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The Good, the Bad and the Very Good in Cotton

The World's Top 1%

SupimaFeeling is believing and when you touch a product made with Extra-Long Staple (ELS) cotton you immediately know there is a point of difference. The soft, luxurious hand is only one of the premium characteristics associated with ELS cotton. Fiber strength and color retention are two additional performance traits that justify why this premium fiber accounts for the top 1% of the world’s cotton.

In the United States, cotton must be 1 – 3/8 inches or longer to be defined as an Extra-Long Staple (ELS) cotton or Luxury Cotton. ELS cotton is 35% longer than regular cotton and length is a key trait. The longer fiber is smoother and cleaner which translates to a shinier fiber that is less likely to pill and much softer to the touch.

There are various types of ELS cotton grown around the world, Egyptian Giza, Peruvian Pima and Sea Island, the ancestor for all ELS cotton. One of the most well known ELS cottons is Egyptian cotton. Egyptian Giza cotton was once considered the standard barer of luxury cotton, the fabric of the Pharos. But today, Egypt’s farming industry is yielding less and less cotton and only a small percentage of that cotton is considered Extra Long Staple cotton.

The name "Pima" was applied to ELS cotton being developed in the U.S. desert southwest in honor of the Pima Indians. It wasn't until mid-century that much attention was given to the new cotton. The real breakthrough came in 1951 when a seed was developed and introduced that produced an ELS cotton with superior fiber properties, luster and well as an unusually high yield.

In effort to brand and certify American-grown Pima cotton, The Supima organization was formed in El Paso, Texas in an effort to brand and certify American-grown Pima Cotton. The Supima name was derived from a contraction of the words “Superior” and “Pima. In its early years Supima was primarily concerned with promotion, government regulations and agricultural research. In an effort to keep pace with the expanding interest worldwide in ELS cotton, Supima broadened its responsibilities essentially overseeing the production and distribution of all certified American Pima cotton.

Luxury, quality and craftsmanship are the benchmarks of American-grown, ELS cotton. As brands across multiple categories look to create value and a point of difference for consumers, an emphasis on premium fabrics is becoming more relevant and ELS cotton has seen a boon in demand.

For more details, see Supima at

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Over 370-fine count textile mills, manufacturers and brands/retailers from around the world are licensed to use the Supima brand; licenses are given only to select, high-quality textile mills, apparel and textile manufacturers, and brands/retailers whose products are made of American Pima cotton.

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HTT November 2017 cover

See the November 2017 issue of Home Textiles Today. In this issue, we look at Complex Colors, Complex Times--Trend forecasters and interior designers weigh in on 2018 palettes and motifs.  Other articles include: Data: Exclusive HTT soft window research; Innovation: Material Changes conference preview; Country report: India invests in the future and Fabrics: Showtime preview.  See details!