HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR UNDERWEAR?
Toxic undies?! Donald Trump is the president of the United States and I'm asking you to worry about your knickers? I know. But hear me out. I'm not saying your undies are trying to kill you - actually, they might be - just that some are healthier than others.
Sixty per cent of the world's bras are produced in one Chinese city. It's called Gurao, and in 2010 Greenpeace reported that dyeing and finishing fabric for the production of more than 200 million bras a year had turned the river there weird colours and killed the fish.
A few years ago, a class action claimed Victoria's Secret bras had caused skin irritation allegedly due to the presence of formaldehyde. And although the American lingerie giant denied it (and the case was dropped) that chemical baddie routinely used in morgues and nail varnish is also used in textile and garment production - it helps keep shirts and sheets wrinkle-free, and prevents mildew when clothes are packed in plastic.
Meanwhile Australia's regulation of potentially harmful chemicals in imported textiles, clothing and footwear lags way behind Europe's. Oh, and if you wear padded bras, you're almost certainly keeping polyurethane foam close to your chest. It is derived from petroleum and can release toxic VOCs. Even cotton, the natural alternative, is routinely grown with pesticides, then bleached, dyed and finished with all kinds of chemical muck. But don't get your knickers in a knot; there are alternatives. Here are three to start off with:
Mighty Good Undies
I love this Australian online start up, which uses Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Fairtrade Cotton Standard certified cotton jersey to make simple, great quality undies for men and women. Women's styles are focused on easy singlets, briefs and what they call "granny knickers" - basically, high-waisted and comfy. Although limited (you can have any colour as long as its black) more styles are being added, and they cost about the same as Bonds.
Mighty Good Undies' founders Elena Antoniou and Hannah Parris were inspired by the idea of "ethical underwear at high street prices". They also wanted to help tell the story of cotton, which accounts for about 31% of worldwide fibre production. The conventionally grown stuff comes at a staggering social and environmental cost," says Antoniou. "Most of us understand the value of organic food – we believe that buying organic textiles is equally as important for your health and the health of the planet."
After something more blatantly sexy? Boutique British brand Ayten Gasson is perhaps the ultimate upscale answer, and they ship to Australia (hurrah!). Entirely UK-made, this decadent lingerie and sleepwear is made to last using traditional techniques. Designer Ayten Roberts includes organic silk and peace silk (made without killing the silk worms) in her collections, which include pretty silk knickers, bride's garters and trousseau-worthy teddies. Look out for upcycled vintage Nottingham lace trims. For smaller bosomed girls, the brand's beautiful soft cup bralets offer a very luxurious alternative to mass-produced padded and underwired styles. No formaldehyde here.
Sporty minimalists might look to Australian brand Boody . They make great briefs, crop tops, leggings and socks out of sustainable bamboo, which grows with minimal water and no pesticides. The viscose process that produces the yarn is run in a closed loop, and they promise the resulting fabric is clean as well as green. "[It] has been found to contain no trace chemicals that pose any health threat whatsoever," they say.