Recent news about the legitimacy of retailers’ Egyptian cotton products has more brands wondering if they are, in fact, getting the real fiber they’re paying for.
And more than just ensuring the right value for money, brands need to take heed of unknowingly sourcing fiber that could have been connected to unethical labor. Authenticating fibers and tracing them through the supply chain will be the way forward for brands to provide the level of transparency today’s market demands.
Applied DNA Sciences (APDN), which uses its SigNature T forensic science to tag, type and text textile products, a concept more known more familiarly as “dirt to shirt” tagging, said DNA fiber tagging can control or eliminate off-shore substitution of high-value cotton fibers, like Egyptian cotton, with fibers that can’t be verified and are often of lesser quality.
“If you know where 100 percent of your cotton comes from, you know you have prevented the entry of inferior cottons,” APDN CEO Dr. James Hayward said. “More importantly, you can exclude the intrusion of Conflict Cotton in complex, off-shore supply chains; preventing injustice and the violation of multiple federal and international laws.”
The SigNature T technology tags cotton fibers in the gin and then follows them through the supply chain through to finished goods. All of the cotton is fiberTyped, which means the DNA within the cotton fibers is quantified before ginning to ensure the original cotton type is still present afterward.
In testing 500 textile samples tagged using SigNature T for any fiber substitutions, APDN found that the level of DNA compliance with what was on the textile label, quickly climbed to 100 percent.
Addressing the recent accusations against Welspun India that it mislabeled products headed to Target (and potentially other retailers) as including Egyptian cotton when in fact goods were made up of an inferior cotton, APDN has said brands and consumers should “seriously question” Egyptian cotton textile claims.
Five years back, when transparency was less top of mind for brands than it is now, an APDN survey found that roughly 80 percent of retail products didn’t comply with their 100 percent Egyptian or Pima cotton claims.
“Several retailers and brand-owners have begun to use the SigNature T platform, that involves training and testing of every vendor in the supply chain—ginners, spinners, dyers, weavers and assemblers,” Hayward said. “Traceable American cotton helps consumers be confident of their source. Thirteen countries have been recognized as harvesting ‘Conflict Cotton’ under conditions that utilize child labor, or enslaved adults. More than 260 international brands and retailers have signed pledges to eliminate unethically sourced cotton from their supply chains.”