Image Hosted by


atelier b. and milk

photo: Guillaume Pelletier
model: Julie Brunet
clothes by atelier b.
ceramic milk carton by urban outfitters


Can We Rely on Organic Food and Clothing?

Have organic labels and the food and clothing products that exhibit them lost their reliability?

By Bob Folkart, Posted Jul 27, 2009

Organic food and clothing display their organic labels in boutiques, supermarkets and upscale department stores throughout the world. To each of us who purchase organic products, these labels and the products that wear them, represent peace of mind, good health and a clean environment. But does the organic label guarantee anything more than an organic product? Does it even standby the word “organic” anymore? Have organic labels and the food and clothing products that exhibit them lost their reliability? Let’s take a closer look at the organic label and see what we might find in the products beneath it.

The demand for organic products has spread rapidly across the globe. Consumers seek the word “organic” stamped on all kinds of merchandise including toys, bedding, beauty products, food and clothing. Organic food and clothing are the leading products sought by eco-oriented consumers. Eating or wearing organic is especially trendy around Earth Day but it makes good sense as well.

The health and safety benefits of these products can be traced back to their origins in organic agriculture. It is here that we find the brick and mortar foundation for the organic apparel and food industries. But does the mortar have a few cracks?

Organic farming includes the production of organic fruits and vegetables. It also produces organic fish and other organically grown food animals. It provides organic beef, lamb and poultry for our dinner table. It grows organic fiber for the clothing industry destined to become the latest eco-fashion styles sold throughout the world.

Organic agriculture is an ecological system that promotes natural chemical and biological cycles. It improves fertility and maintains a balanced and productive farming system. There are no harmful synthetic pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, antibiotics, radiation or genetically altered seeds in organic farming. Feeding plant crops must employ natural fertilizers while feeding livestock must employ 100% organic food. Besides natural fertilizers, enhancing crop production must rely on traditional methodologies such as crop rotation and composting. Pest protection must utilize creative natural approaches such as insect pheromone traps or the use of natural predators such as lady bugs and wasps.

It’s reassuring to know that all the beneficial components of organic farming described above are enforced by strict federal regulations. However, do benefits equate to reliability?

Based on the well known benefits of organic agriculture, organic food sales have grown about 20% per year. Organic fiber sales have increased at about 15% per year. The advantages of the pesticide-free organic label are apparent if you consider that in the US alone, one billion pounds of synthetic pesticides are released into the environment each year. It requires about 1/3 lb. of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to make a single conventional tee shirt (

How reliable is the organic label? First, consider the organic salmon you may have eaten for dinner last week. According to Consumer’s Reports (December, 2008), “…the National Organic Standards Board recommended in November, organically grown fish may be fed non-organic fishmeal”( “which may be contaminated with mercury and PCBs”). Their recommendation would permit organic fish farming with“…open net cages which can flush pollution, disease, and parasites directly into the ocean”.

This type of recommendation could result in a two edged sword slicing consumer confidence in the organic label and slashing the stability of marine ecosystems. The pollution from fish excrement and uneaten fish meal can destroy many fish and plant populations thus affecting essential aquatic food chains.

The death of fish and other marine species along with dying plants and algae (first stimulated by nitrogen waste) results in depletion of dissolved oxygen by bacterial decomposers leading to further environmental degradation. Nutrient pollution, especially nitrogen wastes, has been identified as the principle cause of marine water deprivation. In British Columbia, the “49,600 tons of farmed salmon produced in the year 2000 contributed as much nitrogen as the untreated sewage of 682,000 people” (

Second, consider the organic cotton tee shirt you purchased online to wear on Earth Day. Does the organic label on it guarantee an organic product? If you carefully read the organic label it might read “Live Life Organics 100% certified organic cotton”. Here we do have a guaranteed organic product. However, according to the Live Life Organics’ Vice President, the production of organic clothing can include the use of toxic dyes and inks containing other pollutants, such as PVC, endangering the health of our air, water and food supply (“Planet Friendly Products”, Baltimore Sun, April 2008).

Essentially, even if the cotton fibers in the t-shirt are organic, the harmful potential of toxic chemicals for printing and coloring still exists. Besides environment impact, residues of these chemicals can irritate sensitive or allergic skin. Finally, the shirt could have been shipped without recyclable packaging and the clothing tags could be synthetic or attached with synthetic fibers.

