The XX Factor

H&M’s Snafu of the Week

I’ve always believed that a person who claims to give a crap about the environment should buy less, buy used, and wean herself off the wear-and-toss roundelay. When I’m feeling particularly ninnyish (after walking through SoHo, for example, where my greenwash-o-meter goes berserk) I might suggest to the mindful eco-shopper that she brush up on fabrics and the basics of fabrication-i.e., learn how to evaluate what she’s buying rather than trusting garment labels and “tips” from lifestyle journalists. But this isn’t fun. It isn’t shopping; it’s study.

There are many do-good fashion companies out there. Loomstate and Edun are two of them. But the fact is that fashion is a business, quite possibly the most complex industry in the world, even. The supply chain-the “biography” of a garment from Monsanto to the Mall of America-is Byzantine and, because of this, inscrutable. The information we have to go on is based almost entirely on ad campaigns that are buttressed by a self-serving and unquestioning “lifestyle” press. So most of us know zilch about the clothes on our backs, other than who designed them. The designer’s lifestyle, the lifestyle of fans and actresses, and the art direction of the brandare all we have to go on.

So, as with the bamboo snafu a few months ago, I wasn’t surprised when I read that 30 percent of the so-called organic cotton used by H&M, C&M, and Tchibo is “sullied” with the conventionally grown, genetically-modified variety. According to Eco Textile News , fashion’s vast, global supply-chain relies on third-party certification agencies like EcoCert and Control Union to keep an eye on the, uh, complexity. A network this distended is ripe for fraud:

The GM cotton found in the brand’s collections has been traced back to India which now supplies nearly half of the global supply of organic cotton. According to Organic Exchange figures - to be released shortly - India produced 61% of the total amount of organic cotton produced in 2008/09 with some 107,000 tonnes of fibre out of the total 175,113 tonnes grown worldwide.

There has been a strong suggestion in the sustainable textile industry that all has not been well in certain sections of the Indian organic cotton sector for some time. Reports from reliable, trusted organizations and producer groups about fraud within the Indian sector of the organic cotton industry have been common-place.

Also in annoying fashion news: France is considering subsidizing the fashion industry with a ” fashion bank ” that would see the French fashion industry through these lean times, according to Reuters.

“I want Paris to remain the world’s capital of fashion,” French Industry Minister Christian Estrosi told journalists on Monday. “Today, we need people to share the risks.”

Can somebody please explain the purpose of bailing out an industry whose sole purpose is to be timely, relevant, and trend-setting? If there is insufficient demand for French fashion, doesn’t that mean that said fashion providers have, uh, FALLEN OUT OF FASHION?