TJR Part IV – The Finishing Giants


TJR Part IV – The Finishing Giants


I had hardly ever heard anything about finishing before I started developing MISOGI DOGI. This is surprising, since finishing is the paramount process in defining the quality of fabrics: for example, it’s because of the selected finishing process that your aikido uniform typically

  • shrinks by 10% and more during the first laundry and sometimes more over time;
  • is very stiff when freshly purchased;
  • is whiter than white.

In a finishing mill, freshly weaved fabrics are washed (to unwax), “grilled” (to burn away fluff), bleached and dyed, made water or fire proof, anti-static, wrinkle-free, softened and shrinked. The finishing makes it all! It’s a very subtle process where experience and expertise is key.

To make sure all my questions would be addressed properly, the director of the finishing department showed me around. Behind him and the sales ladies, you can see fabric rolls waiting to be finished. The organic fabrics are stored on a separate stack. To avoid any misunderstanding, the worksheets for organic fabrics are green while the ones for conventional are white.

Have you ever imagined a 30m long laundry machine? All the finishing machines are huge and look quite alike for an untrained eye. Can you imagine seven of them in one single hall? This was impressive! After seeing it, I understood why no weaving company would sell less than 500m of a fabric. 500m are already a very small quantity for the finishing giants, especially with regards to the special conditions required for organic fabrics:

Both conventional and organic fabrics are finished by the same machines. To avoid the organic fabrics to get in touch with toxic chemicals remaining from conventional treatment, the finishers have to clean all the machines with special care before processing a series of organic fabrics.

At the end, a controller scrutinizes each meter of fabric for errors. In a lab, tests are performed to check various quality aspects such as the fabric’s resistance to pilling and tearing. Then, the fabric is ready for shipping.

How are organic textiles finished?

Using large amounts of toxic chemicals, the finishing process counts amongst the most polluting industries. Together with the farming methods, this is where organic cotton can make a real difference in environmental terms: GOTS certified textiles are finished using only mechanical and thermic processes, natural additives and harmless chemicals.

Although organic fabrics are made with environmental friendly methods, their market share is so small yet that they are, in most cases, made by conventional mills alongside conventional fabrics. Thus, waste water treatment is an issue. Our finishing mill is situated in an industrial area with a common state-run sewage works, unfortunately out of the scope of my interlocutors. Questions remain for the future…

My day ended with a wonderful training with the Aikido Club of Denizli. What a pleasure to have such a global practice enabling us to find friends wherever we go!denizli-aikido

Next chapter

TJR Part V – Organic Cotton in the World


My journey back to Berlin coincided with a workshop on organic cotton organised in the frame of the IFOAM Organic World Congress 2014 in Istanbul. The event came just at the right time to complement the learnings of my journey with further insights on the sector.

It was a unique opportunity to meet stakeholders from all over the world: India, Tadjikistan, Kirgistan, Côte d’Ivoire, USA, China, UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and of course Turkey. The participants were a mix of representatives from farmers associations, NGOs, scientists and brands. They used this opportunity to exchange their experience and views, which was, of course, super interesting for a newcomer to the cotton world like me.

We discussed various challenges

  • Genetically modified cotton seeds overflow the market. Organic cotton tries to stay GMO-free. What measures can be taken to avoid contamination?
  • Teething troubles of the young organic cotton market: After a phase of overproduction (!) of organic cotton peaking in 2008/2009 at 250.000 t, the production has decreased in the last years. In the meantime, demand is rapidly growing and going to exceed supply shortly. How can supply and demand be better connected?
  • Transition from conventional to organic cotton farming involves many challenges and risks. How can farmers be better supported to change to organic methods?
  • The cotton market is challenged by strong price fluctuations and a lack of long-term commitments by customers. This makes it very difficult for farmer cooperatives to make the right investments . How can losses and benefits be better distributed along the supply chain?
  • There is a lot of prejudice against organic cotton, in terms of performance, quality, price and complexity. How can communication on organic cotton enhance its success?

I was surprised to learn how basic education is still viewed as a major barrier at the farmers’ level: many cotton farmers can’t read and have no choice but to trust information they receive from their (conventional) seed and chemicals’ supplier. Reading skills may enable them to get access to further information and help them to form an own opinion.

