Rated the most ethical sportswear brand by Ethical Consumer, Gossypium has been creating beautiful yoga and active-wear, made from sustainable fabrics and crafted to last, for over 20 years. Since 2011, Gossypium has been founded on a sustainable model of fashion in which customers enjoy the best bespoke clothing made with care and skill from the finest natural fabrics. All Gossypium products are now made to order in the UK, by a small team of dedicated craftspeople in a workshop located on the edge of the South Downs National Park in East Sussex.
As Yogamatters prepares to launch a range of exclusive Gossypium designs as part of its yoga wear collection, we caught up with co-founder of Gossypium, Thomas Petit, to find out more about the Gossypium journey and values.
So firstly, the name: why did you choose the name Gossypium?
Gossypium is the botanical name for cotton and it was through a passion for organic cotton that Abigail and I came to create this company.
What is it about organic cotton that is so special?
Well, I grew up with textiles. My family go back six generations in the textile industry and as a young boy in France, I would visit the mills producing woven fabrics for decoration. A love of fabrics is in my blood, but I did not want to enter the family business. I went out to India instead to work with Agrocel, an organisation promoting the production of organic cotton.
It was then that I saw with my own eyes the devastating effect of growing regular cotton on the land and on the health of the farmers. I saw enough exploitation and pollution to know that something needed to change. My values were born out of my own experience and I wanted to offer a solution and not become just an activist.
How did you come to launch your own company?
Abi and I launched Gossypium to show how far we could go in sustainable fashion. With my background and our experience as textile engineers, we were confident enough to establish and maintain the whole supply chain ourselves. We already had this link with Indian cotton farmers and were more educated and aware of our issues because of our time out there. And at the start, we used to do it all – from baby and kidswear to yoga and loungewear, even bedding!
What made you then focus on loungewear and particularly on yoga clothing?
To be honest, the fabrics we were working with lent themselves to this style of clothing. And we had great feedback from yoga teachers and students about the fact that we make all our pieces to order in the UK. They loved how the fabrics felt and looked and performed. Also, our ethics resonate with the way many yogis feel about the natural world. We were always on the same page.
How has the Gossypium story developed over the years?
When we started out, we were one of the pioneers of sustainable and organic materials. Gossypium was involved in the creation of the FairTrade Mark for cotton and experienced a boom in 2005 when the FairTrade Mark was launched. We sold into large department stores back then – you could find Gossypium yoga wear in M&S and Harrods in the early 2000s!
Then the markets crashed, and the financial crisis hit all businesses. Gossypium emerged a different company but always with the same vision. We turned to UK production and on demand manufacturing. This took away the risk, avoided waste and made us more flexible. From being just a brand importing and selling products, we became craftsmen.
And what about the wider story of sustainable fashion?
It seems to me that clothing is always the last problem on people’s ethical agenda. I think it’s because there is no obvious benefit to the consumer. People know the answer, I believe – they need to move away from fast fashion to slow fashion. They need to invest in durability, in sustainability, in compassion for people and planet. But the fashion industry is really good at what it does. There is a long, long way to go.
All we can do here at Gossypium is to continue to do what we do: offer a sustainable alternative that’s great quality at a great price.
What are the advantages of UK production on demand?
All the staff at Gossypium are local people working at the living wage or higher. Our customers love that our clothing is individually made in the UK, so that we are not wasting any fabric. This has given us more flexibility about designs and sizes. We offer each item in sizes 8-18. The most popular size is a UK size 14 which correlates with the fact that the average UK women’s size is a size 14 – and yet many yoga wear companies do not produce yoga clothing for a size 14!
Tell us about the fabric blend that you are working with right now.
The Gossypium clothing range is made of a combination of organic cotton, beech fibre and a small amount of Lycra for performance and elasticity. Sourcing is as important as ever. The yarn is spun in Greece using organic cotton from India and beech fibre from Austria. The beech fibre is made from a sustainable wood pulp, supported by good forest management and a state of the art factory in Austria. We’ve been using this fabric mix for the last four years now and are impressed with the shine and the drape that the beech fibre adds. Imported from Greece, the fabric is knitted to the Gossypium specification in the UK.
There is no compromise on sustainability – that is a key integral part of the brand – and there is no compromise on performance either. This technical fabric has to work for all styles of yoga practice. That’s why we work closely with yoga teachers on our fabrics and our designs.
And finally, how did this partnership with Yogamatters come about?
Twanna Doherty and I go back a long way, to the days when I was working with Agrocel in India. In recent months, we’ve been looking at working together on a Gossypium range developed exclusively for Yogamatters. These new colourways of Navy Blue and Berry are only available through Yogamatters.
Before we finish, let’s ask Twanna Doherty, the managing director here at Yogamatters, to have the final word: why are you excited to be launching this range in partnership with Gossypium?
Where to start?!? As Thomas said, I’ve known him for a long while and am a great admirer of his work. I was delighted to have the opportunity to shine a light on Gossypium. I love the quality and the touch of the fabric. We were looking for a collection of yoga wear classics in a luxurious, opaque, performance fabric that retains its shape and available in a wide range of sizes too – as yoga bodies come in a wide range of sizes, right? The wide waistband can be folded over for just the right coverage for each individual. I value the good quality workmanship that comes from each item being handmade individually and that the fabric itself is a blend of sustainable fibres.
So yes, as you can see, I am very excited about this partnership and I hope Yogamatters customers will be too!
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