Sunday, April 13, 2008

From Seed to Tweed

The typical life of a garment, before it ever ends up on a hanger, is really quite glamorous. It might have been designed in New York from technically marvelous fabrics that were developed in Japan and then sewn together in Europe. Or, more likely, a jacket or sweatshirt might have visited several countries in Asia along the way to its ho-hum existence on the rack of some department store.

To environmentally conscious consumers, the prepurchase itinerary of clothes has become as important a consideration as the organic nature of the materials used to make them. Every well-traveled suit leaves a carbon footprint, but unlike its fabric content, that footprint is pretty much a mystery to consumers.

Now some clothing companies, in a bid to make their manufacturing processes more transparent, are beginning to provide that information. Patagonia, for example, offers such details for five of its designs on its Web site. It traces the path of a $190 rain jacket from its design in Ventura, Calif., to the fabric production in Matsuyama, Japan, to the sewing in Hanoi, Vietnam, to a distribution facility in Reno, Nev. — a total of 14,125 miles. Patagonia estimates the total carbon dioxide emissions generated along that route to be 15 pounds (about 10 times the weight of the jacket itself).

Moshe Gadot, a president of Bagir, a company that makes $200 to $300 suits for Sears, J. C. Penney and The Limited, says that that sort of information should be more available to consumers. Bagir is developing a label for suits that shows the carbon dioxide emissions next to a downward pointing arrow — kind of like the Energy Star rating you would find on a refrigerator. “There will be a hangtag that says ‘This suit was produced with 15 kilograms of CO2,’ ” Mr. Gadot said. “This will mean nothing to consumers, at least at first,” he said. “But they will know that this company cares about the environment.”

Source: Eric Wilson, NYTimes

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