Clearing Up Cotton Naming
Michael J. Knell -- Furniture Today, May 15, 2006
To the Editor:
I note the Opinion piece “Scaring Up Organic Cotton” in the May 1 issue [HTT, page 18], which deals with mislabeling products made with organic as well as Egyptian cotton.
There has been a skunk in the corner for some years now and it's time “to kick the skunk.”
The promotion and use of the word “Egyptian” on towels and, in some instances ,for sheets is a total sham on a number of levels. One is that most of the cotton grown in Egypt is not Extra Long Staple cotton or what is really known in the world cotton trade as truly premium cotton. Egypt grows approximately one million bales of cotton and only about one quarter of that is Extra Long Staple cotton. This is opposed to Supima, which is all 100% Extra Long Staple cotton.
Cotton is like any other commodity: it is graded and priced based upon a quality standard and what the trade is willing to pay for its quality characteristics. I can assure you that most of the Egyptian cotton used in towels is just regular cotton grown in Egypt. These “Egyptian” towels are made from the very cheap Egyptian cotton and are less expensive because it is of an inferior quality.
Since there is no organization or group that monitors the use of “Egyptian” cotton, some towel manufacturers are using whatever cotton they want and calling it Egyptian. There is probably some mixing or deception going on with “Supima,” but we are taking many steps to be sure that brands using the Supima label are getting true American Pima cotton.
To use the Supima label, one must have a license and we require manufacturers to submit documentation that they are purchasing American Pima cotton. We have also contracted with an international inspection firm to conduct random inspections at manufacturing facilities worldwide.
The Federal Trade Commission has taken the position that when a textiles product is labeled as being made with special cotton such as Egyptian or Supima, it must be made of 100% of this type cotton. Their requirement is that if it is not 100%, then the percentage must be noted.
We talk to some of our customers about this and they seem to know there are lots of “smoke and mirrors” going on with Egyptian cotton. However, I think some of them, as well as retailers and brands, would just like to ignore this fact. It appears that they tell their supplier, “We want an Egyptian towel, so-and-so size and weight for a specific price. Just tell me it's made of 'Egyptian' cotton.”
The customer is being deceived, and I don't think there are many in the industry who care.
Jesse Curlee, President, Supima, Phoenix
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