A new concept known as regenerative agriculture is taking root in the fashion industry with brands like Patagonia, Allbirds, Timberland, Mara Hoffman, Christy Dawn, and luxury conglomerate Kering making heavy investments. As per reports, currently brands are producing only a small proportion of their raw materials on regenerative farms. However, the concept is fast catching on.
Improving profitability through regenerative farming
Regenerative agriculture was introduced by Robert Rodale in 1970s. It involves plantation of cover crops, growing of multiple crops together, crop rotation and reduction of tilling. This helps improve the soil’s health and the farm’s profitability, says Jeff Tkach, Chief Impact Officer, Rodale Institute. Regenerative farming concept has gained in importance as it can actively sequester carbon through photosynthesis. The carbon dioxide in the air is absorbed by plants and passed through their root systems into the soil. Eventually, this carbon becomes a solid mineral.
Fashion players involved in the concept
One of the biggest players in regenerative agriculture in fashion is Patagonia, which reoriented its supply chain in partnership with Rodale. This helped the company grow its land under cotton cultivation to 4,000 acre. This cotton is now being incorporated into a small portion of Patagonia garments.
Following Patagonia’s footsteps, Timberland is building a regenerative rubber supply chain in Thailand. The brand aims to grow various tree species to mimic a natural forest ecosystem. The company hopes to use all the rubber grown in this forest into its products from 2023. Allbirds also plans to use wool grown in regenerative farms from 2025. Owner of Gucci and other luxury brands, Kering has launched a regenerative fund together with Conservation International to produce raw materials for fashion through regenerative.
Smaller brands like Christy Dawn are also launching farm-to-closet collections made from materials grown through regenerative farming. Its founder Christy and Aras Baskauskas began to explore regenerative agriculture in partnership with Oshadi, an Indian regenerative-farming collective, which helped them lease four acres of land in Erode, The brand recently launched its first collection using this cotton. It consists of 54 dresses in the brand’s signature flowy, floral aesthetic.
Organizations step up to creating more awareness
Still in its infancy, regenerative agriculture is currently being tapped by only a few fashion brands. However, many social organizations are stepping up to create awareness and industry standards for this concept. Fibershed is creating a network of domestic regenerative farms to help brands such as Mara Hoffman and the North Face source fibers while the Savory Institute has established guidelines for farmers planning to adopt regenerative agriculture.