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jdavis

Zimbabwe cotton and the Mugabe regime

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He's just not really active anymore on sufu, but he still reads a lot of what is posted

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I mean you could say that the burden is on the mills but I think it's also on N&F if they are customers of the mill's just like it is on us. I understand completely that there is so much secrecy about sourcing products and manufacturing that it's really discouraging to try to find these thing's out yourself. Lot's of denim companies, however, are much more open than other's about these things and when there not open to their sourcing it only arouses suspicion.

An example of a better acting company is Levis. Now they source cotton from perhaps dozens or countries and their mills and manufacuring takes place in dozens of countries so it's hard to be positive that there are no human rights violation that's going on. They are, however, much more open to the public about their factory's labor practices (maybe because they are just so big that they are right out in the public's eye). Still, they appear to completely comply with international trade regulations. Most companies, most likely out of fear of negative publicity rather than ethical concern, steer clear of areas of known conflict. Areas such as Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe for example in the cotton industry. Most Levis jeans are produced in latin america (many mexico or surrounding centeral american nations) (some china and southern asian countries). They buy a lot of cotton from the US, Mexico and China (probably because these are some of the largest producing nations). Levis isn't an absolute moral or ethical company but out of fear of negative pr (as a result of consumers talking about stuff like we are now) they steer clear of places in the world where human rights, pricing and sourcing are kept secret.

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Anyway my point is that PRPS, Momotaro, Kicking Mule and others probably do source better cotton, probably very high grade cotton in Zimbabwe, which on average probably has a marginally higher median grade of cotton as a whole. But still, I at least feel that the only reason why they boast about this is to try to justify their prices by saying that you are getting the very best possible, when really the very best possible when in reality this cotton is about 1% stronger or something like that.

I've often wondered this and never been able to find out the difference in strength between regular staple cotton and ELS [Extra Long Staple] cotton such as Supima, Pima, Sea Island, and Giza 45. There's a huge amount of marketing and hype around these terms in denim and also noticeably in bedclothes, mens shirtings etc.

As others have said here linen [i.e. flax] or hemp denim and clothing generally would be far better fro the environment and for ourselves. Linen I believe has anti-fungal & anti-bacterial qualities as well as being one of the few fibres to get stronger when wet, meaning it handles washing and wear a lot better.

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Yeah I think all of that is true about true flax plant linen. I wonder if it would be logical to make a cotton blend with linen for denim. It's usually in really light weight fabric so I wonder if flax plant fiber is more expensive. I would probably make a good summer weight denim mix.

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Ohh yeah. This is just a guess but I'm guessing really mediocre grade cotton, when unbleached is probably stronger than super long and strong cotton once it's been bleached. I guess if you really want strong and white cotton Zimbabwean is probably good because it's lustrous and long but I personally don't care about how white my cotton is for denim. Maybe for shirts and stuff I could understand wanting super light bleached cotton but for denim their dark anyway. I just want them super strong.

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Yeah I think all of that is true about true flax plant linen. I wonder if it would be logical to make a cotton blend with linen for denim. It's usually in really light weight fabric so I wonder if flax plant fiber is more expensive. I would probably make a good summer weight denim mix.

I know that flax linen can be more expensive fibre than cotton due to the extra processing it needs such as retting and scutching.

But I think price wise it would be no more expensive than a Japanese cotton selvedge denim. I looked into getting cloth woven by a linen mill here in Ireland [where I'm from] and you can buy narrow-width [75cm] linen woven on shuttle looms for £6/metre with vat @ 20% incl. Less if you bought a lot from them.

You could do a lot of interesting things like an undyed unbleached cotton warp and indigo linen weft or vice versa.

Edited by oranswell

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Just gave this thread 5 stars. Its a very interesting discussion, I'm glad I went through this whilst it's only 5 pages long.

GM cotton has been mentioned a number of times in this thread. This might be a slight deviation in the topic, but I'd like a general feel amongst all of you here, just how bothered would you actually be knowing that an article of clothing you wear(and not ingest) was Genetically Modified?

