What is Truly Organic Clothing

What is Truly Organic Clothing

In today’s eco-conscious world, “organic” is a buzzword that is thrown around so often. And the garment industry is no exception. Every brand now wants a piece of the green pie and puts up the label of being organic for the sake of maintaining an image of sustainability. Regardless of generation, all consumers are seeking to spend more on sustainable products

But with so much noise about what’s eco-friendly or not, it can be hard to tell if something is truly organic or if it’s just a marketing ploy. Greenwashing is a big problem, where brands only pretend to adopt organic practices, when in reality their products are nothing of the sort. So today, let’s cut through the noise and get to the heart of what truly organic clothing is all about. 


Understanding Organic

First, let’s get a straight answer on what organic is in the first place, starting with what counts as organic material, as well as the processes that make a clothing organic. 


Organic Materials

Organic clothing starts with high-quality, sustainably sourced fibers. This means fibers grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified seeds. It’s like the slow food movement, but for your closet. Think natural farming methods, sustainable practices, and a whole lot less chemical interference. It’s a holistic approach that not only considers the health of the soil but also the well-being of the people involved in every stage of production.

Organic farming is about working with nature, not against it. This includes practices like crop rotation, composting, and natural pest control. All of this helps maintain soil health, reduce water pollution, and promote biodiversity. By avoiding synthetic chemicals, organic farming also protects the health of farmworkers, surrounding communities, and ultimately, us consumers. 


Examples of Organic Raw Materials 


Organic Cotton 

The cotton industry heavily relies on chemicals. Its organic counterpart tries to combat this. No synthetic pesticides, no synthetic fertilizers, and certainly no GMOs. Organic cotton is grown using natural methods that support biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. Farmers use crop rotation, composting, and natural pest management techniques to maintain soil fertility and control pests. The result? Cotton that’s gentler on the environment and on your skin. According to the Textile Exchange, organic cotton farming uses 91% less water and 62% less energy compared to conventional cotton farming. 


Organic Wool

Sourced from sheep raised on organic farms, organic wool ensures animal welfare and sustainable pasture management. No synthetic hormones either, with an emphasis humane treatment of animals and the use of organic feed and veterinary care. It’s good for the sheep and good for the environment because it involves less harmful chemicals. 


Organic Processes

The organic journey doesn’t stop at the farm. How these materials are turned into clothing matters too.


Chemical-Free Processing and Dyeing

Organic textiles skip the toxic chemicals in favor of natural or low-impact dyes. This means less pollution and safer conditions for workers. Conventional textile dyeing can use up to 200 liters of water per kilogram of fabric, often leading to significant water pollution. Organic dyeing processes aim to reduce water usage and avoid harmful chemicals. Brands like Pact and Patagonia use low-impact dyes and closed-loop systems to minimize their environmental footprint.


Water and Energy Conservation Measures

Sustainable manufacturing practices prioritize the efficient use of resources, reducing water and energy consumption during production. For example, Patagonia’s switch to solution dyeing has resulted in up to 90% reduction in water use and 96% carbon emissions savings overall compared to batch dyeing. All of this significantly reduces their environmental impact.


Fair Labor Practices and Ethical Production Standards

True organic clothing is also about equitable treatment of workers. This means safe working conditions, fair wages, and no child labor. Brands like People Tree and Eileen Fisher are known for their commitment to fair trade practices and worker welfare. Ethical production practices ensure that garment workers are treated with dignity and respect, and that their rights are protected throughout the manufacturing process. 


Certifications Governing Organic Textile Production

But here’s the dilemma for consumers: how do you know whether the brand is telling the truth about how organic their products are? 

Enter third party certifications. They put brands through rigorous examination over their practices to determine whether or not they truly are organic. These guys don’t mess around. They cover everything from the farming of raw materials to the manufacturing processes, ensuring that every step is eco-friendly and socially responsible.

Below are two big examples of such certification bodies. 


Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) 

This is the gold standard for organic textiles. It covers the entire supply chain, making sure at least 70% of fibers are organic, and the rest meet strict environmental and toxicological criteria. GOTS certification also includes tight requirements for the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and trading of all textiles made from certified organic fibers. This ensures that the entire production process is sustainable and ethical.


