Eco-fashion in transition: The pre-organic, transitional cotton trend

BlogHer Original Post

Can buying conventional cotton support an eco-cause? Yes, according to new Los Angeles-based fashion brand 9Planet Universe, which debuted its "pre-organic" cotton pieces earlier this month at a swank, star-studded launch party and fundraiser Zune LA.

Auction items at 9Planet Universe launch party and fundraiser at Zune LA

What's "pre-organic" cotton, exactly? If you've heard of transitional cotton, pre-organic's just the same thing with a different name: cotton grown at farms that are transitioning from conventional to organic farming methods. The conversion process usually takes 3 years -- during which farmers have to deal with dramatically lowered harvests yet can't get the price premium that certified organic cotton fetches.

The financial crunch posed by those transitional years keeps many farmers from making the switch to organic -- which is where 9Planet Universe steps in. The new fashion brand buys the cotton at a premium rate from farmers making the switch at Raj Eco Farms in India -- helping to make up for the smaller harvests during the 3-year transition.

at 9Planet Universe launch party and fundraiser at Zune LA

To help popularize both the brand and draw attention to pre-organic cotton, 9Planet Universe combined art, fashion, and celeb-appeal for its launch party dubbed Event999 (held on Sept. 9, 2009). Fashionistas -- including Jewel, Stephanie Pratt (The Hills), and Jessica Stroup (90210) -- milled about nibbling one of 9 appetizers, sipping from a selection of 9 drinks, and bidding on the 9 items in the silent charity auction, which included clothes and art printed on pre-organic cotton, photo portraits of celebs wearing 9Planet Universe T-shirts printed recycled billboards, organic perfumes, and jewelry -- with all proceeds going toward building a medical center in the farmers' community.

Want a 9Planet Universe pre-organic cotton of your own? The limited edition T-shirt will go on sale in the next week or two at 9planetuniverse.com.

9Planet Universe isn't the only fashion brand using transitional cotton -- though it's perhaps the hippest one so far. Eco-fashion company Anvil Knitwear, for example, makes T-shirts with a mix of recycled bottles and transitional cotton -- but doesn't promise to pay a premium for the cotton. H&M too pledges its support for transitional cotton -- also without any commitment to premium prices.

Walmart says it pays organic cotton prices for the transitional cotton it uses to make its Faded Glory brand T-shirts, as Allison Mooney at PSFK points out. Leah Ingram at Suddenly Frugal says these $6 shirts are "wicked cute"; the Boho Mama raves about how affordable these T-shirts are.

Of course, those prices make me curious about the labor practices that went into making those cheap Ts -- a question to be asked of any company you plan to buy your organic or transitional organic shirts from.
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BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel also blogs at greenLAgirl.com.

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