Even federal regulations, such as those provided in the Organic Foods Production Act, are not “carved in stone”. The organic food and clothing industries are economically dependent on organic agriculture. Increased farming costs or reduced crop yields can have a negative economic impact on organic farming. The financial fallout can land on organic food and clothing companies and eventually the consumer.

Economic strategies employed by these industries to compromise expensive safety standards or even change them by lobbying Congress can potentially deface the integrity of the organic label. But what can we state about its current level of integrity? We can take the organic label for its face value and nothing more. Although there are rare exceptions like organic fish farms, if it’s an organic label, it’s an organic product. Its reliability is still intact!

In addition to many federal standards, both the organic food and apparel industries can follow guidelines provided by nonprofit consumer organizations like Green America ( Green America seeks voluntary compliance with their screening procedures and can provide organic companies with their “Seal of Approval”. This seal serves to identify a “socially and environmentally responsible green business”. The National Green Pages can help the vigilant consumer relieve any concerns in regard to a specific organic company or product. Furthermore, the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) has also created their own certification requirements and has certified organic restaurants for almost twenty years (

Generally, the organic label can be just as comforting and safe as you would like it to be. Let’s dig even deeper beneath it. What we find might restore that “piece of mind” feeling to most of us.

In the case of the organic salmon, Consumer Reports also indicated that only organic may be fed non-organic nutrients. The requirement of a complete organic diet for all other organic food animals continues in effect from beef to poultry. Finally, development of Closed System Aquaculture using barrier technologies, instead of open net cage farms, are making improvements in terms of pollution and destruction of fish and marine plant species. (

Likewise, let’s reconsider the organic cotton tee shirt. New developments are on the rise in the organic clothing industry in terms of make a safer and perhaps a less expensive product.

Color-grown, organic cotton “on the stem” is currently in development. Cotton is now being grown in a variety of different earth tones without the use of dyes. Color grown cotton is 20-40% less expensive than its chemically-dyed counterpart. It provides “soft to the touch” organic clothing and actually results in a color enhanced product, after washing, rather than a faded tee shirt or blouse (

If more expensive dyeing (“off the stem”) is used, many Green America retailers such as Live Life Organics, EcoGanik and Emperor’s Clothes, use non-toxic or low-impact inks and dyes to protect consumers and the environment. Many corporations, organic or not, now use recyclable packaging. One particular company has achieved success using their “trademark combination” of positives messages, low impact dyes, and hemp-tied hangtags that can be planted to recycle into wildflowers.

Organic labels and the products that display them are still reliable. Exceptions seem far and few between. Selecting the nonorganic alternative means potential toxic residues of carcinogens, hormones, antibiotics etc. on the food we eat or the clothes we wear.

The decision to choose the organic label is really based on how much we value the benefits behind it rather than worry about the product beneath it!

Article by Bob Folkart, an experienced author on environmental and social issues. He is Vice President of Live Life Organics (, a company featuring organic clothing with positive messages of hope, courage and compassion supporting the environment and our fellow man.

La dernière Cène

Léonard de Vinci, 1498
Marithé et François Girbaud, 2005
Pastiche de cette fameuse scène religieuse, la publicité de Marithé et François Girbaud a beaucoup fait couler d'encre. Remplaçant les apôtres par des femmes et changeant l'esthétisme de la scène, la maison a été poursuivie en cour.

On peut lire sur Wikipédia:
Le juge qualifie cette affiche d'« injure » faite aux chrétiens, injure, d'après lui, « au surplus renforcée (...) par l'incongruité de la position du seul personnage masculin, présenté dans une pose équivoque ». Il ordonne que l'affiche soit retirée immédiatement. L’avocate des créateurs, Me Laurence Garnier, a dénoncé une procédure visant à « interdire la liberté d'expression». Le tribunal a assorti « cette condamnation d'une astreinte de 100 000 euros par jour de retard, à compter du 3e jour suivant la signification » de cette ordonnance aux parties, qui ajoute que « l'injure ainsi faite aux catholiques apparaît disproportionnée au but mercantile recherché ». La société se défend d'avoir voulu offenser : « Jamais il n’a été dans l’intention de la maison d’offenser qui que soit. » Les avocats de l'association catholique, Me Thierry Massis et Me Jean-Louis Thieriot, reproche aux créateurs « d’utiliser une scène sacrée à des fins mercantiles », et une publicité avec des poses « lascives et des plus suggestives ». La Ligue des Droits de l'Homme s'est porté partie civile pour « défendre la liberté d'expression ». Le 14 novembre 2006, la Cour de cassation a annulé l'arrêt de la cour d'appel de Paris du 8 avril 2005 et, statuant sur le fond du litige, a débouté l'association Croyances et libertés.

