Every morning, under the blazing sun, hundreds of workers set off to walk through their daily paths among the greenery. From afar, they spot the whiteness as it grows and takes centre stage. Their days are spent from dusk till dawn among the soft clouds of cotton and the sting of their thorns.
Generation after another, the lands of Egypt have witnessed the unshakable alliance between the running currents and the immutable stems. While history has taken many turns around the white fields of bright clouds, local cotton has always managed to surpass the changes of time.
Known as one of the best raw materials around the world, Egypt’s local cotton is a subtle luxury, which despite the emergence of many trends and technology-supported replacements still, stands as an unmatched high-end material. However, for common local customers, the wearable opulence was not an attainable fashion-forward choice until recently.
Becoming aware of this vital market gap, local fashion brand and conscious label CottonBall set out to address it starting from a goal as simple as offering plain basics made of the country’s most precious material: cotton.
Their products neglected the increasing pressure of fast trends in order to focus instead on quality, colour and appropriate fit. While international brands offer price-tags as significant as the logos taking over the design, this home-grown brand addresses those that seek subtle daily companions.
Ahmed Habib and Zena Sallam meet each and every couple goals. The duo did not only take an oath to spend this lifetime together, but, they have also agreed to join forces on a professional level. Besides this, the founders behind CottonBall come from two related backgrounds, supply chain and advertising, respectively.
Daily News Egypt met the power couple to talk textile, local cotton and market demands.
What encouraged you to pursue a career in cotton and textile?
We saw a gap in the market for high quality basic apparel. We realized that not enough brands take advantage of one of Egypt’s most prised resources; Egyptian cotton, which is actually considered a luxury in a lot of markets.
We even noticed, as consumers, that our personal need for plain, high quality apparel that was not overly branded, was not met in the local market. Our options were basically to either buy a cheap product, which would fall apart after few washes, or spend a fortune on a high-end brand.
And so, as the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention”! CottonBall was created to fill this gap in the local market by creating “Quality Necessities and Bare Apparel.”
Does your relationship as husband and wife aid or hinder your relation as business partners?
We believe our relationship as husband and wife aids our business partnership because we know that we complete one another, both as a couple and when it comes to work.
We consult with one another and take each other’s opinions. But, when it comes to the last call, each has his/her own area. We each know the other’s forte, therefore, we give each other space to express it.
How does CottonBall plan to become an advocate of local cotton?
One of the reasons why we founded CottonBall was to start exporting our products abroad so that there is an Egyptian high quality brand offering basic apparel to the world using Egypt’s finest resource.
We believe that developing a globally recognised home-grown brand will naturally advocate local cotton. The key is to develop a competitive, high quality and high value product that can meet global customers’ expectations and satisfy their needs.
How would you evaluate the current status of the local cotton industry?
It is definitely slowly getting there. The government just announced this year that cotton production will be doubled to go from approximately 100,000 tons to 200,000 tons that will all go towards export.
How well does the local market understand the value of Egyptian cotton?
The local market probably understands the value of Egyptian cotton very well. However, it is not easy to find someone who is really passionate enough to take the raw resource and turn it into something that is basic yet exceptional.
Many brands offer basics. From a consumer point of view, what makes your brand stand out?
What makes our brand stand out is that we offer high quality, Egyptian-made basics, which is something that is not available in the local market. There are very few, if any, brands that purely create basic apparel with their focus on the material rather than the design.
Instead of going to an international franchise, or spending a fortune on an imported product, CottonBall offers local products that are made locally with a very high quality.
Why did you decide to introduce polo shirts and dresses this season?
When we first started, we got a lot of requests for polo shirts. Especially, that our variety in colour was perfectly suited for a customer who prefers something a little more formal than a t-shirt. It seemed like a natural progression to our collection.
In terms of the dress, it was an easy choice. Most women appreciate a comfortable, light, and easy-to-wear dress. We always try to make sure that each new item we add to our collection is a natural extension that fits in comfortably with our brand identity.
We plan to continue to introduce new product lines in order to keep inviting our customers back to get something new.