ARTHUR & HENRY… Getting Shirty with Organic Cotton
At the end of the 19th century, the Century Dictionary described an ordinary shirt as “of cotton, with linen bosom, wristbands and cuffs prepared for stiffening with starch, the collar and wristbands being usually separate and adjustable. Sounds simple, but wearing a shirt has never been easy. Collars and cuffs, long or short sleeve, button down or not, the sharpness of the crease and the stiffness of the collar. Can you believe that wearing a shirt can be so problematic! Hidden away, the shirt was in fact an item of men’s underwear until the late nineteenth into the twentieth century. At least it’s not the Eighteenth century when going to bed without a shirt was considered indecent, or the nineteenth century when wearing one with nothing over it was seen as improper. The shirt is an important part of British culture. Not just for wearing, the shirt is associated with character and personality, status and class. The shirt in all its forms is ubiquitous. Everyone owns a shirt and it would be considered a badge of dishonour not to have one for best. Though the shirt has evolved over the centuries, it remains a fashion constant. Lumberjack, polkadot, Floral, striped, Cambrai, classic, collarless, starched, nylon, cotton and linen, the numbers produced over the years must run into the billions. Makers have never stopped producing it in new shapes, cuts and fashions, wearing it in different ways and loving it with an immutable passion. If that is the case, the time has come to consider how a fashion and wardrobe staple can be produced according to the demands of contemporary social and fashion rules whilst meeting environmental needs. If wearing a shirt has never been easy, it’s time we had some help from Arthur & Henry.
Based in London, Arthur & Henry make fair traded, organic cotton shirts. Determined to be ethical, they carry the traditions of shirt making with serious regard to quality, detail and value. Beautifully made, designed to last. To paraphrase Proust, these shirts are a memory of shirts past. Attention to detail in stitching, pattern matching, two piece yokes, horizontal bottom buttons ensuing a good fit and buttons that never fall off, might be enough for some shirt makers but Arthur & Henry go further. All their shirts are made from organic materials and being dynamic and ambitious, they are developing fuller Fairtrade credentials. Rightly stringent, the process of FairTrade accreditation can be hard for smaller business, particularly the newer ones making their way in the green and ethical marketplace. All of Arthur & Henry’s sourced cotton fabrics are certified 100% organic and their Chislet style herringbone shirt uses cotton from Fairtrade certified farms. Working with processors in the chain who have a FLO ID (i.e. are certified operators) is an important step for Arthur & Henry. As they say their ambition is ‘to have the Fairtrade Mark on all shirts in the future’. Having said that a significant feather in the cap is that the whole chain is now GOTS certified so the next collection should carry the Soil Association logo. Now there’s an ambitious beautiful business.
Organic Cotton:the future is simple.
According to the Organic Cotton Market Report of 2010, the global sales of organic apparel and home textiles in 2009 grew in comparison to the previous year by 35% to over $4.3 billion. Companies noted not only an increase in organic use, but also standards and certification addressing traceability and verification issues. As a result a reported 220,000 farmers in 22 countries, mainly in the developing world, are growing organic cotton.
Why the growth? Organic cotton is grown using materials and resources which have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and build biologically diverse agriculture and environments. In most cases, organic is free from genetic modification and subject to stringent regulatory scrutiny.
It is rare for business to think beyond their own horizons, but Arthur & Henry are acutely aware of not only the world they live in but also the wellbeing of the people who work in it. Their commitment and understanding is clear;
‘Organic cotton is better for the farmers. Getting into debt buying chemical inputs is a frighteningly common occurrence for poor Indian farmers. By avoiding toxic pesticides farmers also reduce health problems (which apart from the actual health problems themselves also lead to debit in order to seek treatment and buy medicine.)
Organic cotton is better for the environment. Organic fibres are grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers or toxic pesticides. By building soil fertility naturally through the use of compost and manure organic farmers help lock CO2 into the soil, helping mitigate climate change, and they also avoid the greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy intensive fossil-fuel based fertilisers. It also avoids the use of the toxic pesticides that, in non-organic systems, are responsible for poisoning wildlife and rivers. Organic textile standards ensure that the chemicals used in processing textiles meet strict requirements on toxicity and biodegradability, and textile manufacturers must also have a waste water treatment plant and a sound environmental policy. In contrast non-organic manufacture uses tens of thousands of acutely toxic chemicals, including heavy metals, formaldehyde and aromatic solvent, many of which are classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation (WHO)’.
But why are they a Beautiful Business? Beautiful Businesses, like Arthur & Henry recognise the role of others and the resources used in the production process. Thinking differently, means business can do more by incorporating the social, environmental and economic dimensions. As Arthur & Henry say, ‘we think of business slightly differently. We are not here to maximise profit. Profit is what sustains us, but it is not what drives us’. They believe that the best way to succeed is to build on and around new business bottom lines;
To do good by the planet…Producing our shirts from organic cotton and using azo free dyes. To do good by the people at make our shirts…Paying them a decent wage and ensuring a safe, pleasant working environment. This is for everybody in the supply chain. To do good by the people that buy and wear our shirts…Better for farmers, better for the planet, why wouldn’t we be organic? You might buy our shirts because you like our ethics. You might buy our shirts because you like our fabrics and designs. We hope you buy our shirts because of both.
A company with a sense of duty, an eye for tradition and heritage skills, an understanding of environmental pressures and mindful of farmers who produce. This is indeed a Beautiful Business. For more information on Arthur & Henry, their values and product range you might like to visit http://www.arthurandhenry.com/ or email them at :email@example.com