Il est intéressant de constater que le personnage masculin est critiqué, alors que sur l'original de Da Vinci, le personnage féminin (souvent oublié) est dans une position bien semblable... Aussi, il est intéressant de voir le choix des aliments qui figurent sur la tables des deux oeuvres. Sur celle de Da Vinci, on retrouve du pain exclusivement, alors que dans la publicité de Marithé et François Girbaud, on retrouve quelques pains, mais aussi des poires.


Food and dernier cri

Food And Fashion Are More Compatible Than You Think

October 21, 2008

Most people, quite understandably, think fashion folk have little interest in food (beyond avoiding it, that is). Please! Food is colorful, it’s potentially expensive, and you can be a total snob about it—OF COURSE the fashionable are obsessed with it. Treating it in the only way they know how, they make it not about nutrition or health, but trends. Just as some styles are suddenly in and some are suddenly verboten, so you find with food. In order to find out what the current sitch is, forget about looking to Martha Stewart; instead, turn to the fashion PRs, these now being the only people on the planet who seem to be able to afford to give out whatever overpriced morsels are the dernier cri.

For a while, neon-hued Ladurée macaroons were the seemingly unstoppable fashion party fuel, as essential and as ubiquitous as Spanx. But they were supplanted by a new hors d’oeuvre: miniature fast food in the form of dollhouse-sized portions of fish and chips, cheeseburgers so small even Mary-Kate Olsen would have complained, fingernail-sized slivers of pizza, etc. It’s, like, ironic, you see, and also a clever way to allow guests to get a mini carb fix without developing a bloat that would play havoc with their Balenciaga LBD. But really, these were just the briefest of flickers, because there is one food trend that is truly all-dominating and all-encompassing in the fashion world and anyone who has been invited out to lunch by a fashion PR or journalist knows what it is: Japanese food.

I cannot overstate this: The fashion industry is completely obsessed with eating Japanese. I literally cannot remember the last lunch invitation I received from a PR that did not involve the verbal lure, “They do really great sashimi there.” Seeing as I do not eat fish, this has given me the perfect excuse to never go out for lunch with any PR, ever. Nobu is partly to blame for this Japanese hysteria, as it has given sushi a pleasing sheen of Hollywood cool. But I think we all know the real reason for fashion’s love of this particular cuisine, which is that it provides a legitimate cover for an attitude towards one’s waistline that is best described as neurotic. Miso soup for breakfast, a tub of salty beans for lunch, and a slice of raw fish for dinner— now that’s what I call a hearty day’s eating. If you’re a half-starved 15-year-old model, perhaps. Personally, I struggle with the thought of starting my day with, say, salty broth instead of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. Frankly, it’s enough to make you look back at the macaroons as the good ol’ days.

Food as Fashion

Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective
– By Robin Fox

Food as Fashion

The myth of nutrition is shown up by rapid changes in food fashions. Availability is of course important. As waves of different foods hit Europe, eating habits changed. At first these "foreign" foods, particularly spices, like foreign fashions were a privilege of the rich, but they soon percolated down. Giinter Grass wrote a novel (The Flounder) in which each section is based on a food that changed eating habits in Eastern Europe; turnips, pepper, and potatoes loom large.

But once foods become plentiful and varied, fashion takes over, and the lure of novelty - the trendy - is often disguised as concern for nutrition. Thus vegetarian diets and nouvelle cuisine, high fiber diets and cuisine minceur, all masquerade as "healthy." In fact, they all are nutritionally suspicious, but are used like any other fashion: to show how with-it we are. Just as clothes indicate our trendiness, so does food. When grande cuisine French cooking was in, it too was extolled as "healthy." Now sushi is a fad, raw fish is praised as a "high-protein, low-fat" source, ignoring the high rates of stomach cancer in Japan. When cheeseburgers were shown to produce enzymes that might inhibit cancer, a whole generation of food faddists was thrown into turmoil since the cheeseburger was decidedly out. Food snobbism has now become as refined as wine snobbism. Not knowing about kiwi fruit tart or fresh coriander or how to prepare a ristafel or couscous in the authentic fashion, marks one as a social failure. One has not kept up with the latest in food fashion. As with all fashion industries, food fashion thrives on change; it demands it. The vast industry can only survive if people’s tastes are constantly induced to change. The tremendous bombardment of food books and food programs leads educated and literate middle-class readers to feel guilty if they don’t "keep up."

