MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The votes are in, and consumers in nine foreign countries don’t just prefer to wear cotton; they are willing to pay more for the comfort of natural fibers, especially cotton.

According to the most recent Global Lifestyle Monitor survey conducted by Cotton Incorporated and Cotton Council International, a strong representative sample of global consumers overwhelmingly prefer cotton.

This is the third Global Lifestyle Monitor survey in which consumers in Brazil, China, Colombia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom were interviewed.

Since the last GLM survey in 2001, fiber content increased notably as a key factor among consumers purchasing clothing. Almost half of the people surveyed strongly agree it is important to have clothing made of natural fibers such as cotton. Fiber’s importance as a factor for purchase went up to 78 percent from 75 percent in 2001. Cotton is the most popular fabric among the nine countries surveyed with more than half (60 percent) of the consumers citing they prefer to wear clothing made of cotton rather than other fibers. Two-thirds prefer to know the fiber content of garments before purchasing them and 64 percent avoid synthetics, an increase of six points from 1999.

Overall, quality is still considered the most popular deciding factor in purchasing clothes. In fact, 96 percent of respondents consider clothing quality, which has become more important in the last two years. In addition, 72 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for better quality clothes, up from 68 percent in 1999 and 70 percent in 2001.

Comfort of clothing remains preferable over fashion according to 87 percent of the respondents. Comfort, softness and breathability were cited by 60 percent as the attributes best suited for today's fashions. Respondents in seven countries say comfort is the No. 1 concern when buying clothing. Similarly, 60 percent of respondents say cotton is the fiber they wear most often.

Survey numbers detailing India's fiber preferences are most notable considering the Cotton Gold Alliance initiative sponsored by Cotton Incorporated and Cotton Council International that began in India in 2002. The program offers Indian manufacturers the expertise of both organizations as well as the use of the Seal of Cotton trademark.

The survey indicates 65 percent of Indians wear cotton most often and 90 percent prefer comfort to fashion. Consumers in India express this sentiment most often making up 63 percent of the respondents--nearly double the global average. India also has the highest percentages of cotton preference among the surveyed countries behind Hong Kong.

GLM III included 500 interviews in Hong Kong, Japan, China, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Brazil and India with about 300 interviews taking place in Columbia. Men and women between the ages of 15 and 54 that purchase most of their own apparel were included in the study.

e-mail: eadorris@aol.com