Sea Island Cotton – Sea what cotton?!
Originary from the Gossypium Barbadense plant, native from South America’s area of Sea Island (hence its name) but also grown in the West Indies since the 15th century, this incredible type of cotton has an intense backstory to it.
It was the year of 1786, South Carolina, when this strain started being planted. Among the first ones to do it there was a British man named Francis Levett, who was responsible for the strong association of Sea Island Cotton with the finest quality of clothing, assisted by the British Aristocracy – even Queen Victoria’s handkerchiefs were made from this special cotton! The result? Its expensiveness and scarcity served only to increase its allure and exclusivity.
Like in any great fairytale there came a dark time. On the early 20th Century an infestation of weevil spread over the entire cotton belt, from Mexico to USA’s Eastern seaboard, forcing an abrupt halt on the rush for Sea Island. Few seeds survived this catastrophe and the entire weight of preserving this species rested upon them. Thanks to a group of dedicated farmers the surviving seeds were preserved and this rare strain of cotton lasted through the years.
Nowadays, it is at the Caribbean where Sea Island grows and is carefully hand-picked by a small group of dedicated experts. Its popularity rebounded, thanks to the enduring quality of the plant, its extra-long staple length, silky luster and fine uniform texture.
A rare and precious commodity
Finding a needle in a haystack is not easy, but neither is getting hands on Sea Island Cotton! The portion of this rare fiber in the total worldwide production of cotton (all types) is no more than 0,0004%! Yet you will find more being sold than produced… In order to counteract this, a strict licensing system was put in motion, together with a network of long-term contractual partners to insure the purity of this precious raw material.
Also with the purpose of inspecting and certifying every kilogram of locally produced Sea Island cotton, the WISCA (Western Indian Sea Island Cotton Association) was created. There’s even a special numbered hologram that is used to assure 100% authenticity is respected.
So, what are the special features of Sea Island?
If you are holding a fabric made with this super fiber you will just know it. How? We can start with its natural silken sheen and incredible handfeel soft as cashmere thanks to its perfect yarn structure, moving to its long-lasting and hard-wearing features, with the upper hand of having a low felting tendency and an extremely clear weave pattern. But the true cherry on top is its positive contribution to the ecological balance thanks to its protected and controlled production!