Organic cotton farming methods are completely different from conventional methods. For example, a successful method in organic cotton farming is crop rotation, uncommon on conventional farms. This means that organic cotton farmers often grow the cotton alongside other agricultural products. Thus they need training and access to further organic product markets. They also need better access to natural fertilizers and pesticides.

During the transition period, the cotton yields often drop during 2-4 years before increasing again, once the soil has recovered from the conventional conditioning. There is still little support offered to help the farmers to overcome this difficult period. Once they made it however, they often have a better life quality than before.

A few initiatives were presented that foster solutions and promote organic cotton. You’ll find plenty of further information on organic cotton there:


Organic Cotton

Global Organic Cotton Community Platform is a joint Swiss-Dutch web platform for the world organic cotton community sharing knowledge on organic and fair trade cotton.


Textile Exchange

Textile Exchange is a US-based organization promoting sustainable practices in the textile value chain.


OC Accelerator

Organic Cotton Accelerator is a new initiative from large companies such as C&A and H&M and cotton associations promoting the organic cotton market.

I went home with a brochure called “Future Shapers: A Decade of Innovation in Textile Sustainability 2002 – 2012” in my pocket. The booklet features a collection of inspiring stories about 10 successful sustainable textile pioneers, such as Patagonia, hessnatur and veja. Well, the efforts by H&M, Nike and C&A are also featured. Anyway, after all the discussions on the challenges the young organic sector needs to overcome to establish itself on the market, this brochure encouraged me to go on with the Misogi Dogi adventure and to face my own challenges with bravery.


Dogi & Deserts


What does a martial art uniform have to do with over 60.000 square kilometers of desert?

This desert, only a few years ago, was one of the largest lakes on the planet. April 22 is Earth Day, a day where we humans are asked to reflect upon the relationship we have with the earth we live on. Since MISOGI DOGI is creating a sustainable cotton product (our dogi!), we would like to highlight an important example of the impact that regular cotton production has on our planet.

Not so long ago, the Aral Sea was the world’s fourth largest lake, home to a variety of fish and surrounded by fishing communities, lush forests and wetlands. While the lake was salt water, the rivers that fed it were filled with fresh water.

Aral Sea 1985 (cc by nasa)

In the 1950s, the Soviet Union began using the rivers to irrigate the surrounding agricultural area, a process that has been continued to this day by Uzbekistan. Water usage rose explosively, and soon the immense body of water started to shrink. Wetlands dried up and the lake bottom turned into a desert.

Aral Sea 2010 (cc by nasa)

The cotton industry has an important role to play in this environmental disaster due to its enormous water usage. In the area around the Aral Sea, 1.47 million hectares of cotton are grown. Cotton is a hugely water intensive crop (For example, in order to make a regular cotton uniform, a staggering 30.000-50.000 liters of water are used!).

Next to this, regular cotton production relies heavily on pesticides. Although it is only grown on 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, it consumes 16% of all insecticides and 6,8% of all herbicides that are globally used. These chemicals are washed out of soils, and pollute rivers and groundwater. Pests often develop resistance to the pesticides that are constantly sprayed on the cotton fields, which requires even stronger chemicals and increasing dosages. These chemicals eliminate not just the pests, but also many other species. This interference with the ecosystem considerably reduces biodiversity.

The exposure of the bottom of the lake due to the ongoing drought, has released salts and pesticides into the atmosphere. These are poisoning both farm land and people alike. Carcinogenic dust is blown into villages causing throat cancers and respiratory diseases. Many small farmers fall ill or die due to pesticide exposure.

To us, the fact that uniforms worn by aikido practitioners are linked to these and other kinds of environmental and social conditions, doesn’t fit with the aikido spirit.

Fortunately there are promising solutions 🙂

Organic cotton provides the world with an alternative. Although still needing water for production, organic farming practices focus on creating healthy soils which make better use of water inputs. In this way the fields are more resilient in drought conditions. By eliminating the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, the water pollution impact of organic has been shown to be 98% less than non-organic cotton production.

cot2 ton field

On this Earth Day we encourage you to take a moment to think about your relationship with this beautiful planet you live on. Do you feel connected to your surroundings? Have you ever thought about the environmental impact of the things you are buying? Are there better alternatives? Little increases in awareness and small lifestyle changes are all valuable and contribute to a more balanced world.