Organic cotton clothing can be an accessible option when looking for sustainable fashion.
While there are plenty of fantastic and innovative sustainable fabric options on the market, the scale of organic cotton production typically makes it a more affordable option for those looking to make better choices for their closets.
Why Choose Organic Cotton Clothing?
So, you’re likely familiar with organically grown food and organic certifications for everything from bananas to cocoa, but there are also organic certifications for clothing and other textile products.
The most popular organic fabric is organic cotton, as it is the most widely used natural fiber, making up 80% of all natural fiber production and 24% of global fiber production overall as of 2020. But why choose organic?
There has been a lot of misinformation about the impact of cotton, as the Transformers Foundation explored in their “Cotton: A Case Study in Misinformation” report. The reality is that we do not have sufficient data and research on the impact of the fashion industry, from emissions to water usage to waste.
Combine that with the rapid (and largely unregulated) dissemination of information on social media, an accelerated media cycle (which inevitably leads to journalists and news outlets cutting some corners) and companies using greenwashing campaigns to appeal to sustainability-minded shoppers, and we have a recipe for misinformation.
Plus, as the report explains, there is largely a lack of public access to data, a need for more technical-scientific expertise in fashion and little regulation of the industry as a whole.
All of this said, there are a lot of data points on cotton’s environmental footprint that have been published, including ones that were formerly published in this post found from reputable sources, that have since been “busted”.
The not so convenient truth about cotton is that there can be huge variations in numbers (from water usage to emissions) because this crop is grown in many different regions by farmers that may use distinctly different methods. For example, some farmers may be growing cotton in areas where it can be rain-fed while in other areas, cotton farms may rely on irrigation. This would dramatically impact the numbers on water usage.
So, organic vs. conventional cotton is not as simple of a debate as once thought, as there are many other variables at play.
However, I personally still prioritize organically-grown cotton because it still avoids the use of harmful synthetic pesticides and other inputs. And I look for GOTS-certified organic products in particular because this ensures that:
- At least 95% of the fiber content is certified organic
- A number of harmful substances, including halogenated solvents, chlorinated flame retardants, endocrine disruptors, genetically modified organisms, heavy metals, and PFC are prohibited. [See full list here.]
- The mills must follow strict standards for social and environmental responsibility
Plus, although we don’t consume the fabrics on our clothes, the textiles we wear can have an impact on our skin health.
Studies have found that wearing textiles with hazardous chemicals can penetrate skin and accumulate in our bodies.
I could go on… but the case for a cleaner cotton industry is clear. And these 21 incredible sustainable fashion brands below are offering organic cotton clothing that is helping pave the way for better cotton.
Many of these brands go above and beyond sourcing organic, also looking for Fair Trade certified cotton, using natural dyes, sourcing from ethical manufacturers, reducing waste in their supply chain, and so on.
This article features affiliates and partners. As always, we only feature brands that meet high standards for sustainability that we love — and that we think you’ll love too!
1. People Tree
Sustainable fashion pioneer People Tree has been creating versatile and playful eco-friendly clothing since 1991. The brand has received the World Fair Trade Organization product mark and utilizes earth-friendly fabrics in all of its pieces, including many organic cotton options.
3. The Waight
Slow fashion label The Waight produces in small batches on a pre-order basis and has an entirely domestic supply chain, ensuring minimal waste and maximum transparency.
Now let’s chat organic cotton basics! Conscious Step creates Fairtrade and organic-certified cotton socks in fun prints that all give back. From leaf-printed socks that help conserve rainforests to blue polka-dot socks that save oceans, there’s something for everyone, no matter what social or environmental cause you care about most.
Exclusive Discount: Use the code ELIZABETH20 for 20% off your order at Conscious Step!
7. Mata Traders
Fair Trade fashion brand Mata Traders works with artisan cooperatives in India and Nepal and pays all of their artisans’ fair wages. The ethical label has a selection of organic cotton jersey dresses with the cutest vibrant prints! They also have extended sizing options available.
One of the early eco-friendly fashion brands, Komodo has been creating earth-first clothing for over 30 years! Komodo is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified and is a member of the Soil Association. The brand also ensures ethical production and donates 1% of revenue to the Sumatran Orangutan Society.
12. Eileen Fisher
Sustainable designer Eileen Fisher creates timeless, minimalistic clothing from earth-friendly fabrics. Among the fabrics Fisher chooses are responsibly-sourced wool, silk, TENCEL, and organic cotton jersey. The brand’s prices are on the higher end, but they are exceptionally designed and made to last.
Committed to sustainable production from seed to garment, Groceries Apparel partners with family farms and local manufacturing facilities to create its eco-conscious clothing. The brand uses earth-minded fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, and recycled cotton for its comfy garments.
Earth-minded outdoors brand Patagonia has been using organic cotton before it was cool! The company not only uses materials like organically grown cotton, Tencel, and recycled polyester but is also actively working for a more transparent and ethical supply chain—many of their pieces are made in Fair Trade-certified factories.
Each and every piece from Indigenous Designs is handcrafted from 100% natural and organic materials (like organic cotton) and low-impact dyes. Indigenous Designs also employs fair trade practices, ensuring safe conditions, paying fair wages, and offering additional resources like zero-interest loans.