Cotton was cultivated long before our era. It is even said that Egyptian priests have been seen wearing cotton clothes. Until then, cotton cultivation was mostly done in Asia, especially in India, which has been selling colored cotton for centuries.
Now let's make a giant leap into the 17th and 18th centuries, to the United States and the West Indies.
Very early on, cotton was one of the first crops in Guadeloupe. Tobacco disappears from cultures, replaced by indigo and cotton, and a few years later, cotton fades before the queen culture of the West Indies: that of sugar cane (like what, spirits are never far away !).
In the United States, cotton still coexists with rice and tobacco. There has not yet been the cotton craze in Europe. But in the middle of the 18th century, everything accelerated, it was the rush for cotton! Europe is snatching up this new stuff! It feels like at Zara rue de Rivoli during the sales !! She swears by these light and soft fabrics, cheaper than silk and easier to color, thanks to the printing processes. She swears by the Indians, this painted or printed fabric, generally in shades of red due to the root of madder, and which owes its name to the simple fact that it was initially imported from the counters of India. This success will stimulate the cultivation of indigo, madder and other dye plants, but that is another story (see Vogue February 28, 1767).
In short, everything accelerated in a century and a half, going from a traditional product to a veritable industrial and customary revolution. From Asia and Egypt, cotton cultivation would travel to the West Indies, then to America. It will pass through Brazil, to return again to Egypt and finally to India: the circle is complete. This race for production will unfortunately lead to the greatest slave trade in human history! Hundreds of years later, it is the environment that will be impacted. American cotton (different from Asian and Indian cotton) impoverishes the soil and requires a dizzying amount of water. Add a little arsenic pudding to that and presto, all of Louisiana is polluted.
In 2003-2004, Monsanto marketed a new variety of genetically modified cotton. European company Syngenta is creating a protein-plant-insecticide-secreting-exotoxin-killer-larvae. It throws you: the marketing of this work of art begins in 2004-2005. Bayer will add a coat of paint, and presto, it's the start of a new area for cotton. These poor Egyptian priests must turn around in their sarcophagi!
Despite man's best efforts to smear the purity of cotton, a small handful of die-hard revolutionaries have initiated their cleaning program. Max Haavelard (very controversial in the world of fair trade), fashion companies such as 1083, Modetic, APC… are developing socially and environmentally clean production circuits. The way of consuming, hitherto disproportionate, has tended in recent years to evolve towards responsible consumption. Benchmarks are set up with labels such as: GOTS which certifies the biological origin of fabrics and compliance with social criteria during their manufacture, or Oeko-Tex which guarantees textiles without substances harmful to humans or the environment.
Even if synthetic materials are gradually invading stalls, cotton remains the first textile fiber consumed in the world. It is now up to us to restore all the beauty, purity and softness to this material which is cotton.