Did you know that 2009 is the United Nations International Year of Natural Fibres? Until recently, we have to admit, we didn't know either, but we are happy to report on it no matter how late because this is a topic that could have an impact on the denim industry. Many people don't know that denim is made almost entirely of cotton. There are some blends that allow for stretch or are used for short-lived novelty purposes, but essentially denim is a cotton product. And guess what? Cotton is a natural fibre. For those that aren't sure what a natural fibre is, they are fibres that are obtained naturally through plants (cotton, jute and hemp) or animals (wool, silk and cashmere).
The goal of the United Nations initiative is to raise global awareness of the importance of natural fibres both environmentally and economically. Natural fibres have been around since the dawn of civilization, however, according to the UN, they have been displaced over the past 50 years due to the increased use of synthetic (man-made) fibres such as acrylic, nylon and polyester. The competition with synthetic fibres combined with the current global economic crisis has impacted millions of people, specifically developing countries where the production of natural fibres is essential to their livelihoods. This includes people in the cotton belt of West and Central Africa, Jute farmers in South Asia, and silk workers in China.