but the market is not tolerant.” Organic cotton remains in Loomstate’s knits (“Fit isn’t as down-to-the-centimeter with dresses,” the designer said).
Unsurprisingly, when it comes to jeans, most people care much more whether their butts look good than whether pesticides were used to grow the fabric fibers. Gregory tells the Times that he's since learned a valuable lesson in ecofriendly clothing:
“With marketing, especially with fashion, you have to be careful not to push the concept,” Mr. Gregory said. “It still has to be about the fashion of the garment. With food it is different — you’re consuming it, that’s about quality. When it comes to clothing it’s, ‘I know it might be bad for the environment, but it makes my derrière look perfect.’ ”
However, the organic jean is not dead: it's merely in the process of reincarnation. Many brands like Levi's are making denim that wastes less fabric, dye, and water, and Gregory says he's trying to swap out cotton for reusable fabrics.
“I bet 10 to 20 years from now, cotton will be phasing out,” he said. “They will find ways to simulate and replicate the benefits of cotton without the bad parts.”
Maybe they can come up with some butt-flattering jeans that don't shrink in the wash, stain our laundry blue, or impact the environment. It's 2011 — anything could happen!