This is a considerable change from the days of servants, when how to get the best cook or chef was the issue. The upper and upper-middle classes did not do their own cooking, and at the very top even any knowledge of it was unthinkable. The middle-class housewife would have to know about it, but was not likely to practice it. She would most likely go by Mrs. Beeton and simply give instructions on menus to the cook. Since servants have almost disappeared, and madame (and monsieur) has moved into the kitchen, the snobbery of preparing something trendy and exotic with relative ease has moved with them.

Along with this has gone a reverse snobbery - a deliberate cultivation of proletarian tastes as long as they are romantic: chili con carne, huevos rancheros, pancakes - all cowboy foods and heavy with the romanticization of the Old West. Or take the tremendous popularity of Cajun cooking - essentially a peasant cuisine but "Louisiana French," and hence romantic. Tex-Mex is another peasant style that has taken. All this goes along with the "rediscovery" of ethnic roots after several generations of denying them, and the lure of the "regional" and quaint. But very little of this would be so organized and spread so quickly if it were not for the demands of the food- fashion industry to find novelty. "New American" cuisine is a way simply to take the homely and make it seem exotic so as to generate yet another "new" food trend. The food-writing industry dominates magazines and the "living" sections of newspapers, and it succeeds because it is available to everyone. We may not all be able to be with-it by buying into the latest ludicrously expensive fashion trends, but we can all whip up a ratatouille, or a green chili stew, or a spinach quiche, or stir-fried shrimp, or blackened redfish, serve it with a trendy "blush" wine, and feel right up there with the new wave. One remarkable feature of the "proletarian chic" style of cooking is the wide popularity of the "cookout" or "barbecue," using rich spicy sauces to baste large cuts of meat. ("Barbe et queue"? The OED says it’s from the Haitian "barbacoa" - a crate on posts. Do we believe that?) This is, in the USA, another appropriation of cowboy cooking by the middle class - which has spread beyond America (the Australians will invite you to "put another shrimp on the barbie," if the ads are to be believed). Why, we might ask, does the man have to do the cooking outdoors and the woman indoors? Because the myths have it that cooking with fire is dangerous and should be left to the men. Again, this is probably a hangover from the romanticization of the cowboy and a way for men to feel macho while wearing aprons and preparing food.

This may explain why the working class, which usually lags in the food fad business, is right on top of the cookout. Usually the workers have neither the time nor the means to be faddists. Quantity and "tastiness" (smoked or pickled) continue to dominate their diets. The quantity is not necessary and is even positively harmful. Other workers - Chinese peasants, for example - eat sparingly. It reflects a late trickle-down effect: The conspicuous consumption of large quantities of food used to be an upper-class privilege, as did obesity. This is now reversed. The upper classes consume expensive and exotic food, but in relatively small quantities. Stoutness, once a striking advertisement for one’s well-fed status, is no longer socially acceptable. Joe Alsop, in his charming autobiography I’ve Seen the Best of It (New York: Norton, 1992) records what is probably the turning point here in his account of "dining out" in Washington, D.C., in the 1930s. Following delightedly the gargantuan eating customs of the capital, he achieved, through assiduous dining and scorn of exercise, a weight of over 200 lbs. and a threatening heart condition. The connection was by then obvious, and he was one of the first patients at the famous Johns Hopkins clinic of Dr. John Eager Howard, the genius who invented calorie counting combined with exercise, and thus the "Johns Hopkins Diet" - the granddaddy of them all. (The exercises were based on those used for polio victims.) When I knew the older and wiser Joe in the 1970s he was the thin and dapper dandy of his later famous years. But his book soulfully reflects his nostalgia for those great days of conspicuous calorie consumption (especially the terrapin stew, which smelled like feet but tasted like heaven).