Supplier Spotlight: Naturtex Perú
The Original Fair-Trade Cotton Textile Mill
In the early 1970's North American anthropologist James M. Vreeland, Jr. stumbled upon a well-kept secret while studying pre-Columbian textiles in Peru. Peering down a microscope, he noticed that some ancient cotton fiber contained unusual pigments that gave fabrics certain colors. One year later, while working with native farmers from the desert coast who were familiar with the plant, Vreeland realized he had rediscovered a naturally pigmented cotton fiber that had been masterfully used in superbly crafted textiles by Andean spinners and weavers for over five thousand years.
In 1983 Vreeland led an international research team, in charge of mapping the distribution and recording the traditional uses of the almost forgotten native, color-grown cotton. They were able to recover an extraordinary range of natural colors, from off-white to earthy shades including beige, brown, chocolate, green and mauve. In 1993, Vreeland founded Naturtex with the mission to reintroduce color-grown, native cotton yarns and apparel in an industrial textile world, but sourced only under both fair trade and organic regimes.
Since inception, Vreeland has established sustainable and enduring relationships with Peruvian communities and indigenous farmers, ensuring a constant supply of high-quality cotton fiber. For nearly a quarter of a century, Naturtex leads the reintroduction of high quality, naturally pigmented cotton and alpaca hand knitting and industrial weaving yarns– both heirloom materials cherished by the native and traditional craft communities of the Andes. In 1999, the company pioneered the transition into organic/fair trade Pima cotton, considered among the finest cottons of the world. The fibers are extremely long, soft, lustrous, elastic and durable due to the extra-long stable.
After ginning, the fiber enters a complex production sequence for converting this luxurious and extremely soft cotton fiber into yarns apparel and accessories. In Lima, Naturtex’ supply chain interlinks spinning, knitting, weaving, dying and finishing facilities under GOTS standards. Today the firm manufactures and exports over 450 different ecological textile products to North, Central and South America, Europe and Asia.
Naturtex manufactures ring spun, carded and combed yarns, ranging in thread counts from thick to super fine. A wide range of circular knit and flat woven fabrics are made on contract, as well as custom-made apparel and accessories, such as sweaters, scarves, socks, t-shirts and jeans, sheet sets and towels.
“As a contract manufacturer and sourcing partner, we strive to identify and maintain meaningful social and commercial relationships between those who make, trade, sell and consume organic yarns, fabrics and apparel,” says James Vreeland, founder and director of Naturtex.
“We feel particularly qualified to offer our expertise to make, export and consult with brands on technical and cultural aspects of sustainable textile processing in Peru,” says James.
Naturtex’s cotton production has been certified according to the USDA and EU organic regulations since 1995, and FLO Fair trade principles since 2005. Cotton ginning, storing and administration of the organic fiber is certified under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification since 2008. GOTS-certified mills increased 18% worldwide in 2014, according to a recent study.
Currently the group supports several projects with indigenous peasant farmers and artisans living in the rainforest of the upper Amazon headwaters. One such initiative is the drug-free cotton program, started in 1986. Naturally pigmented cotton fiber, called Pakucho, is grown by native farmers in the high jungles of Peru, where the cultivation of the cotton serves as an alternative to illegally grown coca leaf.
“Our unique Amazon jungle drug-free cotton initiative offers indigenous horticulturalists a viable alternative to illicit coca leaf cultivation,” explains Vreeland.
Naturtex then buys the drug-free cotton from the farmers to produce their organic yarn, fabric and clothing lines.
Denim has seen the firm’s fondness for organics and technology deepen. According to Vreeland, Naturtex was the first company world-wide to bring to the market organic/fair trade certified denim jeans, unveiled in London at the Fair Trade Fashion night in 2005.
“There is an explosion of interest in organic, and we are the oldest continuously certified company in the world I have been told,” explains Vreeland.
Today, Naturtex continues to contract manufacture and promote their organic denim, which is woven in medium weights of 11.5 oz. Available in two colors - dark indigo and grey black - the denim is made from Naturtex’ premium combed pima cotton denim. It has been refined after decades of research and development, and proper textile testing, according to Vreeland. And despite other organic manufacturers entering the market in recent years, Naturtex maintains a leadership founded on research and development of sustainable textiles alternatives.
The most recent innovation in the Naturtex family is Qoperfina, an intimate blend of organic baby alpaca fiber in natural colors, organic/fair trade Pima cotton and a small percentage of pure copper metal. Copper, Vreeland asserts, is fundamental for body metabolism and proper brain function in children. Copper also exhibits superb anti-bacteriostatic and anti-micotic properties, which research has shown can alleviate stress, arthritis, and rheumatism. Moreover, copper has been found to act as a shield to protect the body from harmful electromagnetic radiation. Qoperfina textiles include T and polo shirts, socks, and sheets, all textile products used close to the skin where the therapeutic properties of pure copper are fundamental for human health and well-being.
“Our commitment to research and development is fundamental to the value of our garments and product portfolio,” concludes Vreeland.
“We are confident that cutting-edge, proprietary performance fabrics enable our customers to excel at their work.”
Naturtex manufactures ring spun, carded and combed yarns, ranging in thread counts from thick to super fine. A wide range of circular knit and flat woven fabrics are made on contract, eventually becoming comfort items such as sweaters, socks and t-shirts.
Available on Le Souk, the organic cotton tubular knit in teal green is an ideal fabric for lounge tops and bottoms - for both men and women. Meanwhile, the combed organic cotton jersey in brown and white stripe is a statement fabric for sweaters for women.