When I first told my husband that I wanted to start a company that would produce organic Egyptian cotton babywear, he actually laughed. “There’s no such thing as organic cotton in Egypt,” he said. He went on to explain that his father was a cotton trader in the far south of Egypt, and he knew what a chemical-intense crop cotton was. He said that because of the aerial pesticides sprayed on cotton plants, there were no birds in his village growing up.
“But let’s try anyway,” he said.
With our small savings, we booked a trip to spend 30 days in Egypt to search for the perfect manufacturing partner. I’m sure you’ve seen the “Where’s Waldo” books…looking for our partner in Egypt was a little like finding Waldo. It was challenging, and at times felt impossible. I visited over 50 factories, and not a single one of them knew what organic cotton was. Surprisingly, none of them even used Egyptian Cotton – all the initial factories we visited imported Indian cotton, because it was less than half the price of Egyptian cotton.
Two days before we were scheduled to return home, dejected and defeated, I found a little baby shop in a small town outside of Cairo. In the back of the store there was a sign next to a onesie that said “Cotton People Wear Organic.” I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited. I bought a onesie and called the number on the hang tag to find out who made it. It turned out that the manufacturer was called Sekem and was located north of Cairo. When I told the factory what I was looking to do, they invited me to the farm so that they could give me a tour of the factory.
At that time there were only dirt roads—no GPS, no street signs. It took us nearly 6 hours to find the farm, but not before accidentally ending up on an army base. When we arrived at Sekem, we met Konstanze, one of the owners and the head of the sewing factory. She explained their values as a company—their strong commitment to environmental sustainability and their mission to create a thriving community, both within the premises and in the community at large. When I told her about our difficult journey to find a supplier, she said she wasn’t surprised, and that Sekem was the only farm that grew organic Egyptian cotton.
Everything just clicked. We knew that they were the right fit for us to produce our first collections. That day I worked with the pattern maker on our first designs, and had the sewn prototypes by the next day before our flight back to the States. Sekem has been our sole supplier for the past 25 years, and we couldn’t have chosen a better partner.