Raw Material Spotlight: SUPIMA® Cotton
We are about to delve into some really geeky apparel stuff. So if you are fine with just wearing something exceptionally luxurious and responsibly made and not at all interested in what goes into the production of such exceptional fabric, you can stop here. For those like us that are fascinated with the process though, buckle up. Put plainly, SUPIMA® is the world's finest cotton. The word SUPIMA® is actually portmanteaux of "Superior" and "Pima" to designate, identify and protect the exceptionally high quality Pima cotton that is grown in the US. This very special ELS (Extra Long Staple) Pima cotton strand is revered for it's unique properties and has been used for hundreds of years to make the bedding and linens for those with the most discerning taste and the means to afford them. This Pima cotton was originally grown along the Nile River Valley in Egypt and over time the reputation for Egyptian Cotton grew. Other cotton producers quickly realized this and started growing cotton all over Egypt hoping to take advantage of the premium prices people were willing to pay for it since it could be listed as "Egyptian Cotton". This cheaper cotton they were growing is called "upland" cotton and it is the vast majority of all cotton used in garments, bedding and linens globally.
Not Everything is Supima®
As this inferior cotton entered the marketplace the true meaning of the ELS Pima cotton was lost. Millions of people around the world still think that their inexpensive "Egyptian Cotton" sheets use the same cotton as the Egyptian cotton sheets made by world-class bedding companies such as Frette or Sfarra. They are not. There are a number of reasons one bed set can cost $2200 and one costs $45 and it is not just markup. The same goes for some luxury apparel. The primary difference is that the ELS cotton creates a significantly softer and smoother fabric because of the length of the strands.
About 25 years ago a few folks decided to start growing the far superior ELS Pima cotton in other parts of the world. Peru became a hotspot and to this day continues to produce high quality cotton. But the most successful operation exists in the Southwestern and Western US under the SUPIMA® moniker. The US as a whole has always been focused on quality control and the ability to certify and quantify products for consumer assurance. In order to avoid the confusion and frustration that took place with "Egyptian Cotton", and to maintain the standards of the cotton grown here, the SUPIMA® organization was formed. They tightly allocate and regulate the farming and harvesting of the cotton to ensure it meets the strict guidelines and regulations required to receive the approval to use their logo.
From the Start
Since our inception we have been using SUPIMA® cotton for our garments and anything that has SUPIMA® in its product title features it. To this day we are still one of the only companies in the world making blank wholesale garments with SUPIMA®. Of course plenty of household names in the luxury segment use it, and for some of those brands we are actually their manufacturer. But for the rest of the wholesale blank apparel industry, their focus is on price because that is what 99% of the marketplace cares about. SUPIMA® is expensive and for good reason....it is simply incomparable. And we understand that the price is the reason the big names in the wholesale and imprintable marketplace won't use it. Their value proposition is based on how cheap a t-shirt can be made. And that is what most customers want. But there is that 1% out there that likes to read nerdy articles like this and obsesses over quality and that is who our clients are.
If you want to learn more or find some of the brands that feature SUPIMA® cotton head over to their website to dig in further about cotton and why not all cotton is created equal.