Fed up with marketing, fashion tends to abuse terms bordering on greenwashing. The smallest centimeter of recovered fabric is thus stamped “ sustainable » Or “ responsible », while many alternatives to animal leather (including those based on plastic derivatives) are sometimes referred to as “ vegan »… The latest of these rewarding adjectives is therefore “regenerative” and has a stricter definition: it designates materials whose crops try to protect the soil as much as possible.
For the past three years, regenerative silk, regenerative wool and above all regenerative cotton have emerged, cotton being omnipresent since it makes up “ about half of the textiles » used around the world, recalls the World Wide Fund for Nature – better known by the acronym WWF. Several luxury brands and groups with an international audience have forged alliances in recent months to manufacture some of their pieces in this famous material: The North Face with Indigo, a Boston start-up; Carhartt with C4, a California coalition; Kering with the American NGO Conservation International; Stella McCartney with the Turkish company Söktaş…
Regenerative cotton is spun from cotton harvested from farms that limit tillage, encourage mulching or composting. Purpose of these practices? Promote carbon storage in soils, so that they are less affected by this crop and can be fertile for longer. An emergency, according to the Regenerative Organic Alliance organization, which currently labels 120 farms around the world.
The issue of pesticides
Still confidential, regenerative cotton is two to five times more expensive than the classic version. “ But the impact on the final price is relatively neutral compared to with organic cotton », explains Charlotte Dereux, co-founder of the Patine Paris label, which offers basic pieces for sale or pre-order. At the end of 2021, when determining with the Italian manufacturer Candiani the composition of a denim fabric to shape her jeans, put on sale this spring, she and her teams choose to use 24% recycled cotton, but wonder about the choice of another type of cotton for the rest. “ Organic was obviously tempting, because the term sounds nice to the ears of the consumer, but I had already been confronted with a case of fraud in Turkey which passed off as organic cotton which was not. », says the entrepreneur.
Eventually, “ after hours of weighing the pros and cons », she chose regenerative cotton, convinced by the need to “ strengthen » soils and the possibility of exchanging directly with producers in Brazil. And too bad if some regenerative cottons come from farms that use pesticides… “ A farmer who starts can hardly do without pesticides at the beginning, because he must ensure high yields to navigate. On the other hand, to be stamped regenerative, it must engage in a transition and gradually reduce their use », adds Charlotte Dereux, who judges that “ Claiming to be perfect from the outset is utopian, what matters is to be on the right track. »