I am honestly indifferent about it. I think that at some point in time, when our crops can't adapt quickly enough to the environmental changes, GM products will save our species. It will come down to an inevitability. For example, Xinjiang cotton is a Genetically Modified species of cotton from the Haitian variety. The average staple length has been reputed to be longer than that of the Zimbabwe variety. I am honestly quite sold on it. I've been wondering why aren't more companies using it, and here we have a discussion that brings about the GM issue. I'm curious what more of you think.

I've been keen to purchase more natural indigo products as I think that's a much more environmentally friendly option. I think organic unbleached cotton is great, but just how sustainable would these farms be? Anyone here knows more about the certification process and cost? I think to find out why we're paying a premium for organic, one has to know the production costs behind it. The obvious rise in cost would obviously be from insects that harm the yield from a lack of pesticides. What else though?

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Anyone here knows more about the certification process and cost? I think to find out why we're paying a premium for organic, one has to know the production costs behind it. The obvious rise in cost would obviously be from insects that harm the yield from a lack of pesticides. What else though?

Organic crops by definition cannot use a GM product. I personally am opposed to GM for many reasons, i.e. its use in mono-culture and the abusive practices of companies that 'own' the seed farmers produce themselves, and the way it ties into the huge Agro-Food industries.

The major effect in crop yields is that organic agriculture forbids the use of synthetic fertilisers, this reduces yield drastically, often by up to a third [see studies below]. 25% reduction being seen as the most regular figure.

For me in order of preference the important things are when choosing clothes:

1. Local production

2. Local fabric

3. Linen flax/hemp

4. Non-GM

5. Organic cotton/Natural dyes etc.

Comparison of organic cropsvs conventional crops in general: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7397/full/nature11069.html

Comparison of organic cotton vs conventional cotton: http://www.bugwood.org/arthropod2005/vol1/6c.pdf Only one I could find, oddly enough cotton yields are similar in that study.

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I could be wrong, but I always thought Zimbabwean cotton was long staple. My IH's are Zimbabwean cotton and smooth as can be, while my SExDBxSxS12's are Texas and San Joaquin Valley cotton and are just as smooth, if not smoother. My Samurai 710's are also Texas cotton (right?) and are very slubby, so I think it's safe to say the machinery more than the staple that creates the slub of the yarns and weave.

As for why people are looking to Japan for repro, it's because certain Japanese companies are the ones who are dedicating their time to setting up machinery to try to create accurate reproductions. Some US manufacturers may have shuttle looms, but they are not being set up to replicate the denim of 50+ years ago. Same goes for the machinery used to stitch them together. Not to mention the experimentation and attention to detail that goes into indigo dyeing and other materials like threads and patches. If you're into repro, there are Japanese brands that are putting their "all" into it. If you're into quality, well made and unique denim, these Japanese brands are putting their "all" into that too. In my opinion, Cone is doing neither, except for Roy's denim which was to his specifications.

That being said, don't generalize "Japanese Jeans". There are shades of grey, and not all Japanese denim is created equal, just as not all selvage (the world over, including USA) is created equal.

I don't think anyone has forgotten White Oak is still operational, and even if you think that may be the best denim in the world (which it may be, given that it is a completely subjective opinion and cannot possibly have an answer) you're ignoring the second half of Jean making, which is how it is constructed. There are only a handful of US based companies (all small businesses, correct?) that are putting the extra attention into construction.

tl;dr: Go buy a pair of Roy's

Edited by DFreshLeish

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Mega tons of scrap electronics from the USA and Europe ( and who knows where else ) gets dumped in Africa every year and millions of African children strip all the copper and anything else of value out of it to sell.

They get terrible disease from chemicals in the products and from smoke of burning products where they operate.

BUT I bet most of the same people complaining about buying this and that from Africa because of harm it does to people have a house full of electronics and make no effort to live without them.

