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TS Designs succeeds in growing US organic cotton

21
Dec '11
Eric Henry, president of TS Designs, and Brian Morrell, president of Mortex Apparel, met with experts in state agriculture. Their mission: to grow organic cotton in North Carolina. The response: it can't be done.

Now, five years later and for the first time in recent memory, a usable volume of USDA-certified organic cotton is being harvested in North Carolina. Despite a myriad of challenges to growing organic cotton in the state, including weeds, pests and defoliation issues, two North Carolina farms – Hickory Meadows Organics and Parrish Enterprises – have grown 65 acres of healthy organic cotton that will be harvested by the end of the month.

Henry and Morrell have worked with these farms to grow organic cotton in their home state and as a solution for what they considered a broken supply chain. Until now, TS Designs' organic cotton T-shirts have been made at Mortex, but due to a shortage of U.S.-grown organic cotton, they have been made from overseas yarn.

“The journey of growing organic cotton in North Carolina began about five years ago when we were told it couldn't be done,” said Henry. “We started by making T-shirts from cotton grown in the state with a line called Cotton of the Carolinas, knowing that eventually we could do the same thing with certified organic cotton grown here.”

Henry and Morrell partnered to create Cotton of the Carolinas, which has been sold for the past few years. Since the cotton was not certified organic, the brand focused on supporting local jobs and creating an entirely transparent supply chain, connecting the wearer of every shirt with every producer in the supply chain.

“Conventional textile wisdom says you can't create an apparel line from one farm, but we did it,” said Morrell. “This organic cotton harvest is the next milestone and represents significant opportunity in bringing a positive impact to both jobs and the environment in our state.”

TS Designs


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