My Organic Uniform Crafts Clothing From Organic Cotton And Recycled Bottles
David Grant established My Organic Uniform to provide a sustainable option for school and corporate uniforms. The fabrics used to make the uniforms consist of organic cotton blended with polyester recovered from recycled plastic bottles.
Briefly, what is your background in the rag trade?
I’ve been in the clothing business for 30 years and importing from China for 20 years.
Why did you decide to go down the organic / recycled materials route in developing a uniform business?
We were the first company to introduce hemp and organic cotton to Australia. The benefits of sustainable production are endless. In a world where mass consumerism is a part of our daily lives, it is important to encourage people to make sensible purchasing decisions. Organic cotton is made without the use of pesticides and chemicals. Chemicals used in conventional cotton production leave a trail of damage throughout the whole production process. It is estimated that only 0.1% of applied pesticides reach target pests, leaving the remaining 99.9% to impact the environment. These chemicals cause extensive health problems to the famers working on the crops, and are also found as traces in finished garments so can irritate sensitive skin.
Organic cotton is embraced in Europe. It is a niche that will grow in Australia. Our high quality, durable organic textiles are perfect for school uniforms. Our organic products will assist schools in becoming more sustainable, while providing children with a nicer product to wear.
Why uniforms? Do you service other areas?
After many years in the fashion industry I decided to make a change and try something new. Many schools are looking into avenues to become more sustainable. My Organic Uniform will educate children on the benefits of sustainable purchasing. We are also open to supplying corporate uniforms. Like schools, many large companies have a strong interest in becoming ‘green’.
With most schools having sustainability policies, you expected a positive response to your organic uniforms. What was the reality? Any idea why?
Schools are very interested in the idea of purchasing organic clothing, but won’t pay a premium for it. Our success will come from a combination of organic products and a competitive price.
What has the response been from the corporate sector, particularly companies that broadcast their environmental responsibility?
We have not yet met with any major companies. We expect the response to be similar to that of the schools. Many large companies are interested in going green and becoming more sustainable in any avenue possible.
Surprisingly for us, it is not always easy to speak directly to the sustainability coordinators of many big companies that advertise their ‘sustainable’ efforts, but we hope to reach more companies in the near future.
How have you managed to come in at a competitive price?
By dealing directly with the manufacturing source. All of our organic products are shipped to us directly from China. We then sell them to schools or businesses. Many Australian uniform providers buy from a ‘middle man’ who imports internationally. We import the final products straight from the source, which enables us achieve competitive pricing.
You have also been a regular visitor to China since the 1990s. How have things changed? What attitudes to sustainability do you encounter in China?
The effect of mass production is overtly evident in China. Pollution is highly visible, something that is not experienced in countries like Australia. Sustainable practices are definitely becoming more common in China. Working conditions have improved and are more regulated than in previous years, and workers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of sustainable production. Industrial countries such as China have also responded to the demand for organic products. This has resulted in more organic farms being set up to enable the production of sustainable textiles such as hemp and organic cotton. This is a positive cycle that will have long-term benefits.
Disasters affecting some of the Bangladeshi manufacturers used by major Australian brands have received a lot of media coverage recently, and the poor working conditions at some Chinese suppliers to Apple and other electronics companies have also been in the news. Do you take account of the working conditions at your suppliers? As a small player in the market, are you able to influence suppliers in this area?
We understand the prevalence of poor working conditions in countries such as China and India. We have had a strong business relationship with our supplier for over 20 years and have made it clear about our preference for good working conditions in the factories that are used to develop our products. All workers in our supplier factories work under regulated conditions. Our garments are certified and part of the certification is for fair trade compliance.
What advice would you offer to someone with a passion for sustainability who is planning to establish a business that fits their principles?
Do your research on sustainable production. Make sure the certification of your products is legitimate and up to date. Develop a strong concept and stick to your idea. You are more likely to be successful if you believe in your product.