Much like any other activity, finding the right bag to transport necessary gear is essential for a dancer. This usually consists of leotards, tights, ballet shoes, pointe shoes, hair accessories, a water bottle, and snacks. Due to this, it is important to have a bag that is compartmentalized, sturdy, and a good size. This can be a hard thing to find, but Cloud & Victory has done a great job of that with this tote bag. It has six different sections, reinforced shoulder straps, and can hold up to 35 pounds. This company has become a more popular name in the dance industry over the past few years, and given their values of ethics and body inclusivity this is a great thing to see. I also appreciate that they are using organic cotton instead of its conventional counterpart, although that has its own issues as well. Their multiple certifications that come from fairly trustworthy sources are a good indicator of their dedication to ensuring this product is truly organic, in addition to the fair treatment of workers and reduction of their environmental impact from carbon emissions. One drawback worth discussion is the price. This bag sells for $43, whereas the average tote bag is $15-25. When dancers use a bag other than a tote, they are generally less than $40. There is a trend of more sustainable products coming at a higher price, but it would be even better if the company’s inclusion regarding body types carried over to economics as well.
There is a large variety of materials ranging from polyester to nylon that can be used to make a tote bag, but one of the most popular is canvas. Canvas is generally made of either cotton or linen, and within cotton there arises the numerous issues of conventional cotton production. The use of organic cotton instead has become increasingly popular, but it is worth taking a closer look at the differences between these two methods. When produced in the traditional way, cotton causes reduced soil fertility, loss of biodiversity, and dangerous health issues to the workers who are constantly exposed to toxic chemicals used in pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. Cotton takes up 2.5% of the planet’s agricultural area, but 7% of pesticides and 16% of insecticides are dedicated to it. These chemicals not only harm the workers but also pollute the environment. This prompts the turn to organic cotton, which removes the dependence on chemicals. The seeds are not treated with insecticides or fungicides and are not GMOs, synthetic fertilizers are not used for the soil or destruction of weeds, and leaves are removed by freeze drying and water as opposed to toxic chemicals.
This all sounds like a great solution to conventional cotton until yield comes into the picture. The yield for organic cotton has been found to be about 25% lower than traditional cotton. A lot more organic cotton needs to be planted to make the same product, which takes up more land and requires more resources. Even though organic cotton uses less water than conventional cotton, it still needs a significant amount. We are certainly experiencing an issue of water scarcity, so this is an interesting thing to keep in mind when considering organic cotton. Once manufactured into a product, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the environmental impact of organic cotton, such as washing it less and increasing the use of a particular item. Back to the product at hand here, this tote bag is made of Global Organic Textile-certified organic cotton canvas. This standard includes on-site inspections of the entire supply chain to ensure that a product is organic. The switch to organic cotton is certainly a good step, but that does not mean it is completely sustainable.
Cloud & Victory makes it clear that social responsibility is at the center of their brand. They are not extremely specific on the details of their production process, but they do share some information in terms of ethics. First, they mention that their shirts and tops are made in developing countries by factories committed to UN fair labor standards. They do not make it clear whether this applies to their other products such as this tote bag. It is a bit concerning that they specify that it is their shirts and tops are what adhere to these standards, though. The closest information related to the production of this bag is that they do “whatever we can to ensure that the people involved in producing our clothing, from the cotton farmers to seamstresses, are fairly-paid and treated with the dignity and respect as is deserving to all individuals”.
There is some more information available on their general manufacturing process that can provide some insight on how this bag is made. They work with manufacturers who follow the ethical and quality guidelines put in place by the Fair Wear Foundation, Confidence in Textiles certification, Global Organic Textile Standard, and the Carbon Trust. The Fair Wear certification consists of four major elements: brand performance checks, factory audits, complaints helplines, and factory training sessions. Overall, this ensures that various labor standards are met and constantly improved upon. The Confidence in Textiles is a standard from the company Oeko-Tex. This is a label that the product will have, and means that every part of it has been tested for harmful substances and does not pose a threat to human health. The Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS, is a quality assurance system based on on-site inspection and certification of the whole supply chain to ensure that a product is organic. Finally, the Carbon Trust Standard aids organizations in developing and communicating their efforts in carbon, water, and waste management. Cloud & Victory follows this standard for carbon, as most of their pieces have a 90% reduced carbon footprint. The assessments done in order for these certifications to be awarded are all performed by independent or third-party institutes and are not simply purchased, which increases confidence in their validity.
This organic cotton tote bag is produced by Cloud & Victory. The company was founded in 2013 by a woman from Singapore named Min. She decided to start the company after graduating from the University of Melbourne with a double degree in law and political science. The company’s key values are positivity, integrity, and kindness and they are extremely inclusive of all body types. This is something that is so often lacking from the dance industry, so that is definitely good to see here. Ethical dancewear was not necessarily a priority in the early stages of this business. Rather, it was the desire for well-made, high-quality clothing that flowed into ethical manufacturing. Min took note of the grim realities of garment manufacturing such as low wages, the exploitation of children, and the damage it does to our ecosystem. She is determined to not be part of a cycle of destruction, and realizes that ethically and sustainably produced products are also of better quality and safety for the customer. Another significant part of this company is their contributions to the community. This tote bag comes from the Every Body Dance collection, from which a portion of the proceeds are currently being donated to Stop AAPI Hate. This is a coalition that is working against the anti-Asian hate that has become increasingly prevalent recently. More generally, Cloud & Victory organizes occasional ballet charity fundraisers to raise money for the Little Bells Promiseland orphanage in Nepal, in addition to other charities dedicated to ending slavery and child abuse. Their ethical initiatives are fairly impressive, but it would be nice to see some more direct action surrounding environmental sustainability. They say that they are committed to producing items using renewable energy and waste-minimizing methods, but do not go into detail about how this is happening.