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Organic, Fairtrade bed linen and towels that make a positive difference – to you and the people who helped to make them
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Published: 6 March 2020
This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod
This article first appeared in our Consumer Revolution issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 06 March 2020. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
George Hughes has been surrounded by fabrics for his entire life. As the sixth generation of Manchester’s oldest textile company, family-run Behrens, George has visited factories around the world and overseen the supply of fabrics and finished products to companies ranging from John Lewis and Manchester United to the NHS and British Airways.
Despite his wealth of experience, George couldn’t believe just how confusing shopping for bedding and towels was as a consumer.
‘I can’t believe just how complicated it is’, George tells us. ‘We’re faced with identical products that carry different claims, plus puzzling, outdated terminology like ‘Oxford border’ and ‘housewife pillowcase’ – not to mention myths around thread counts and quality.’
Determined to ‘cut through the noise’, George launched Dip & Doze, a fully certified organic and Fairtrade bed and bath linen company. By avoiding high street mark-ups it provides considered products with fantastic quality at a fair price.
The goal was to empower customers, but George was also adamant the finished products would support the people at the other end of an extremely complex cotton supply chain.
‘There simply was no other option than to choose 100% organic cotton and a Fairtrade-certified factory and farm’, he tells us. ‘It means that all our workers can enjoy safe working conditions and a sustainable livelihood and be able to decide on their own future.
Fairtrade also offers environmental training so farmers can improve soils, plant trees and conserve water, helping them to become more resilient to climate change.’
Ending choice fatigue
George summoned a history of textiles expertise that span over 180 years to find the perfect alchemy for comfort and durability, and used all his experience to do what he believes is right. He considered exactly what works for today’s contemporary life, as well as what doesn’t.
‘Living in the modern world can be complicated’, he tells us, but shopping for sustainable, ethical home essentials shouldn’t be. Despite a lifetime working with fabrics, I’m still constantly learning new things. To expect customers to understand the nitty gritty details behind the technicalities of bed and bath linen and see through marketing gimmicks would be ridiculous. It would be like needing to understand how an engine is put together before buying a car!’
Instead George created a streamlined collection that eliminates choice fatigue. He uses what he knows to be the ultimate thread count for durability and breathability – though it’s not mentioned in the product descriptions because ‘there are actually many other more important aspects’.
A practical approach
One of George’s starting points was to re-name outdated terminology: out went housewife pillowcase and Oxford border and in came ‘plain edge’ and ‘edged’.
‘Cool & Crisp’ (Percale) bed linen is cool to the touch with a matt finish’, George tells us. ‘It’s perfect for warmer sleepers or the summer months. Imagine a crisply ironed shirt or luxury hotel bed linen. ‘Soft & Smooth’ (Sateen) is incredibly soft and cosy with a very subtle sheen from up close. It’s also naturally wrinkle resistant! All our organic cotton reveals its true beauty over time as it softens with every wash.’
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For George, creating spaces that we love isn’t about making constant purchases or following trends, but finding beautifully made items that help us reconnect and that are designed to move through life with us.
‘I also wanted to include thoughtful touches that make life easier’, George explains. On our bedding you’ll find details such as handy size and directional labels, a ‘duvet stop pocket’ and plastic-free, 100% coconut shell buttons, to name just a few.’
When George created the range he was determined to build it round a subtle, everyday kind of luxury, so the finest quality products wouldn’t be kept hidden away for special occasions.
‘The magical calculus of cost per wear comes up a lot in fashion’, George tells us, ‘but rarely in the home sector. Over a lifetime you’ll probably spend around 28 years in your bed, which makes bedding one of the cheapest cost-per-use items in your home.’
The fact we spend around a third of our lives in bed also means it’s important to think about what our chosen bed linen is doing to our health.
Chemicals in cotton
Conventional cotton uses more chemical pesticides and fertilisers than any other crop in the world, and has therefore been branded ‘the world’s dirtiest crop’ by the Soil Association.
The chemicals used in traditional cotton farming get trapped in the cotton that we sleep in and are absorbed into our skin – the largest organ we have.
‘I don’t want to freak people out’, George tells us, ‘but I want to help spread the word that the reality of this is not only devastating health consequences for farmers, but also surrounding schools and communities. Ecosystems also suffer detrimental effects when these chemicals seep into waterways.’
Choosing organic bed and bath linen also means that our skin doesn’t absorb anything that can be harmful to us while we sleep or dry off.
Although it still uses water and land, organic cotton is usually rain fed—Dip & Doze’s is grown using 80% rainwater—and it builds soil fertility.
Aligning your values
When choosing organic bedding, it’s important to look for GOTS (Global Organic Textiles Standard) certification. It’s the gold standard in organic accreditation and confirms no harmful chemicals, pesticides or fertilisers have been used at the farming or manufacturing stage.
‘It’s so easy to buy a cheap sheet, but think of the true cost of that purchase and its longevity’, says George. ‘It’s about stopping to think about the people behind the things you love, and choosing brands whose values align with your own. Ask whether the company rejects the throwaway culture and respects nature’s wonderful resources, and what type of materials it uses. Avoiding synthetic fabrics prevents the shedding of microplastics in the wash.’
Organic, high-quality materials may be more expensive, but they will more than pay for themselves by lasting years longer than cheaper alternatives, as well as feeling so much better on your body and respecting the communities and environment where the cotton is grown.
Sir Jacob Behrens – the founder of George’s family business – did a lot for society; when he died in 1889 it was written ‘he seemed only to exist to be of service to his fellow men’. With his determination not to greenwash customers and to be transparent in business, six generations later George operates with the same ethics and in line with the family motto: esse quam videri – to be rather than to seem.