Of all the natural fabric fibers, none has been used more than the king himself, cotton. In fashion, in streetwear, in all kinds of clothing, cotton is being used all over the world. But what is cotton?
Cotton is a very fluffy and soft fiber that grows on a plant called Gossypium. The plant grows in tropical and subtropical parts of the world, and is being harvested in Africa, India and America. Despite these being the acknowledged “headquarters” of cotton, China is the world’s largest producer of cotton. There are many different species of cotton around the world, but only four that are commercially grown.
After being harvested, the cotton is spun into yarn, which can later be knitted into cotton jersey. It was first produced on Jersey, Channel Islands, and was exported to the rest of the world. There are many different kinds of jersey. It can be single, double, interlocked, Jacquard or Clocque. Because of the knitting, jersey is very stretchy, at the same time as it has good abilities to hold its shape. It is therefore very popular in production of draped garments, such as women’s tops and dresses.
Even though cotton traditionally has been seen as the most natural of fibers, it is many cases genetically modified (GM). The popularity of GM cotton cultivation has been increasing at flaming rates. India alone went from having 50,000 hectares of GM cotton in 2002 to 10.6 million hectares in 2011, representing 88% of the country’s cotton area.
The increase of GM cotton also paved way for another kind of cotton, Organic. It is normally understood as cotton fibers from plants that are not GM, and that have been certified as growing without pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals. It’s becoming increasingly popular, as people are become more aware, and the worldwide production is growing at a rate exceeding 50% per year.
Cotton has been around for as long as humans have been wearing garments, and it will most probably continue being the king of fabrics. It’s versatile, usable, and very flexible. It’s the favorite in urban streetwear, and in fashion, and it will continue to be for a long time!