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Cotton from Zimbabwe is a marketing phenomenon, nothing more. Whether people want to believe it or not if you think Zimbabwe cotton from a Japanese mill is the highest quality denim in the world you are wrong.

If one looks at it from an objectively reasonableness standard it makes a great deal of sense for Japanese mills to source cotton from Africa and then say that it is the best. Cotton from Africa is cheaper to produce and cheaper to transport to the mills in Japan. Zimbabwe cotton is short staple which is what causes 'slub', slub is a hallmark of inferior short staple cotton. It is much like the difference between Arabica and Robusto coffee beans.

If you bought a dress shirt made out of cotton and it became 'slubby' and pilled it would be a result of being made from short staple cotton (cheap cotton) and you would likely be unhappy with its furry appearance. When you buy a dress shirt made from Swiss Alumo or other bespoke grade fabric, which is super long staple cotton, one can wash that dress shirt for 20 years without it becoming slubby.

I know that this will not be a popular thing to say on this forum but the fashion industry is rife with inaccuracies, misconceptions, and misrepresentation at the hands of manufacturers, mills, growers, suppliers, retailers, and promoters.

1: short staple cotton doesn't cause slubs. It's often hairier (all other things being equal), it's in general less soft and not as strong.

2: the fact that most ZImbabwe cotton is in fact short staple is mentioned several times in this thread. i did see some fancy marketing page the other day showing it was longer staple than pima... but as mentioned by ringring and others, Zim cotton is mainly Albar 9314, which is upland cotton, a G Hirsutum rather than G Barbadense.

There's information on what originally caused slubs in late 50s denim here. I have since acquired a lot more info about this subject that I'll post on my site at some point.

I've spoken to one of the yarn designers at Cone, and he says that Zimbabwe cotton does have some advantages - it's produced in small quantities and hence is very consistent. However, you're essentially putting all your eggs in one basket. Cone feel that sourcing from American suppliers, which are more diverse, gives them more choice and essentially more consistency. That's what they've always done.

I like my Full Count, which use Zimbabwe cotton, but I don't see it as particularly different from US cottons.

Incidentally, I mentioned earlier in this thread that some of the white cotton used in denim is bleached. I was wrong, it isn't. It's actually quite hard to find ecru cotton, and when you see it, it's often a tint.

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I have to concur with DJ regaring Zimbabwe cotton. My understanding (limited as it is) is that Zimbabwe and Xianjiang staples are of the extra long variety, which accounts for their popularity, particularly the former. I do remember someone else saying that they are also hand picked as opposed to machine harvested, so that also accounts for the higher quality/greater length. Masterofevil, I do agree in principle with your criticisms about the industry, but I do think there are some factual errors on your part. I just see first world countries like Japan hyping quality products because they can, and exploit cost differences. Unfortunately, as others have pointed out, consumers like us also reap the benefits of such economic disparities.

Edit: iOS device auto spell fail.

Edited by grooveholmes

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I have to concur with DJ regaring Zimbabwe cotton. My understanding (limited as it is) is that Zimbabwe and Xianjiang staples are of the extra long variety, which accounts for their popularity, particularly the former.

Where's your info from? Because I think it's just marketing spiel, exactly like the one about Japanese companies buying old American looms.

The ZImbabwe government say, according to this site, that all their cotton is g hirsutum cultivars. That's consistent with what other people who work in the industry say.

The info about small production and hand-picking does seem correct. This seems to be what the makers of the denim say on the record - it's retailers and others who seem to make the claim, which to my mind seems incorrect, about ELS ZImbabwe cotton.

Without a doubt some Japanese jeans are better in some respects than, say, LVC - for instance, my Full Count have a lovely rayon tab that wears exactly like old Levi's, whereas LVC use nylon, that never wears in properly. Their interpretation of old Levi's fabric is fantastic - but it's not exactly like '60s Levi's denim I've seen wear in from new, and I don't think Cone's repros necessarily are, either. There are so many subtle factors - but these always get lost in the marketing spiel that has always gone along with denim whether made in the US or Japan.

