I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: on day one of Cotton & Care, we envisioned making the perfect set of sheets from luxury, extra-soft Egyptian cotton. By day two, we’d abandoned that dream and firmly settled on Supima as our cotton of choice. We learned a lot in our initial research that made this decision obvious, and I’m going to share that information now.
When you boil down to the science of it, Egyptian cotton and Supima (or Pima cotton, which is the crop itself) are basically the same thing. Both originate from a species of plant called Gossypium barbadense, also known as extra-long staple (ELS) cotton. While Egyptian cotton is grown on the banks of the Nile river, Supima grows in the similar mild, sunny, and dry climates of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas. Both are revered for the extra-soft, strong, and lightweight fabrics that they produce. ELS cotton is classified by fibers that are at least 1 3/8” in length. This is important because longer fibers are stronger and, when spun into yarn, can create a finer fabric that is more lustrous, long-lasting, and less susceptible to pilling. Supima itself has an average fiber length of 1 7/16”, which truly makes it the best of the best.
Both Supima and Egyptian cottons are excellent choices for luxury bedding, but this assumes we’re talking about “real” Egyptian cotton, as opposed to the “Egyptian cotton” that you see on the labels of those sheet sets at the big box stores. Why are they different? Well, because 90% of products labeled as Egyptian cotton are fake (according to the Wall Street Journal). Authentic Egyptian cotton is similar in quality to Supima, but the majority of the true ELS cotton grown in Egypt stays within its own borders. Instead, Egypt exports lower-quality long staple cotton (which is 15-20% shorter) and labels it as “Egyptian”. This isn’t any different than the cotton that comes from China, India, or South America, except that you’re paying a mark-up for the prestige that comes with the “Egyptian” label without any of the quality. Personally, I think this is the kind of fake news that Donald Trump should be worrying about.
When we learned about these concerns with the authenticity of Egyptian cotton, we knew we couldn’t subject our customers to this uncertainty. In contrast, buying goods with the Supima label guarantees that you’re getting real, premium, luxurious ELS cotton that’s been exclusively grown under responsible conditions in the USA. Supima is the trademarked organization that oversees the use of their brand name on products manufactured from superior Pima cotton. Supima requires a strict licensing process that includes rigorous testing of the quality and authenticity of the cotton before a brand can earn the right to use the Supima name. A listing of brands that have completed Supima’s verification process can be found on their website.
Because of the strict quality standards and the geographic limitations in climates that can cultivate Supima, it is the rarest cotton strain in the world. Less than 3% of the cotton grown in the US, and under 1% of worldwide production, is Pima cotton. Even less than this is able to earn the Supima label. As a result, Supima cotton is pricey, it’s about three times as expensive as regular cotton. But we honestly feel like it’s well worth the cost. We find that our Supima cotton sheets hold up better, wash after wash, getting softer with time and lasting longer than any sheets we’ve used in the past.
Back in those early days, we made two critical decisions that shaped the identity of Cotton & Care; the first was our commitment to American manufacturing and the determination to develop Made in USA bed sheets, and the second was to source the best cotton in the world from Supima. Both have paid off through the pride we have in our company and the satisfaction that our customers share in our product. If you haven’t experienced the Supima difference yet, we invite you to give it a try.