Written by Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
I make every attempt to eat organic and non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) food. But I wanted to go the extra step, so I have furthered this effort to include the clothes I wear. After all, my skin is my largest organ. No longer do I shop just for fit and value—I look for clothes that are not made from GMO cotton fabrics and dangerous dyes. They are difficult to find. Cotton makes up 35 percent of the world’s fiber and 17.5 percent of insecticide sales. But only 1 percent is organic.
I have always been drawn to the simplicity of Eileen Fisher’s line. Her apparel is not fussy, nor bright, and fits my style. I want clothes that I can live in, made of fabrics that move with me in understated solid colors. Now I have another reason to love her clothing: organic fabrics and sustainable production. With a motto of “No Excuses,” The Fisher Project’s cause is to become 100 percent sustainable by the year 2020. All cotton and linen will be organic by this date. They will also use wool from sheep that are humanely raised on land that is sustainably managed. And they are moving away from rayon for Tencel®, which has better chemistry. The company also supports green cleaning and is working to eliminate the need for conventional dry cleaning, in favor of hand- and machine-washing in cold water.
I found Eileen Fisher’s “Boyfriend” jeans at Saks Fifth Avenue in Birmingham. I was thrilled when I saw “organic cotton” on the label. As I continued to browse, I discovered more and more of her organic clothes. So I bought all I could afford, including these faded blue jeans. I have not felt jeans like this since cotton became genetically modified. The jeans are made in the USA of distressed, medium-weight 98 percent organic cotton denim and two percent spandex, which is cut slim with just enough slouch for comfort.
Wearing organic does not stop with the fabric. Dyeing and finishing the apparel are just as important because the chemistry in modern textiles can pose health hazards: carcinogens, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and allergy-inducing dyestuffs. At most dyehouses, hazardous chemicals go into the clothes. Fisher’s aim is to avoid using any toxins and aspires to The Oeko–Tex Standard 100, which ensures that no known harmful chemicals are found in clothes. Since 2009, Fisher has also been working with bluesign® technologies to shift global dye houses toward responsible chemical, water, and energy usage. And Eileen Fisher, Inc., is also working together with other brands to create demand for responsible dyes.