We set out to create a great towel.
It turned out to be quite a quest, involving travel to a number of countries and talking to hundreds of experts and consumers.
First we had to find the best material to weave a towel.
After much research we came to the conclusion that nothing comes close to cotton for sustainability, naturalness, softness, absorbency and luxuriance.
But it can’t be just any cotton.
Whilst Egyptian cotton may be perfect for bed linen or shirts, to make a towel as great as we wanted to make a towel, you have to head to the hills behind the Aegean coast of Turkey.
The perfect combination of soil, rainfall, sunshine and wind produces cotton which is long, strong and exceptionally absorbent. This cotton has extra long fibres, a rare white colour and a natural lustre.
Organic Aegean cotton is rare. Very little of the world’s cotton is grown in Turkey. Even less in the Aegean region. And only a tiny amount of that is grown organically. No pesticides whatsoever. Not just important for the environment, but towels come into contact with our skin so the more natural it is, the better.
Our cotton is grown around the ancient town of Bergama where the fairtrade farmers follow strict organic guidelines before carefully handpicking the crop. The farmers here have been growing long-fibre cotton for hundreds of years.
We’ve been to the cotton fields. We’ve met the farmers.
All Collingwood & Hay towels are made from handpicked cotton. You wouldn’t think there’d be much difference between handpicking and machine picking. Maybe the former would be a little more gentle. You’d be amazed at the difference.
With handpicking the cotton strands can be preserved in the longest threads possible. The longer the threads, the softer, more durable, more luxurious the cotton. Cotton matures from the bottom up. So to get the finest longest strands of cotton it is important to pick the bottom of the stem first then after a month or two, come back and harvest the top of the stem.
Machine harvesting takes the entire plant (stem, seeds, leaves and grit and even plastic bags that flew in from a nearby road) into its cotton picker.
The machinery fractures a potentially long strand of cotton into a shorter frayed strand of cotton.
After the cotton is picked it is then ginned (a process to remove the impurities from the cotton bolls). There are two types of ginning; roller ginning and saw ginning. Roller ginning removes more impurities. Guess which method we use. It is then spun locally into yarn.
Woven by master towel makers.
The precious yarn is then entrusted to a family firm in the Minho province in Northern Portugal who have been weaving since the middle of the last century. They make our towels to exacting specifications to achieve the perfect balance of softness, absorbency and lightness.
Unlike most towels, which use cheaper carded cotton for the backing, and softer, more expensive combed cotton for the pile, every Collingwood & Hay towel uses combed cotton for the backing and the pile. It’s a small point, but it is attention to details like this that sets our towels apart.
Besides using a rare cotton, a Collingwood & Hay towel is rare for other reasons. All our towels are pure white, some with a subtle but distinctive pattern at each end. Created in London these designs appear only once in a limited edition production run.
Even the cotton used for the decoration is organically grown.
Perfecting the perfect towel became our passion. We hope you agree we got it right.