This may come as news to you, but not all cotton is created in equal measures. From the t-shirt you wear to the pillow you sleep on and the jacket on your back, the cotton used in the production of each piece differs from item to item and company to company.
Extra-long staple cotton (ELS), as used by Ventile, is the pinnacle of cotton crop production. The first known reference to this evergreen perennial crop dates back to Peru in 3000 BC , where scientists believe the modern cotton crop was cultivated . Each strand of cotton is made up of lengths of fibers, known as a ‘staple’. For every pound of cotton, there is thought to be around 100 million individual fibers. As a naturally occurring product, cotton, just like pearls and diamonds, comes in different sizes. The length of the fiber affects the strength, evenness, and even the efficiency of the spinning process, of the final yarn. Cotton with short fibers can be difficult to spin and so, can produce low-quality yarn. The Gossypium Barbadense variety, however, is known for the extra-long staples which make up the crop.
ELS cotton is categorised as a fiber of extraordinary length . On average the fiber of the traditional Upland cotton comes in at 26mm , while an ELS fiber can come in at around 40mm . After spinning, the yarn is then doubled to increase its durability and abrasion resistance. Such properties offer a finer yarn with superior strength and better uniformity which shows in the finished fabric. This high lustre fiber ultimately creates garments which are smoother, softer and harder wearing than traditional yarns. Such was the soft texture of the ELS cotton that, at the turn of the century the fabric was known to be mistaken for silk.
At Ventile, the process begins by securing the highest grade, extra-long staple cotton, with only 2% of the world’s cotton crop meetting the exacting standards. This raw extra-long cotton fiber is picked, sorted, and spun into yarns, which, along with over 15,000 strands, are woven together to make the famous Ventile fabric.
How does this cotton fabric work?
Originally developed for the British Army in WW2, the fabric was designed to be cool and comfortable on land, yet warm and impenetrable if it came into contact with water. Once wet, the ELS cotton fibers would swell, creating a barrier which protects the wearer from the elements. Such technology quickly became known to outdoor enthusiasts looking for a breathable fabric suitable for their personal expeditions. Ventile fabric provided the perfect solution. It allowed vapor on the inside of the items to pass through the pores in the fabric while creating a barrier from the larger water droplets on the outside. Today we refer to this as climate control fabric, a fiber that allows moisture to move rapidly along the fiber surface and pass quickly through the fabric.
For the past 70 years Ventile has developed a cotton fabric which is both breathable and comfortable to wear. With this fabric, Ventile has built its reputation as the supplier of choice for global brands such as J. Crew, Jil Sanders, Barbour, and Ralph Lauren, to name a few.
Damp, J. E.; Pearsall, D. M. (1994). "Early cotton from coastal Ecuador". Economic Botany. 48 (2): 163–165
International Trade Centre definition of ELS cotton. http://www.intracen.org/Extra-long-staple-cotton/
Stephen Yafa – Cotton: the Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber, Penguin, 2005