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Dirt Shirts and SITO: Promoting Organic Apparel and Eco-Friendly Fashion

When was the last time you considered what your clothes were made of? If you're like most people, you may not realize how important organic clothing is, or why. In this interview, Marci Zaroff,1 founder of the first organically certified textile mill in the U.S., will help enlighten us about the merits of organic fashion.

Her facility is certified to the most prestigious organic certification, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and Marci, known in the fashion industry as an "ecopreneur" and "green fashionista," has played a major role in promoting ecologically-friendly clothing that is anything but drab. In fact, Marci was the one who coined the term "eco-fashion."

She's been working as a consultant for us for several years now, helping us create our own line of GOTS certified organic cotton mattresses, organic bed sheets and towels. The issue of organic clothing was something I neglected for years, but after gaining an understanding of the global implications of how fabrics and dyes are made, I felt compelled to take action.

I am very proud to support the organic cotton farmers by adding a full line of high-quality organic clothing to my online shop. These products are very durable and built to last, while remaining extremely soft to the touch. Organic clothing can vary in quality as some products are quite thin and can wear out quickly. These products are made to last to stop the destructive cycle of fast fashion.

You can now find everything from socks and underwear to men's, women's and kids' organic, GOTS-certified T-shirts. The Dirt Shirts are made from cotton grown in Texas and manufactured in North Caroline and Virginia. I will be donating profits from these Dirt Shirts to the Organic Consumers Association to develop projects supporting regenerative agriculture, such as regeneratively produced wool and cotton.

I am personally wearing GOTS certified organic clothing whenever possible, and without any unnatural dyes, as described in my interview with Rebecca Burgess. I know this may be a challenge for many, but the simple first step you can take is making sure your underwear is organic GOTS certified and free of chemical dyes, which is why I am so excited to have the opportunity to use this as my primary underwear.

Fast Fashion Versus Eco-Fashion

In a world of "fast fashion," where garments are increasingly being treated as single-use items and styles change faster than the seasons, Marci's ideology is to fashion what the slow-food movement is to food.

"[F]ast fashion has … proliferated to the point where 20 percent of the world's fresh water pollution is coming from the fashion industry. The fashion industry is actually the second largest polluter in the world …

While people think 'cheaper, faster, more' is a good thing, where there's 52 seasons a year and lots of choice, at what expense does that come? Well, serious human and environmental impacts come from that. Ten percent of the world's carbon impact and 3 trillion gallons of fresh water are being used each year for fashion. Then there are the social ramifications," Marci says.

Marci has been in this business since the 1990s. With a background in food and beauty, she was able to connect the dots and translate everything she'd learned about food and beauty to fashion, textiles and fiber.

"I saw fashion as a very significant vehicle for transformation, because people love fashion. It's a powerful vehicle … I started a brand in 1995 called Under the Canopy, which was the first organic fashion and home lifestyle brand.

We went direct to consumer for eight years while I was raising my kids, and then launched as the category captain for Whole Foods markets, a 2,000-square foot Under the Canopy store-in-store, and grew that significantly through the years, [to] where we launched the first organic textiles for Target, Macy's and a number of other retailers."

But Marci's vision kept growing. Ultimately, she realized she wanted to be a solution provider and create a way to make sustainable and organic fashion easy for other brands and retailers. She envisioned creating a platform others could confidently use. And that's what she has created — a fully transparent and traceable supply chain for organic cotton apparel, accessories and home textiles.

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