Organic Content Standard (OCS)

This standard comes from the Textile Exchange, and it verifies the presence and amount of organic material in a product, tracing the journey from farm to finished item. The OCS certification tracks the flow of raw materials from the source to the final product, providing a transparent and reliable way to verify organic claims by brands. The different between OCS and GOTS is the amount of organic content allowed. To get the coveted OCS 100 label, you need 95 to 100% organic content, whereas for GOTS, it does allow blends, while restricting what materials it can be blended with. 


How to Spot Greenwashing

Greenwashing is basically a marketing ploy done by brands, where they say they are organic or sustainably produced, but actually doesn’t walk the walk. So here are some dead giveaways for greenwashing. 


Marketing Around Buzzwords Without Clear Explanation

If a brand is throwing around words like “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” in their marketing and packaging without specifics, be cautious. Genuine organic products will typically offer transparency about their sourcing and manufacturing processes. Look for detailed information on the brand’s website or product labels that explain what makes their products truly sustainable. Otherwise, they’re probably just making it up. 


Lack of Transparency Regarding Sourcing and Production Practices

Transparency is key. Brands that are vague about where their materials come from or how their clothes are made might be hiding something. Besides, as a consumer you are well within your rights to demand how the products are made. So look for brands that provide clear information about their sourcing, manufacturing, and certification processes.


Lack of Third-Party Certifications

One of the most reliable ways to identify truly organic clothing is through third-party certifications. Reputable certifications like GOTS and OCS provide assurance that a product meets strict organic standards. Products that lack such certifications may not be as eco-friendly as they claim. 

Here's a quick breakdown: 


Truly Organic


Raw Materials

Certified organic fibers (cotton, bamboo, hemp)

Conventional fibers with unsubstantiated claims of organic content

Farming Practices

Non-GMO seeds, natural farming methods

Use of GMOs and synthetic chemicals such as pesticides

Manufacturing Processes

Chemical-free processing and dyeing

Limited or no information on processing methods


GOTS, OCS, and other reputable certifications

None or dubious certifications


Detailed information about sourcing and production

Vague or absent information on sourcing and production

Labor Practices

Fair wages, safe working conditions

Lack of details on labor practices


Ways to Buy Truly Organic Clothing

So if there are so many ways brands can be dishonest about their so called ‘organic’ clothing, how can we improve this situation? Here are some ways. 


Spread Awareness Around What Really Makes Clothes Organic

Get educated and spread the word. Knowing the difference between real and fake organic helps you make better choices and informs others too. Share your knowledge with friends, family, and on social media to help others make informed decisions. 


Demand Transparency from the Industry

When in doubt, ask questions. Brands that are serious about sustainability will be happy to share details about their sourcing and production processes. While brands that are just talk will be reluctant to be straightforward. 

So don’t be afraid to reach out to companies and ask for more information about their practices and certifications. The more consumers demand transparency, the more likely brands are to comply.


Support Brands That Prioritize Sustainability and Ethical Practices

Put your money where your values are. Support brands known for their commitment to sustainability and ethical practices. By choosing to support these companies, you’re contributing to a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry. For instance, if you want to buy underwear from a company that really cares about ethical practices and sustainability, Manmade’s Boxer Briefs are right there with you. 


Be Serious About Organic

If you want truly organic clothing, it’s essential to dig deeper and understand what goes into making these garments. Taking those ‘organic’ labels on their face value does nothing to actually help you shop for organic clothes. Organic is not a medal to wave around. It’s about the way we approach the world. 

Genuine organic clothing not only prioritizes the environment but also ensures fair labor practices and ethical production standards. And they are not afraid to be transparent about their processes, since there is nothing to hide. 

For instance, Manmade’s boxers may not be technically organic due to chemical processing, but if we count everything on our manufacturing journey, we are much more ethical and eco-friendly than your typical retailer. And we certainly are not afraid to be completely transparent with our customers, including what goes behind the scenes at the factories. 

By distinguishing between authentic organic products and greenwashing tactics, you can make informed choices that support sustainability and ethical consumption. So choose transparency, authenticity, and brands committed to genuine sustainability. By supporting truly organic clothing, we contribute to a healthier planet and a more just society for all.

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