In the windowpane of the Hout Street store, there stands an interesting display. A thick branch, blooming with fluffy white bolls. A customer curiously approaches and delicately thumbs the soft clouds, calling her partner over to come and feel. “Cotton?” I hear between the broken German I half understand.
9 months ago we launched our first-ever organic towel: The Aegean. In a sense, an experimental product – to test the field as to whether our customers would be the willing buyers of an organic textile. Two weeks before, our website manager held a poll on Twitter. “What do you think when you hear ‘organic’?”
Twitterverse’s response was overwhelmingly negative. Organic-shmanic. Expensive. A certain elite local brand comes up a few times.
These are reservations I understand. Generally, organic does appear to be the more expensive choice. Filling your basket with leafy leeks and bloated beetroots from an organic farmer’s market might cost you a few extra Rands. And in the end, is it really worth it?
Issues like these call into question the choices we make on a daily basis, and also the overwhelming number of causes we’re forced to vie for: to steer away from Fast Fashion, protest against Climate Change, to be mindfully ‘Me Too’, consider a plant-based diet and to be conscious of intersectional attitudes. I mean, are avocadoes even vegan anymore?
And part of this problem is cotton. A water thirsty crop that accounts for up to 3% of total arable land and which, through the use of chemical interference, has knock-on negative effects to the people who grow it and the land it grows on…
In the same (gasping) breath, the textile industry has historically been a red flag – with a legacy of undignified working concerns, toxic chemical output and a consumer culture that speeds up fashion cycles resulting in millions of tons of annual waste…
So where am I going with this? Is it all just doom and gloom? Maybe.
But let’s back track to May 2019, when I came across a ‘We’re Hiring’ post on Facebook. A flick of a kaleidoscopic blanket well placed against the caption: ‘Do you write bold, punchy copy?’ Fast-forward a few weeks and there I was, in the Mungo marketing office, with Lilah, and Craig and a heavily pregnant Tessa. And Ted. The dog.
‘Why do you want to work for Mungo?’ was one of the questions put to me. Sweating under my denim jacket I told the truth. Because I want to work for a company that I feel proud to be a part of. Not a big corporate where I’m relegated to running the Facebook page. But to be a part of a constantly evolving organism and a forward thinking business model.
And in many ways that’s the long and short of it. Although Mungo can’t pretend to tackle all the world’s problems over night, I can attest to being part of a team that is genuinely forward thinking and that actively looks for ways to improve their social, and lessen their environmental, impact. And if you want a first hand testament to that, ask the slip-slop wearing, out-of-the-office-if-the-swell-is-good MD, Dax – who spearheaded the opening of the one-of-a-kind Mungo Mill, and who frequently reminds us that we should all be cycling to work.
Part of authentically addressing some of these problems is to look at our fibres. To make choices about the ones we’re using, ask hard questions about how good they really are for the planet and then to look for alternatives.
More than a towel really. After selling out in a few short months, it proved to us that there is a demand for organic textiles. So much so that we ordered a second shipment of organic yarn, and began weaving more.
I’m not going to tell you to buy this towel.
I’m just going to plant a seed.
In the end, it’s your choice to cotton on.