How Sustainable is our Cotton?

Since 2021, we have sourced the recycled and organic cotton fabric for our signature striped lining from Dibella India. Since this lining is inside every O My Bag, we can safely say that cotton is our second most important material. Together with Dibella’s staff we visited all production steps of our cotton in the South of India, following the whole way from field to fabric.
by Mairead Carter on Jun 21, 2022

Last month our Production Manager Jessica and me, Sustainability Manager, visited our producers in India. For Jessica it was the first time in two years seeing them, and for me it was the first time visiting India. It is very important to us to have face to face meetings and time to bond with our producers, because it helps us maintain the close personal relationships we have with all of them. One of those producers is Dibella India, an innovative and sustainable organization, where we have sourced all our cotton fabric since 2021. They are increasingly producing recycled cotton fabric, something that we have been using more frequently in production because of the lower environmental footprint.

Dibella India

Dibella India buys all their raw cotton directly from the Fairtrade & organic certified cooperative Chetna Organic. Dibella’s founder Sreeranga Rajan, who grew up in a family of small-scale cotton farmers himself, is determined to change the cotton textiles industry for the better. He and his team are passionate about guaranteeing sustainable livelihoods for Indian cotton farmers while protecting the soil and our climate. For example, they have recently decided to go beyond organic farming by introducing regenerative cotton farming. This means that the farmers are taught to differentiate their crops in order not to erode the soil. As O My Bag's Sustainability Manager, I greatly value Dibella as a partner, because they always go one step beyond. Not only with regenerative cotton farming - they were also the first Indian company able to supply us with recycled cotton fabric.

Femke and Jess with Ram from Dibella, the solar panels at Dibella that power the factory, and Jess planting a coconut tree on their land. 

Recycled cotton spinning

Increasing the use of recycled fibers is a priority for us because avoiding or minimizing the use of virgin fibers will significantly lower the fabric's environmental impact. In particular, using recycled cotton saves a lot of water usage in the cultivation phase of cotton. Dibella's has been mixing organic cotton with their recycled cotton, but during the visit we learned that they are now able to produce 100% recycled cotton lining. Of course, I wanted to see this whole process with my own eyes! 

During our trip, we visited the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certified mill in Erode. This is where so-called pre-consumer fabric waste (e.g. cut offs from the manufacturing process) is turned into recycled yarn. We got an extensive tour around the facility, during which we saw the incoming waste, the sorting process, the milling, and the spinning of the yarn. We even climbed on the roof to see all the newly installed solar panels! 

The production process of our recycled cotton signature lining

Dyeing the yarns

After the spinning process, the yarns are transported to the dyeing facility in Tirupur. Here, our yarns are dyed into the colors we need. Interestingly, we learned that the dyeing facility uses zero liquid discharge technology, as one of the first yarn dyeing facilities in the world. For yarn dyeing, a lot of water and salt are used, but with this technology the dyeing facility can clean and re-use 80% of the water and salt.

Weaving the fabric

The last steps we saw were the weaving of our lining in Salem, and the weaving of our webbing straps at Elastic India in Erode. Weaving is the process of making the actual fabric or webbing material out of the yarns. Before going into the weaving hall for our lining, we were invited to the home of Suriya, the owner of the weaving facility. We met his family and drank home grown lemon juice. We expected to get in the car again to drive to the weaving factory, but instead we just walked through Suriya’s garden, right into the weaving hall! Here we saw the weaving machines making our signature striped lining, for our Billie Junior and Elise Makeup Bag. From this location and from Elastic India, the fabric and the webbing straps are transported directly to our producers, and for the final step in production they are added to our bags.

The production process of our organic cotton webbing straps

Knowing exactly where all our materials come from, and how they are produced, and seeing it with our own eyes, is fundamental for our sustainability. We especially enjoy meeting those who are working within our supply chain and building long-lasting relationships with partners who share our goal of making a positive difference. We are happy to have found a very open and transparent partner in Dibella India who are willing to openly show us everything they do.