Friday, September 10, 2010

Interview with Gareth Butcher of Natural Fashion

CC: Could you please begin giving us a little background on
you and your company. What first got you interested in going green and work
with organics?

GB: The Natural Fashion Consortium was founded on April 4th, 2000
with the objective of strengthening the clothing and textile companies of
the city of Campina Grande, PB, Brazil, to confront the strong competition
in external markets. With this in mind, the members of the consortium
searched for a product that could serve as a competitive differential for
this group of 10 companies, namely, coloured cotton.
The consortium grew and it was necessary to create a production cooperative,
so that it was feasible for new partners to join and a growing number of
products could be sold. Initially formed by 10 clothing and fabric
companies, today the cooperative, known as CoopNatural, has 35 members - 25
of which are textile sector manufacturers. More specifically, they are
manufacturers of female, male and infant clothing; cuddly toys; decorations
and accessories.
Natural Fashion offers to the market the quality that comes from
artisan-produced products, which are ecologically and socially correct, and
yet still use the concepts of: family-based agriculture, cooperative labour,
mother's clubs and periphery neighbourhood associations from Campina Grande.
The collection that is developed from this naturally coloured and organic
cotton is like re-reading Northeastern Brazilian culture, but this time
being linked to the trends of international fashion.
For me personally, what attracted me to work for Natural Fashion was the
chance to work in an area in which I specialize in, namely foreign trade, at
the same time as being involved with an organization that truly has at its
core the desire to work in harmony with the environment and to improve the
socio-economic conditions of a relatively poor, large local community.

CC: Your company is very concerned about the widespread use of
chemicals within the textile industry and specially on cotton.
Please share with us some of the statistics you gathered.

GB: Some of the main reasons why Natural Fashion is involved in the
cultivation of organic cotton is:
- Because 25% of the worldwide consumption of agro-toxins takes place
on cotton plantations.
- Because in the Northeast of Brazil there are 2 million family-based
agricultural workers that could be absorbed by the production of organic
- Because organic agriculture encompasses all environmental, social
and economic systems.
- Because the organic model is in agreement with the global principles
accepted in local geo-climatic and socio-economic contexts.

CC: Please tell us how do we know the strict organic requirements have been

GB: By the fact that the cooperative's cotton is certified organic by
the IBD.

CC: What is the most hopeful sign you've see recently in the
green economy?

GB: The demand for organic cotton products remaining strong (due to
consumers' growing environmental awareness and commitment to the
environment) even during the recent and continuing, difficult economic

CC: What are the benefits of using organic cotton?

GB: Amongst others:
- It helps reduce the thousands of deaths that occur each year from
pesticide poisoning in developing countries, many of these from cotton
- Makes use of farming techniques elaborated to help sustain the land it
grows on, the people who grow and harvest it, and the planet in general;
- It helps protect the world's water tables from pollution by agro-toxins;
- In many cases it provides sustainable employment and income for small
family-based agricultural workers;
- The likelihood is lower that the user of the product made from organic
cotton will suffer from skin-based allergies.

CC: What advice would you give to green entrepreneurs just
starting out?

GB: Using the passion that they have for the green product that they are
interested in, they should first develop and apply market research to
identify potential target markets and their necessities in relation to the
product being considered. From that point, they should then identify
segments of the market that can be targeted profitably, and then tailor the
different aspects of the marketing mix for the product chosen to attend to
their needs. Really, like any entrepreneur starting out, the keys to begin
with are planning and research.

CC: Thank you. We really appreciate your contribution to our blog.

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