Yes. It really does grow in color. Cotton has grown in shades of reds, greens, whites and browns for at least 4,000 years in the Americas and Middle East.
I was ready to hit send two weeks ago confirming the time to drop off the fabric for my prototypes and I came across native color grown cotton from Peru and then a friend of mine sent me the story of Sally Fox.
From what I pieced together from various write-ups on Sally, her story is one of revolution for the US textile industry. In the late 1980s Sally began pollinating color grown cotton and invented a long fiber breed that offered farmers inherent pest resistance and compatibility with modern machinery. Sally’s work focused on sustainability and the elimination of chemicals that gag the supply chain. She provided a solid alternative for US brands to go green and clean with USA sourced cotton for our t-shirts and jeans. Her fiber is called FoxFibre and she has a cult following for her yarn, her seeds and her organic farming approaches.
So Sally Fox revolutionized the cotton industry. There was buzz. Big labels started participating. Then at some point between Generation X and Generation Y it all quieted down. Despite her very public success in the 1990s, many states prevented colored cotton to be grown and harvested for fear it would pollinate their “white” crops. Although these fears were never substantiated, Sally’s cotton seeds were prevented in several states.
Her story is easy enough to find, a remarkably brilliant woman by all accounts, yet here I am seeking to source this fabric for one of my pieces and I’ve found major limitations. In fact, I’m talking to a company going out of business and attempting to buy all their fabric because the wholesale choices I’ve found are slim at any reasonable price point.
So although Sally has made a wonderful livelihood and contribution toward textiles and sustainable farming, her work is being admired in closed circles instead of for mass consumption.
Oh if only I could buy a farm, push back on the state restrictions and grow my own clothes. Farm to closet. Let the revolution begin!