The fabric that touches your skin should be as pure and natural as the day you were born. Not mass-produced for efficiency, but rather woven with the user in mind. From cotton grown without pesticides and made without chemicals, it makes for a fabric that’s gentle on anyone’s skin. If you get something for your loved ones, it should be something like this.

The Organic Cotton Pioneer

Gen Maeda started out in 1921 buying silk fabric for umbrellas, then decided to follow the trends of the time and delve into luxury handkerchiefs. But neither venture lasted long, as the demands of consumers kept shifting. Next, they focused on vegetable-dyed silk handkerchiefs, but unfortunately, they did not turn over as much profit as they expected. Then one day in 1993, Gen Maeda happened upon organic cotton at an exhibit and decided to start developing fabrics with organic cotton, because of his experience with natural products like vegetable dyes.

Gen Maeda had a few obstacles right from the start. Since the cloth woven in this region was mainly made of silk thread, the looms were developed accordingly to weave silky, thin, long-fiber yarns. It’s very difficult to weave short fiber cotton on the same loom. And in the 1990s, organic cotton was unfamiliar in Japan and cost more than double the price of common cotton. When they first tried to sell the organic cotton fabric, there were no buyers around.

However, eventually, some stores weren’t as picky and said, "If it’ll sell, we'll take it." The first thing Gen Maeda made with organic cotton was a simple handkerchief. You can't tell the difference between organic cotton and pesticide-based cotton just by looking at it. However, Ichiro Maeda says, "You’ll notice the difference in quality as soon as you use it." Gradually, organic cotton products began to penetrate the market, and to address the demand of consumers, they started making new products such as T-shirts as well.

Currently, they are developing products together with towel weavers and manufacturers who make polo shirts and knits. They also develop new fabrics by combining organic cotton with natural materials such as wool, silk, and linen, creating a wide variety of fabrics from thin, gauze-like materials to thicker materials that can be used for coats. There are 900 kinds of fabrics currently in storage, all made with special care and attention to processing and avoiding all use of chemical substances. Their wide range of fabrics is so meticulous that even people with multiple chemical sensitivities can use it.

Since cotton is not an edible agricultural product, it was common practice to grow it using large amounts of pesticides, which unfortunately creates a poor environment for cotton field workers. Choosing organic cotton that doesn’t use any pesticides also helps the people who work the fields. Recognition of organic cotton is currently still higher overseas than in Japan, but the weavers of this city want to change that. "I want young people to use it a lot in Japan," says Tomio Maeda.

Certified organic cotton products are becoming more common in mass retailers these days. While those mass-produced items may be of high quality, Maeda Gen Shoten's organic cotton is in another league altogether. Certified by the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) and the Nippon Organic Cotton Marketing Organization (NOC), these fabrics have a tag called a "virtual travel ticket." If you scan the QR code written here, you can check the information on the fields where the cotton was grown and the factories involved.

On the third Saturday of the month, you can experience the process of a shawl woven by combining organic cotton and linen (6,000 yen). In addition to products such as towels, pajamas, and baby products, you can also buy loose fabrics as well. Recently, many people have come to buy "material to make sanitary cloth napkins". It’s recommended not only for those who work in sewing but also for those who want to use organic cotton for themselves and those close to them.

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