|A Brief Cotton Primer|
Cotton is the leading natural fabric. The cotton fabric is made from the fibers of the cotton plant. Cotton fibers are hollow inside. Fabrics made from cotton are highly absorbent and can retain water equal up to 27% of their weight. Absorbency makes them easy to dye. Cotton fabrics 'breathe' and therefore are a most comfortable wear. They can also stand high temperatures, allowing for boiling and sterilization of cotton clothes and textiles.
Cotton has been used for clothing and textiles for thousands of years: archeologists discovered cotton bolls in ancient Mexican and Indian settlements. The big era of the cotton arrived with the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century when modern inventions made the harvesting, processing of cotton and the manufacturing of cotton fabrics dramatically more efficient and economical.
By the 1960, cotton fabrics made up almost 70% of all fabrics used in the upholstery and apparel industries. The 1970s and 80s saw a steady and significant decline in cotton's use in the textile industry as man-made materials became popular and affordable. This trend started to reverse itself in the 1990s as consumers re-discovered the easy comfort of 100% cotton apparel and cotton fabrics made a stunning come-back in the home textile markets, as well.
The production of cotton and the manufacturing of cotton fabrics have had a significant impact on the economic and social development of entire countries and regions. The introduction of cotton farming in the American South in the late 1600s and early 1700s created a strong economic foundation for the development of these colonies. Later, the birth of cotton manufacturing provided an engine for industrial innovation and growth in many parts of the United States. Cotton, the plant and the fabric played and continues to play a similar role in many other regions in South-East Asia.
Today, cotton is a major crop, although its share of agricultural land fell below 2%. Increasingly, it is also emerging as a highly controversial crop. As the large-scale, industrial cultivation of cotton has a history of several centuries by now, the plant and its farming techniques rely on highly developed technologies. Some of these – such as the extremely heavy and aggressive sue of chemicals on cotton crops – have been demonstrated to have dire impacts on the environment. Roughly 25% of pesticides used globally are sprayed on cotton crops.
Consequently there is a growing global initiative to promote and support the introduction of sustainable cotton production that relies less or no chemicals at all and moves away from the the use of genetically modified cotton seeds. Over the last two decades, supporters of the sustainable cotton initiative have managed to introduce the concept of organic cotton fabrics into both the cotton and cotton fabric markets. Although, organic cotton's market share in the overall fabric market is still just around 1%, organic cotton sales have been growing at double-digit and sometimes triple-digit rates. Organic cotton fabrics are becoming especially popular for apparels, while their adoption in the home textile market has been slower.
The production of cotton fiber, the manufacturing of cotton fabrics have undergone numerous and sometimes very radical changes over the centuries, driven to a large part by the overwhelming popularity of the product. Cotton is just one of the best fabrics ever known to humans. They way people will grow and produce cotton will continue to change. However, chances are that they will continue to wear and use cotton fabrics everywhere in their lives.