Intrigued with John Patrick's pioneering work in the green apparel movement, I sent him an email with several questions. John responded immediately:
"First and foremost, the organic dialogue is what I set about to discuss when I first started doing the organic collection in 2003. Not many people were talking about this in that moment, and there was very small selection—almost nothing.
In each collection I use organic cotton and, in winter, organic wool. I also started to use actual recycled fabrics in the beginning, as there was so little selection. This has now become commonplace, which I have noticed with the new crop of sustainable designers.
I started using Peruvian organic cottons first in 2003 with the assistance of James Vreeland, who is an archaeologist that "discovered" color grown cotton in the Peruvian jungle, in Tarapoto many years ago. The native cotton grows in green, brown, and even purple. It is not widely known. I also met Hugo Cardenas from Oro Blanco, who works with the small farmers on the south coast of Peru, near Chincha and Cañete.
Their was not much in the way of supply at the time, and Vreeland was pretty much the pioneer there in Peru. I then worked with spinners and weavers, both large and small, trying to make samples and get people interested to make fabrics and yarns from which I would be able to make both knitted and woven garments.
I used bed sheets in the beginning to make shirts, because there was no poplin for shirts. That company still supplies manufacturers with organic sheeting. I did a small project with 10 farmers also in the jungle and worked with a woman named Zenaida Cespedes, whose family has been growing cotton and other things forever. She has a keen mind, and we used the aspiro cotton to spin a 20/1 yarn, from which we made tee shirts. I got basically no support with that project, as it would need an engineer and financing to grow.
The farmers are keen to work in the organic way, but they are very isolated from the big city and are at the mercy of the big buyers, who come in and offer small $$ to use the cotton to blend with tanguis + pima because of the "whiteness." But it is a short staple, so it can not make fine fino yarn.
Such is the plight of the small indigenous farmers and people: they have no access to the "green" movement and are at the mercy of large buyers who determine the price.
Now I am using Peruvian SKAL-certified cotton that comes from both the north and the south. I have been forced to put the jungle project on hold due to lack of financing. I look forward to the day in the near future when I will be able to help support the 200 farmers there that want to participate.
In the last collection, most fabrics are organic and, if not, they are recycled fabrics."