Our journey to create the ultimate sports polo started with the choice of cotton. The brief was simple: find a sustainable cotton fabric that has a luxurious hand feel and that is durable and breathable for long hits of tennis or days spent out on the golf course. Our search started locally at the family-run farms in Northern NSW and Central Queensland, and progressed overseas to the Supima cotton grown in the Southwest of California and Giza 45, harvested on the banks of the Nile river in Egypt. Countless hours of research, sampling and testing later, and we arrived at Sea Island Cotton - the world’s rarest and finest cotton. Here’s its story.
West Indian Sea Island cotton, known as “gossypium barbadense” or “black seed”, is one of the oldest and precious cotton types in the world. Since the 15th century, Sea Island has been grown and handpicked by a few dedicated experts on the small islands in the Caribbean, including Antigua, Barbados and Jamaica. The islands have the optimum mix of sunshine, rain and humidity required for its growth. Once picked, the cotton is sent to the very few expert spinners around the world who have the skills required to knit or weave the material.
For a period of time in the 1700s, the Caribbean ceased production of the cotton and seeds were transported to ‘The Sea Islands’ - a chain of tidal islands in South Carolina in the United States. It is here that the cotton acquired its name when an Englishman, Francis Levett, began cultivating the cotton, only to be forced to flee his plantation when the American Revolution swept across the United States in 1775.
But what is it about Sea Island cotton that makes it so special? Firstly, its rarity. Sea Island cotton makes up 0.0004% of the world’s annual cotton supplies, with only 150 bales harvested per year. Secondly, the extra-long staple or ‘ELS’, defined as fibres longer than 34 millimeters, are the longest in the world and therefore create the finest fabric. Thirdly, once spun, the Sea Island cotton fibres are transformed into a fabric with fine, uniform texture and silky lustre, that is perhaps the softest and most comfortable fabric to wear against the skin. Fourthly, the robustness of the fibre means that any clothing made from Sea Island cotton is remarkably long lasting, and therefore a very sustainable cotton.
Sea Island cotton has long been associated with the very finest quality clothing, from British aristocracy to dressing dapper Hollywood actors on the big screen. Indeed, Sea Island cotton is best known for its association with James Bond. In 1946, his creator, novelist and former naval intelligence officer, Ian Fleming, bought Golden Eye, a house and estate on Jamaica, one of the Caribbean islands most associated with the cotton. It remained his tropical home for 30 years and it was here that he wrote all 14 James Bond novels while wearing his favoured fabric. Decades later, one of the James Bond actors in Daniel Craig, wore a custom fit Sea Island cotton polo shirt in scenes shot for the Casino Royale film.
Having passed the ‘Bond-test’ and experienced somewhat of a revival in recent years, Sea Island cotton was the perfect fit for our Camp Cove Polo.