We’re extremely excited to introduce you to our BRAND NEW maker: Natures Cloth freshly launched and exclusive to Nurture Collective were delighted to have them as Our Featured Maker. Produced in India we talk in depth to founders Pauline Jarvis & Shibu Pushkaran about the importance of organic cotton and their new range of GOTS certified organic cotton baby clothing.
Tell us about the story behind Nature’s Cloth and how it all started?
I came to Kerala in Southern India several years ago and found a land of great natural beauty, with beaches and backwaters, forest and mountains. The city streets, teeming with people, colour and vibrancy, were chaotic with auto rickshaws, two wheeler vehicles and cars, trucks and buses moving in what seemed like a rushing river tumbling along with little regulation. Beyond these streets, I found the real Kerala, full of warm-hearted people, temples, mosques and churches, exquisite architecture, little winding streets full of small traders, neatly stacked fruit stalls, tea vendors and delicious smelling eateries. I learned about Ayurvedic medicine, a centuries-old medical practice using roots and flowers from the forests of Kerala, and amazingly, still curing people today. Still more surprisingly, I learnt that Ayurvedic medicines could be infused into cotton and the medicinal benefits transferred to patients. I saw the Western Ghats mountain range covered with forests and housing herds of wild elephants and secretive tigers, the spice fields and tea plantations and the beautiful expansive rice paddies. I walked in the woods with a tribal guide. My senses were on heightened alert. I felt very alive.
I had to find out more about this fascinating place. The whole story of Kerala is too vast to be related here, but put simply; I found Kerala, (and indeed all of Southern India) to be a land of great contradictions. On the one hand, we have a country of great natural beauty so rich in flora and fauna biodiversity, and on the other, the rampant development which is threatening it.
With my Kerala friend Shibu Pushkaran, who felt equally passionate about this beautiful place, we set about to try to make one small step towards a better future for this environment. Having precious little babies in both our families, we decided to make organic cotton baby clothes.
Using natural undyed organic cotton is a beautiful part of your collection. Tell us what inspires you?
Cotton is a remarkable fabric, but production techniques can have a significant impact on the natural environment. Conventional, non-organic growing practices require high levels of herbicides and insecticides, vast volumes of water, and significant quantities of industrial fertilisers.
Herbicides and pesticides can be retained within cotton fabrics posing health risks for the wearer and can cause severe rashes and respiratory problems for cotton farmers. Conventionally grown cotton is estimated to use up to 20% of the world’s insecticides-more than any other crop in the world- and three of the most hazardous insecticides to human health rank in the ten most commonly used in cotton production.
Chemical run-off can also cause severe damage to land and river ecosystems adjacent to cotton farms.
Many of the dyes used in colouring fabric are also causing serious pollution and destruction of river systems in Indian cotton growing areas. My partner and I witnessed with horror a dead river flowing through a South Indian textile town. We felt that undyed organic cotton would provide the best safety for newborn children.
Tell us what’s most important in your designing and creating process particularly with your essential nappy satchel bags?
The main feature of our baby clothes, while being made from the softest organic cotton providing warmth and comfort to our babies, is the simplicity of their classic design. Babies are so beautiful and uniquely different; we hoped to make the babies themselves the feature of their outfits. Our baby clothes are designed by an award-winning young Australian designer Carolina Barua.
It seemed sensible to make a little satchel in the same fabric to ensure that baby supplies would be kept clean when at the bottom of a pusher. This item was included as a special request from a new mother.
What’s the vision for Nature’s Cloth?
Our vision is to build our brand and in so doing make small steps to change the world to make it a better place. We want to provide the purest clothing for babies and toddlers. In future, we hope to expand our designs to include clothes for toddlers and use vegetable dyes in their manufacture. The soft subtle colours of vegetable dyes on our clothes will continue our design theme of simplicity and charm.
Let’s talk about your chosen Nurture Collective Icons, why you chose them, and which ones mean the most to you?
Organic: We chose this icon as it best represents what we offer to our customers. All the cotton used in our baby clothes is made from internationally certified (G.O.T.S) organic cotton. The cotton is sourced from a manufacturer close to tiger reserves in Southern India. Unusually, this manufacturer is in charge of the whole project from farm to customer and handles only organic cotton which means no contamination can occur at any stage of the manufacturing processes. The cotton is the finest, purest knitted cotton available anywhere in the world.
Sustainable: This icon represents our passion for the environment. Our processes are strictly organic, that means no pesticides or fertilisers are used in the production of the cotton. One cow per acre, neem trees and jaggery provide the means for fertilisation, weed and insect control as it has done for generations before. Natural rainwater without taking from the river systems help the growth of the cotton, and the farmers use no GM seeds.
The Kabini River valley growers use native heirloom varieties of cottonseed, rather than Genetically Modified strains, to focus on maximising the quality of the cotton instead of high production volumes. Native cotton varieties are also well adapted to local conditions, further reducing the need to add industrial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. This has resulted in improved, sustainable soil conditions for the long term.
Ethical: Our manufacturers are committed to looking after the small acreage farmers as they change over to organic farming. During the three years that it takes to make the change they support the farmers financially and once running organically, the farmers report good crops and fertile soils.
All the manufacturing processes follow “Fair Trade” rules, and the workers spin and weave the cotton, and sew the garments in safe light-filled airy factory units. A school had been set up next to the factory for their children to be educated and is financed and supported by the owners of the company making our products.
What is your favourite Inspirational Quote?
“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”
“People must feel that the natural world is important and valuable and beautiful and wonderful and an amazement and a pleasure.”
Which piece are you most proud of?
That’s difficult because each piece has its own unique features. The Onesie is our standard best-selling item. The booties took a lot of effort in their technical design, but I think the pyjama set is the most useful as it is so versatile. It can be used as a set or separated and used with the Onesie for extra warmth.