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I remember reading a blog post from saintkeat awhile ago and I found it via google. This may contain the same marketing sheet/image of which you spoke.

http://saintkeat.wor...next-big-thing/

Ah yes, that was the one I've seen.

Those people, including ringring, who I've talked to in the industry are consistent, that ZImbabwe cotton is (a long variant of) g hirsutum, a short staple cotton. I am having a problem adding a comment but I'll do so when I can.

DO you remember the ads in 60s Marvel comics, where you could buy a submarine, that was nearly life-size, for $10 plus some pubble gum wrappers? They were just ads.

Edited by Paul T

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Nice to see Paul T joining this discussion!

OK glad you guys pointed out my mistake in that article. I've thus redacted the word "Extra" in the article. I researched on cotton a long time back, sifting through several pointless articles that repeated the same things about Zim cotton and eventually found a handful that did list Zim cotton as Long Staple. Whilst typing the article however, I probably jumped the gun a bit admittedly and threw in the Extra for added effect perhaps. Apologies if it confused some of you into thinking Zim is the same as E.L.S cotton. I will endeavor to be more cautious in the future.

With that slight derailment out of the way, my questions above still stand =)

Edited by saintkeat

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Paul t dropping that knowledge!

Re: why japanese companies? Lets not forget we're talking a niche product and the japanese were quick to fill in the gap...they've defined the repro movement and have been in the game for decades doing things US companies didnt even consider. Its only natural that we gravitate towards them but I think things are changing (rising sun, roy, etc etc) and hopefully we see a lot more US based peeps doing their thang. We're at a crossroads but you cant deny the level of craftsmenship that our beloved jpn companies have pursued, or their place in "history"...

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DO you remember the ads in 60s Marvel comics, where you could buy a submarine, that was nearly life-size, for $10 plus some pubble gum wrappers? They were just ads.

Man, you're old.

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Man, you're old.

Don't I know it!

ELS cotton has a minimum 1 3/8 inch staple length. This is traditionally a G Barbadense staple length; similarly the modern supima.

Most Zimbabwe cotton is a variety of Albar - SZ 9314, FQ902 and BC853. These have a staple length of between 1 3/32 and 1 5/32 inches.

There are a couple of specialist "long staple" Zimbabwe cultivars introduced in limited, recent cultivation, LS9219 and CY889. THese have staple lengths of up to 1 1/4, which doesn't quite qualify as an ELS.

As a comparison, Texas cotton is around 1 1/8 inches. That's not a lot less than Zimbabwean cotton, although every small extra increment in length does give a big uplift in price. Back in the 1950s, typical staple lengths of US cotton were about an inch.

Edit: thanks for the update, saintkeat, and also the (fascinating) info about xinjiang cotton. Again, I'll be fascinated to find out more, and to know what variety this is. I don't actually know why G Barbadense is harder to grow, althou I do plan to interview the author of the (excellent) Sea Island Cotton book, there's a lot of great information on G Barbadense there, and how Pima relates to the now-lost Sea Island.

Looking at this subject again, I do think we're back where we started; ZImbabwe cotton seems to be longer staple than most US cotton, but it is definitely a G Hirsutum.

We also seem to be back to denim geekery and marketing spiel, when the original thread also had a very interesting focus, on the ethics of sourcing. It was very interesting that someone brought in the example of Uzbekistan, where there's widespread evidence of forced labour in bringing in the cotton crop.

Intriguingly (being an old git, thank you grooveholmes) my nipper, last seen here on the jeans for bambinos thread. just had a secondary school project on the ethics of cotton production. He got an A star, so maybe I should get his comments.

Edited by Paul T

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Neutral Jeans use Cameroon Cotton...Does anyone have further industry knowledge on staple length, variety, etc.?

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