Real.m gets CONNECTED!

Image of Connect One Threads logo, a social enterprise organisation.

Real.m collaborates with Connect One Threads (COT), a social enterprise that connect and collaborate with global artists, conscious designers, ethical producers and organic farmers to create the best clothing for the world.

We wanted to know our makers, our raw materials, and the process.  Real.m traveled with COT Founder, Jeremy Pingul to Denizli, Turkey.  Get to know REAL friends, REAL material & REAL adventures in our interview with Jeremy.

The author is conversing with her travel partner searching for the Real people.

Q: Why organic cotton?

Jeremy: I support organic cotton because organic farming is about being in balance with nature, while industrial farming destroys nature to increase harvests.

Non-organic cotton uses more pesticides and herbicides than any other crop in the world. In Latin “-cide” means to kill, and these toxic chemicals are not only killing pests or herbs, they`re killing the soil to the point they become unusable for future crops to be grown. What’s worse is that these chemicals not only affect farmers, they can be traced in the air and water supplies.

Speaking of water, cotton is an incredibly water-hungry plant when grown in the wrong conditions. I feel that if more people knew about the Aral Sea crisis, where we completely destroyed the 4th largest lake in the world to irrigate cotton, people would start thinking more about the consequences of their purchases.

Agribusinesses such as Monsanto claim GMO’s help crops such as cotton grow better using less water or pesticides. The problem is that these marketing claims are not always true, where failed GMO’S crops in India have led to thousands of farmer suicides. How do they fail? To put it simply, just because a seed is genetically engineered to produce the best results, it doesn’t mean the soil, climate, pest, and water conditions are right for growing cotton or any crop for that matter. Moreover, I’m not a fan of how these GMO’S companies use their patents to sue innocent farmers, appoint themselves into government institutions to receive special subsidies, and manipulate scientific claims by funding public institutions.

The reality of cotton is that it’s a destructive industry that works against nature.

Organic cotton and organic farming work with nature. Instead of toxic chemicals, they find natural alternatives such as using garlic and water to keep pests away. Instead of depleting soil and water, they find smarter ways to keep the soil healthy while using less water. Instead of relying heavily on GMO’S seeds, they use local seeds that have proven to work for that local area. Moreover, organic farmers don’t just grow cotton year after year. They rotate it with crops such as wheat and beans.

Organic farmers are taking care of nature more than we know, and by supporting organic cotton we are supporting them.

Image of organic cotton farm stretched all over to the horizon

Q: What does ethical fashion mean to you?

Jeremy: Ethical fashion to me means knowing the impact of your clothing. Is the clothing helping or hurting people? Is the clothing helping or hurting the environment?

To know the impact of clothing, we have to know where our clothes come from and who made our clothes. We want to make sure the clothing wasn’t made in sweatshops by children who are paid unfair wages. We want to avoid factories that dump wastewater into local water supplies, and unsafe working conditions such as what caused the Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed over 1,000 garment workers in Bangladesh in 2013.

By the way our clothes don’t just come from garment factories. There are the print/dye houses, fabric and yarn producers, as well as the cotton ginneries and farms. Fashion is a complex industry where 48% of brands don’t know where their clothes are produced, while 91% don’t know where their clothing came from. Imagine the difficulty of assessing if the cotton used in your clothing is organic, or made with GMO’s. If you’re a brand or designer, you may have your clothes produced in Mexico, but the fabric may have come from China made with cotton from India.

Luckily there’s a gold standard for ethical fashion called the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). It is a certification that ensures clothing and other textiles (such as peshtemals) are made to fair trade standards using certified organic cotton. Every single process of the clothing production chain from farm to factory are verified by a 3rd party to be socially and environmentally responsible. The best part is it’s traceable, as there is a transaction certificate in each step of the production process from fiber to yarn to fabric to finished product..

The GOTS certification is the best ethical fashion standard in the industry, and it is what we advocate as Connect One Threads. The more brands, designers, and organizations we get to support GOTS, the more of a positive collective impact we make.

Image of I Made Your Clothes logo.

Q: So you’ve been to India, and many other places, what calls you back to Turkey?

Jeremy: I believe Turkey is one of the most important places for sustainable and ethical fashion.

When I started my research in 2011 Turkey was the largest producer of organic cotton in the world. Now the largest producer is India, but there is a huge problem with GMO’s contaminating the seed supply in India. Turkey is a GMO-free country. Moreover Turkey’s relations with the EU means its subject to better labor conditions for its workers. This is apparent when we see that out of 3800 GOTS-certified facilities in the world, over 400 of them are in Turkey.

There are some key notes about who we work with in these countries. In Turkey I like to source from the Aegean region which is the western side of Turkey. There are more small scale farmers working cooperatively in this region, and the Aegean cotton is known for its quality. In India, I visited an organic cotton collective called Chetna organic which go the extra mile in supporting their farmers, and one day I’d like to start supporting them as well.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day it’s about the people in Turkey, from the farmers I’ve met to the producers I work with that motivates me to bring more brands and designers to support them. From my experiences with them I know they care about what they’re doing. They’re doing good for the world in an industry that will do whatever it takes to maximize profit.

With its central location between Europe and Asia, I think it’s really at a major epicenter to make an impact on the attitudes of its Western and Eastern neighbors.

Q: What do you hope to see in emerging lifestyle/textile brands?

Jeremy: What I’ve noticed is that some of the true pioneers of ethical and sustainable fashion are the small and emerging brands. They are the ones who are really driving the movement, because they integrate ethics into their entire design practices, instead of just doing it for the press. What I’d like to see from these emerging brands is a way for them to come together.  First of all it would help them spread the message as a collective voice, and help people understand why this movement is important. Second of all it would help them on a practical level by enabling people to easily access them. Because these emerging brands are not usually at your local malls, their voices are not heard too often.  Imagine a platform where they would all be able to share their voices and still stand out for their unique designs. This is in part what we are hoping to achieve with Connect One Threads.

The other thing I’d really love to see from emerging brands is simply fresh new styles and designs. At the end of the day fashion is first about the aesthetic – how something looks. Knowing that something was made sustainably is in reality a secondary bonus, but not the reason the majority would by something fashionable. Every once in a while you see something really cool from the ethical fashion world, and it will be exciting to see what new conscious designers come up with.

Q: Why do you love your Peshtemal?

Jeremy: The peshtemal is a life changer!  I travel a lot, and I never pack a towel because it takes up too much space in my luggage and I don’t want a towel getting everything wet in there. Nevertheless, my peshtemal is light-weight so it doesn’t take up too much space, and it dries fast!  The designs are incredible, especially with more appreciation for them after visiting the producers in Denizli and learning about how they make them.  The towel looks so good I can even wear it as a scarf sometimes!

Image of author laughing with her traveling partner. Both are wearing the organic peshtemal.

A quick word on your trip with Real.m, bad or good?

Jeremy: Bad*** time with good people! Najmia of Real.m keeps it real. There was positive energy from the first time we met for dinner in Istanbul, and that energy quickly formed itself into friendship as we paraglided over the “Cotton Castle” and toured the peshtemal producing towns over the next week. Really looking forward to future Real.m + COT collaborations.

Hopefully the next time it will be in Malaysia!

image of travellers climbing an uphill cobblestone street.

Image of well used walking path going up a grass hill.

Image of author and friends sitting by a trench dug in snow.

Image of author and her partner taking a selfie before paragliding.

Image of author family jumping in joy amongst the ruins.


Get to know more about COT: