My guest today is Stephanie Abgrall, founder of the Only Organic Fabric Shop website. Based in the Brittany region of France, they sell only full GOTS certified organic fabrics where the yarns, spinning, weaving, washing, dyeing are all GOTS certified. And they ship worldwide. We’ll be talking about the GOTS certification for organic fabrics and the certified fabrics that are available for your fabric needs. Stephanie is a 47-year-old mother of three, who studied in a French Business School and worked for 15 years as an executive in different companies, then decided to create her own business. She wanted this business to be close to my beliefs, so of courseit had to be organic-related and crafts-related. In 2009 she founded Biotissus, which is the mother business of Only Organic Fabric Shop, It is dedicated to GOTS certified organic fabrics and sells to individuals as well as to large fashion companies in France. In late 2014, they decided to expand their business and dedicate a website to their english/american speaking customers, and developped the Only Organic Fabric Shop website. They also are developing the first GOTS certified sewing workshop in France for their professional customers. [Stephanie’s website is no longer available.]
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Make-it-Yourself with GOTS Certified Organic Fibers
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Stephanie Abgrall
Date of Broadcast: January 22, 2015
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and this is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world and live toxic-free.
If I sound a little different today, it’s because I’m having this technical difficulty not with my microphone and with my headset. I have two headsets actually, which I have to wear. I can’t just talk into the mic, I have to listen on the headset, otherwise there’s feedback. So we’re doing this on a telephone today. Fortunately, we have multiple ways to communicate. I’ll figure out what’s going on with my headset and hopefully, we’ll be back to better quality tomorrow.
Today is Thursday, January 22nd 2015. I’m here in Clearwater, Florida on a still winter day. I love this time of year when one day, it’s winter and the next day, it starts to be spring. And then it goes back to winter. So we’re having cold weather next week, but it’s just kind of this in-between the seasons time that I just think is so wonderful. Orchids are blooming in my backyard. I have this bank of azaleas under my window where I look out where I’m sitting here doing the radio show and the first one bloomed yesterday. So wherever you are, spring is on the way.
Today, we’re going to have a very interesting show, which I think is very important. All the shows are important, but sometimes, there are individual things that are very unusual. The unusual thing that we’re doing today is we’re going to be talking about certified organic fabrics that are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard. We’ve talked about that before, but what’s unusual about today’s show is that my guest is the owner of a small shop in France actually where all they sell, the only thing that they sell is GOTS-certified organic fabrics.
She has recently opened an online website where you can purchase all of these certified GOTS organic fabrics. You can purchase them online and you can sew with them. I didn’t check, but I think possibly, there’s upholstery fabrics and we’ll talk about that, but she’s got all kinds of fabrics. These are fabrics that are certified organic at every step of production. These are the purest fabrics in the world and you can now order them online. And prior to this, these were not available to the general public, but they are now.
So we’re going to talk today with my guest about these fabrics, why they’re so special. She’s going to tell us about what are the different types of fabrics that she sells. So if you sew, this is really important. If you don’t sew, it’s so important because you could buy these fabrics and have someone sew them for you into anything that you want, any textile product that you use in your home. Sheets, curtains, table clothes, clothing, anything you want can now be GOTS certified fabric. This is a big breakthrough.
Usually, I’m not talking to businesses that are based in other countries, but my policy is if there isn’t a similar business in the United States, I’ll promote the business that is in another country if it’s as exceptional as this one.
Before we get started, I just want to tell you that in addition to our technical problems, my guest speaks English as her second language and so, we’re going to be talking slower. Just listen careful. This is all going to be transcribed next week. We’re going to get a lot of good information today and I’m very excited to be doing this show.
So my guest today is Stephanie Abgrall. I hope I’m saying that right. She’s the founder of Only Organic Fabric Shop, which is Only-Organic-Fabric-Shop.com. She’s based in the Brittany region of France and as I’ve said, they sell only full GOTS-certified organic fabrics where the yarns, spinning, weaving, washing and dying, everything, every step of the way is GOTS certified.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Hi Debra.
DEBRA: Or I should say bonjour.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Thank you for broadcasting my interview. It’s very nice of you.
DEBRA: Thank you. Thank you for being here. So just tell us, how did you get interested in selling something as unusual as GOTS-certified organic fabrics.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Well, this is a way of evolving in my personal life. After graduating in finance, I had been working as a manager in a major French company and I was tired of our way of life that meant long transportation time to [inaudible 00:06:20], sometimes unethical treatment. And so I longed for a job, which could make me happy every day and help out our cities and feel better.
I was always interested in organic products, organic food or other products and also creative activities such as sewing. So when I created the French business, the mother business in 2009, there were no organic fabric available in shops or online shops in France that you could buy the yard. You could only buy the roles and by huge quantities. So this was the beginning of our online shop in France, which is called Biotissus, which means organic fabrics.
DEBRA: That’s so wonderful, what you’re doing. So what was the response when you opened your shop? Do you have a physical shop or are you just online in France?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: We’re also the only full GOTS fabric organic shop in France – small, little shop. And
DEBRA: What was the response when you opened your shop?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: It was in Brittany, [inaudible 00:07:33].
DEBRA: And did the customers flock in or did you have to explain to people what you were doing? How did people respond and started learning about GOTS?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: I’m going to say that in the first time, people looked at me as a stupid person because they told me, “Organic? What is organic fabric?” “It’s made from cotton, it’s natural.” And so I had to explain that conventional or non-organic fabrics are toxic. There was much education time for the customers to discuss this.
But there were some small brands and small professionals that were very, very interested in buying by small quantities. And so the business developed very quickly. We are now the leader on the French market for organic fabrics as well for individuals as well as for professionals.
DEBRA: And I understand that you’re also developing the first GOTS-certified sewing workshop in France for your professional customers?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes. Yes, we are developing – we have a workshop and we are developing GOTS certification on this workshop in order to meet our customers’ needs to get organic fashion with GOTS certification.
DEBRA: That’s so wonderful! That’s so wonderful! We’ve only got about a minute until we need to go to break, so I don’t want to start asking you all the big questions. But tell us just briefly is there a difference in how organic fabrics look and feel?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Organic fabrics are grown organically and don’t need pesticides or are not issued off GMO seeds. That’s the basic definition of organic fabrics, but it’s much more complicated.
DEBRA: No, we’ll talk about it after the break, but I’m just asking does it look different. Does organic fabric look different than a standard fabric?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: I’m going to tell you, it’s much softer.
DEBRA: That’s in my experience too because I have some organic clothing and it is much softer. One of the first things that I had that was organic, you may be familiar that here, we have naturally colored organic yarn, cotton. I have a sweater. I found a sweater that had been hand-knitted out of this yarn. It is so soft. It’s so soft. It feels completely different than the standard cotton, so it really is a treat.
Well, let’s go to break, so that we’ll have plenty of time to talk when we come back. What we’ll talk about when we come back is what’s toxic about fabrics that is leading you to wanting to do organic. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Stephanie Abgrall, founder of Only Organic Fabric Shop and that’s at Only-Organic-Fabric-Shop.com. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Stephanie Abgrall. She’s the founder of Only Organic Fabric Shop. The website, that’s Only-Organic-Fabric-Shop.com. All she sells, 100% GOTS-certified organic fabrics, which you can buy by the yard. She started her shop in France and she’s speaking to us from France today, from the Brittany region. She has now opened online a shop where we can buy these GOTS-certified fabrics by the yard ourselves for our own use at home. And she ships worldwide. So any of you living anywhere can now have GOTS-certified organic fabrics.
So Stephanie, tell us, the point here is not just that cotton is organic-certified, but that the whole process. So can you tell us about the process of turning fabric into – I mean, the fiber into a fabric and where the toxic chemicals are in that process, so that my listeners can understand why the GOTS certification is so important.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: So let me explain quickly how ordinary fabrics are manufactured. First, they are grown using mainly GMO seeds. GMO seeds have tragic consequences. They increase the resistance of pest, so they increase the use of pesticides. This is nonsense because they were aimed at killing the pests, but it’s not the fact. For instance, growing cotton represents 2% of the cultivated field, but 25% of the pesticides used in the world.
DEBRA: Wow! Wow!
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes, that’s huge. And this is the only first step in fabric processing. Then the fibers in the ordinary fabrics are processed with chemicals. For instance, bamboo fabrics are made by using hydrochloric acid and caustic soda. And then they are dyed with heavily toxic products. Moreover, most often, to be working, environment conditions are poor.
That’s why some manufacturers decided to develop organic certified fabrics. And now, the Global Organic Textile Standard Certification is recognized worldwide as the most serious certification for organic fabrics because it’s specification cover the whole processing of the fabric and the entire perfect traceability of them from the field to the shop.
DEBRA: Yes, it’s quite a process. And one of the most important things to me being most interested in toxics is that the standard actually has a list, I believe, of toxic chemicals that cannot be used.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes, exactly, exactly. The list is very, very long. But shortly, let’s say that there should be no chlorides, no phthalates, no [inaudible 00:17:19] agents, no nickel, no lead and so on.
DEBRA: Yes. And also, they don’t allow GMOs.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes, they don’t allow GMOs because the fiber must be natural, that is mostly cotton, flax, silk and they must be grown according to organic agriculture specification, that is no pesticides and no GMO.
DEBRA: And is that difficult to find?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: It was difficult to find 20 years ago. But now, especially in Turkey, the cotton agriculture has turned to organic agriculture. So they are a specialist in organic fabric and the factories, the spinning, weaving, knitting factories are maybe 40 miles away from the field. So it’s really, really ecological.
DEBRA: Oh, that’s wonderful to hear. That’s wonderful to hear. Good, good.
So when you buy the fabric, who are you buying it from? Are you buying it from the finished product at the end, you’re buying it from a manufacturer who has been certified. Tell us about the certification from the field to getting into your hands. What are the steps that need to be certified?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: We are manufacturing our fabrics with certified factories and so every step is traceable. That is to say that every actor in the list must be certified. The cotton grower or flax grower must be certified according to organic agriculture needs. And then the spinner, the washer, the dyer, the weaver, the knitter, the printer must also be certified. And so there is a certificate at every step and this certification are inspected every year.
DEBRA: And so, when you as the seller, the retailer, when you get the material, the fabric, do you get one certificate or do you get a number of certificates all down the line or does that one certificate that you get at the end represent all those other certificates are there?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: We are a manufacturer and we get a certificate for each production. The certificate describes very precisely the number of roles, the type of fabric. The roles are numbered and so are traceable just to the field because if there is a problem on the production, then we can know where the missing point was.
DEBRA: This is so incredible. I think every product in the world ought to have this kind of accountability.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yeah.
DEBRA: One of the problems that I run into in the past is that I’ll call a manufacturer and I’ll ask a question about what happened in this point of production and they don’t know anything about it. Contrast this, listeners, contrast manufacturers who know nothing about their product with this where Stephanie and other GOTS-certified people can just look back, it’s all documented, it’s all traced, so they can know exactly what has happened at every point of production.
We’re going to go to break. And when we come back, we’ll talk more about GOTS and more about Stephanie’s beautiful fabrics. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Stephanie Abgrall, founder of Only Organic Fabric Shop. And that’s at Only-Organic-Fabric-Shop.com where you can order GOTS-certified organic fabric by the yard for your own personal use at home. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Stephanie Abgrall. She’s the founder of the Only Organic Fabric Shop website, which is Only-Organic-Fabric-Shop.com. She’s talking to us today from France where she actually has a shop, a physical shop where she sell GOTS-certified organic fabrics that you can purchase by the yard in small amounts, which we can too now anywhere in the world. Anywhere in the world that you’re listening to this show, you can go to this website and get GOTS-certified organic fabrics by the yard to make things in your own home and Stephanie will ship them to you.
So Stephanie, I’ve been looking at your website during the break. I’ve been looking at it prior to also. You have so many different kinds of things that people can choose from and I want you to describe them to us. But first, I just want to say that this website is designed to be international. And so if you go to the website and you see that the prices are all in pounds, sterling or something, you can go in the upper right corner where there’s a little currency dropdown menu. I’ve chosen the dollar sign, so I can look at the prices in U.S. dollars. So that’s just something to keep in mind when you go to the site.
Okay! So tell us what you’ve got.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Sorry?
DEBRA: Tell us about your fabrics?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: We sell only cotton and flax. We have a wide range of cotton. We have woven cotton, such as veil, poplin, denim, French terry, velvet, muslin, twill. We have also wide width fabric for bad linen or home furnishing. We also have a wide range of knitted cotton, which goes from jersey to suits, stretch terry, cotton fleece, lambstyle plush and so on. And we also have woven flax and a very valuable linen jersey, which is just wonderfully soft.
DEBRA: Ooh, linen jersey. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: It’s a wonderful fabric. Our flax is grown and woven in France. This was very important for us. We funded an association with the growers. That means that I shake hands with my growers every year and so I can precisely tell who grew the seeds of flax that are in our linen fabrics. It’s quite unique I think.
DEBRA: It is very unique. But again, I just want to say that this is the way every product should be. We should be able to know what’s going on. I’ve given the example before that when I used to live in California, I belonged to a community supported agriculture program, which is where you buy shares in a farm and then every week, you get a share of what the harvest is. The one that I belonged to happened to – well, not far from my house, but I had to go down the hill and up another hill. But if I could just fly from my house to the farm, it’s a very short distance. It was just that there wasn’t a road directly from my house to the farm, so I had to take this circuitous route.
But the thing is that I could go to the farm any time I wanted to. I could walk around the farm. I could ask them what they were doing. I could look at the goods growing. I could participate in the growing of the food. I could know everything about the food that I wanted to know. It was practically in my backyard. I think that that kind of transparency should exist for every product. And that’s just a simple example.
You know your growers, you know the people that are processing the fibers into the fabric and that’s just the way it should be. It’s just a very beautiful thing.
So, I noticed that there’s not a lot of colors. My first question might be, “If I were to click through on some of these, say, are they going to come in different colors, yes?”
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes, we can get every color in organic fabric. We can dye with organic dyes, which doesn’t mean it’s systematically digital dyes, it can also be chemical dyes, but with no known toxic components in these dyes. We can get any color.
What you have to understand is that the Only Organic Fabric Shop website was created shortly, late last year. And so there will be new products very, very soon. We have a lot of colors on our French website. And so other colors are coming.
Tomorrow, for instance, there will be two colors for French terry. We received them today in our shop, so tomorrow, you can buy them on our online shop.
DEBRA: So how can we look at it? Do you have a link on the Only Organic Fabric Shop to your French site? If I wanted to go look at the French site, could I then say to you in French [laughing]…
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: There is a very poor English translation on the French website. That was the main reason to create the English American speaking website. But of course, you can have a link to the French website. We have about 250 references on this site.
DEBRA: And is there a link to the French site on your English-speaking Only Organic Fabrics website?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: There will be one very, very soon.
DEBRA: I think that will be a great idea. And so another thing I want to point out is that people can order samples of your organic fabrics.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes.
DEBRA: I think they’re only ¢39. Is that right?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: That’s right, yeah.
DEBRA: That’s what it says, ¢39. That’s great! So for people who are concerned about if you tolerate fabrics or whatever, you can get samples from her before you even order. That’s also another excellent point that you’ve done.
So, I’m trying to remember. Part of my attention is on the technical things going on today, talking on the phone instead of all my other things, so I have attention elsewhere. But tell us about – I’m looking at this section called “batting, wadding and quilt fibers.” I see padding and wadding, but I don’t know what either of those things are.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: I’m not sure I used the right terms for this type of fabric. In fact, it is cotton fabric or whole fabric. It’s non-woven fabric in fact.
DEBRA: Okay! We’ll talk more about it when we come back because we need to go to break. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. My guest today is Stephanie Abgrall from the Only Organic Fabric Shop where she sells all these great GOTS-certified organic fabrics, Only-Organic-Fabric-Shop.com. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is – oops, I just lost the page. Stephanie…
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes.
DEBRA: I try to make everything sound like it’s totally perfect behind the scene and I’m just sitting here clicking on tabs on my browser here and I just closed the tab that has her name on it, Stephanie…
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Abgrall.
DEBRA: …Abgrall from Only Organic Fabric. That’s Only-Organic-Fabric-Shop.com. I want to get back to this page that’s got the cotton padding and the cotton wadding on it. One of the things that I love about this site is that it has unusual things on it that we don’t find here. And so I was looking during the break and so I want to explain and ask a question.
So cotton padding, it says is for quilting and blankets and clothes. So it’s this like a cotton fabric that is like a fabric because you say blankets? Could you just buy some of these and make a blanket from it?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Basically, it’s non-woven fabric. It’s just mechanically processed to get a thick fabric that you can use in batting or wadding, for example, for quilts or blankets or even for tossing clothes that you want to be warmer.
DEBRA: Okay, but you couldn’t just take this non-woven fabric and make a blanket with it, not hold together? You need to put it in between other fabrics?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes, it needs to be quilted between two fabrics like just the cotton you use for washing yourselves. I don’t know the word in English, but it’s just like a hydrophil cotton. It comes like that. So you have to put it between two other fabrics.
DEBRA: I see, okay. So then that’s the padding. But then you have something wadding, which is fluffier. So that would be like if you wanted to make a stuff toy or cushions or a mattress or something like that.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Exactly! That is just cotton that is just in bulk.
DEBRA: Yes, yes. Now, the important thing about this, I want to say is that – and you can correct me if I’m wrong and you have different information. I’ve heard from numerous sources that there had been tests done which show that the pesticides, by the time a piece of fabric is processed, even though the pesticides are bad for the environment that there’s no residue of pesticides in fabric, but that they are present if you’re buying cotton. We call it batting here, but you’re calling it wadding because that’s just like the raw cotton. And so it’s especially important to buy this organic if you’re going to be putting it on a pillow or a mattress or something like that because it’s going to be full of pesticides.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Exactly, exactly. Because we are living on fabrics every hour in our life and so it’s really, really important to have safe fabrics and safe home linen or safe furnishing and safe clothes. The fact is that when you use organic fabrics, you not only get no pesticides, but also, you get no allergy to the fabric. It’s really, really important.
DEBRA: Right! And there’s also no toxic finishes on them either. I’m always looking at – the first thing that people are exposed to are the finishes like the permanent press finish or sizing and things like that and your fabrics don’t have anything of those things on them.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Of course not, of course not. They are only natural finishing, that is to say maybe our washing is made with natural washing methods and no phthalates or any toxics in it. And moreover, our prints and dyes are also non-toxic.
You can often find fabrics, which are made from organic cotton, but then the processing and finishing are not certified. That is nonsense because the most toxic part of it is the dying and finishing and printing of the fabric.
DEBRA: I just want to really, really underline that, put it in italics and put exclamation marks on it and bold what you just said. So many times we see fabric products that are called organic cotton or whatever the fabric is. But it’s not GOTS-certified. And if you don’t see GOTS-certified organic cotton, then only the fiber is organic, but not the rest of the process.
This is why it was so important for me to have you on today because of that point, that there’s so many and consumers need to separate out and understand that if it doesn’t say GOTS-certified organic, then just plain, old ‘organic’ only refers to the fiber itself and not any of the rest of the processing.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes, that’s it. The consumers should be very vigilant to this. I must say they should ask the retailer where the fabric comes from, where is the certification, can I get the certificate, can I see who is certificated, which step is certificated? And by this way, you can be sure that your fabric is safe.
DEBRA: Yes. And I think that we’re just now at this point in time in the very first baby steps of just a few people doing this that this is really the direction that it’s going. Don’t you see it expanding as time goes by in terms of more and more fabrics being certified?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Yes. Many of our customers, they came to us in fact when they have their first baby because they were concerned about the security and the safety for the baby’s clothing. For instance, we have a lot of customers who are making clothes, diapers. And then they are making the baby’s bed linen or clothes. And then the baby grow and then they made children clothes and so on. It’s a way to help people be aware of the qualities and the non-toxicity of this fabric.
DEBRA: That’s so wonderful! Now, all of your fabrics are made in Europe, correct?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Excuse me?
DEBRA: All of your fabrics are made in Europe?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Most of them are made in Turkey, which is very close to Europe because it is the only place where we can grow cotton. Our flax is grown and woven in France. Our denims and chambrays are also woven in France. As well as our wide width fabrics, they are also woven in France. We try to have the smaller transportation as possible.
DEBRA: Well, I just want to reiterate that the reason that we’re talking today is because in America, it’s my understanding that there are no GOTS-certified fabrics. Number one, they are not produced in America and number two, they’re not sold in America by American businesses. There’s not even a website, a single website that I know of like yours by an American-based company that is offering what you’re offering. So I so appreciate that you are doing what you’re doing and that you’re really a forerunner and it’s a very important thing.
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: Thank you. Yes, indeed, there are no factory in the United States that has the whole GOTS-certified process. You can get fabrics, which are made from organic fibers, then the process is not certified.
DEBRA: Right, right. And so I think that we’re going to start seeing a change towards the GOTS certification because if more people find out the difference, then they’ll be choosing the certified products – at least I will be telling them to.
So we only have about a minute left. Is there anything else you want to say that you haven’t said?
STEPHANIE ABGRALL: First of all, I want to thank you for the time you took to talk with me because it’s a really important moment for me. That’s all. Merci.
DEBRA: Well, merci to you. Thank you. So I’ll give your website address again, Only-Organic-Fabric-Shop.com. There’s hyphens in between each one of them. And again, you can get woven cottons, printed cottons, cotton jersey and knits and organic flax and linen and stuffing for your pillows and mattresses and quilts and especially wide width organic fabrics, which are often very hard to find. You can get samples. Every single bit of it, 100%, you don’t have to read the description, every bit of it is 100% GOTS-certified organic, which is the strictest standard in the world for fabrics.
So again, thank you so much, Stephanie for being with me. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You can go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com to listen to other shows or listen to this show again or read the transcripts (we have a transcript). I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. Be well.