Boosted by key relationships with several high-end clothing retailers, Supima is working to blaze a trail as the preferred source of high-end cotton across the globe. With well-known brands such as Brooks Brothers in their corner, they are well on their way to doing just that.“We see Supima as an iconic brand,” said Joseph Dixon, executive vice president of manufacturing and sourcing with Brooks Brothers. Dixon spoke in August at Supima’s annual meeting in Central California.What makes Supima “iconic” according to Dixon is the quality of the Pima cotton produced by American growers. The majority of Pima cotton is grown in California. Supima cotton is also grown in Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas.While Pima cotton is the generic term applied to extra-long-staple (ELS) cotton grown in the United States, Peru, Israel and Australia, Supima is a registered trademark used to promote and market textile and apparel products made with 100 percent American Pima cotton grown in the southwestern United StateDixon boldly told Supima members that the age-old idea of Egyptian cotton as the supreme fiber of choice in the world is simply not true, and that Brooks Brothers is training its sales associates to educate their consumers about the quality benefits of Supima in their products.“We have an opportunity now to correct that information,” Dixon said. “We wouldn’t say that if it weren’t true.”Brooks Brothers dates back to 1818 with a history of providing high-end clothing fashions in the United States and elsewhere. Dixon said the company has not only outfitted major celebrities over the years, such as Clark Gable and the cast of the movie “The Great Gatsby,” but has outfitted U.S. presidents including Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama.Supima President Jesse Curlee told growers and members that the organization continues to work to make Supima a household brand. “It’s not there yet,” he said, but through cooperative efforts and partnerships with retailers such as Brooks Brothers and other high-end retailers, the organization is confident it will meet that goal.“We know that the name and brand of Supima has increased tremendously over the past three or four years,” Curlee said. “Our philosophy is to keep the premium level for Supima by keeping our name and trademark at the high-end retail level.”Curlee praised the relationship Supima has with Brooks Brothers, saying that the cotton marketing organization could not do alone what it has been able to leverage through such relationships.“Our budget is very limited for a marketing and promotion group,” Curlee said. “We have roughly $3 million to spend here, and it is impossible to do an effective marketing program with that kind of money.”Curlee said the organization continues to look for new ways to generate income, saying that there are better ways than a dues increase to improve revenue. Dues have remained stable throughout the history of the organization at $3 a bale.According to Curlee, between one-third and one-half of Supima’s income comes through licensing its trademark. The number of licensees for the Supima brand has increased to 355 in 35 countries, according to Marc Lewkowitz, executive vice president for Supima.Leveraging its budget through alliances with Brooks Brothers, Lands’ End, Tommy Bahama, L.L. Bean and others, has been key to Supima’s success, Curlee said.“That’s how we’ve gotten the recognition we have,” Curlee said. “It’s been retailers like these who have promoted their products with Supima and the Supima brand that has helped tremendously.”Dixon added: “Our job is to elevate Supima and separate it from other cotton brands as the premium cotton. Supima is American superior cotton; we’re an American brand. We love the linkage with the American cotton fiber.”Boosted by key relationships with several high-end clothing retailers, Supima is working to blaze a trail as the preferred source of high-end cotton across the globe. With well-known brands such as Brooks Brothers in their corner, they are well on their way to doing just that.

“We see Supima as an iconic brand,” said Joseph Dixon, executive vice president of manufacturing and sourcing with Brooks Brothers. Dixon spoke in August at Supima’s annual meeting in Central California.

What makes Supima “iconic” according to Dixon is the quality of the Pima cotton produced by American growers. The majority of Pima cotton is grown in California. Supima cotton is also grown in Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas.

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While Pima cotton is the generic term applied to extra-long-staple (ELS) cotton grown in the United States, Peru, Israel and Australia, Supima is a registered trademark used to promote and market textile and apparel products made with 100 percent American Pima cotton grown in the southwestern United States.

Dixon boldly told Supima members that the age-old idea of Egyptian cotton as the supreme fiber of choice in the world is simply not true, and that Brooks Brothers is training its sales associates to educate their consumers about the quality benefits of Supima in their products.

“We have an opportunity now to correct that information,” Dixon said. “We wouldn’t say that if it weren’t true.”

Brooks Brothers outfits presidents

Brooks Brothers dates back to 1818 with a history of providing high-end clothing fashions in the United States and elsewhere. Dixon said the company has not only outfitted major celebrities over the years, such as Clark Gable and the cast of the movie “The Great Gatsby,” but has outfitted U.S. presidents including Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama.

Supima President Jesse Curlee told growers and members that the organization continues to work to make Supima a household brand. “It’s not there yet,” he said, but through cooperative efforts and partnerships with retailers such as Brooks Brothers and other high-end retailers, the organization is confident it will meet that goal.

“We know that the name and brand of Supima has increased tremendously over the past three or four years,” Curlee said. “Our philosophy is to keep the premium level for Supima by keeping our name and trademark at the high-end retail level.”

Curlee praised the relationship Supima has with Brooks Brothers, saying that the cotton marketing organization could not do alone what it has been able to leverage through such relationships.

“Our budget is very limited for a marketing and promotion group,” Curlee said. “We have roughly $3 million to spend here, and it is impossible to do an effective marketing program with that kind of money.”

Curlee said the organization continues to look for new ways to generate income, saying that there are better ways than a dues increase to improve revenue. Dues have remained stable throughout the history of the organization at $3 a bale.

According to Curlee, between one-third and one-half of Supima’s income comes through licensing its trademark. The number of licensees for the Supima brand has increased to 355 in 35 countries, according to Marc Lewkowitz, executive vice president for Supima.

Leveraging alliances

Leveraging its budget through alliances with Brooks Brothers, Lands’ End, Tommy Bahama, L.L. Bean and others, has been key to Supima’s success, Curlee said.

“That’s how we’ve gotten the recognition we have,” Curlee said. “It’s been retailers like these who have promoted their products with Supima and the Supima brand that has helped tremendously.”

Dixon added: “Our job is to elevate Supima and separate it from other cotton brands as the premium cotton. Supima is American superior cotton; we’re an American brand. We love the linkage with the American cotton fiber.”

In one example, Dixon said Brooks Brothers each year puts up a Supima display in its store windows, including store-front windows along Madison Avenue and 44th Street in New York City. This is not merely a means of marketing their fine clothing, according to Dixon, but a means of promoting the grower of fine American cotton by combining it with an agricultural display in each of its windows. These displays include small bales of cotton and other small agricultural icons.

“What we’re trying to do is tell your story,” Dixon said. “You have a great story to tell.”

Supima accounts for about 3 percent of the annual cotton production in the United States. It is grown exclusively on furrowed rows where growers can closely regulate irrigation and other inputs. According to Supima’s website, China, India, Pakistan, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan and Peru are large importers of U.S. Pima.

Supima can be found at finer department and specialty stores nationwide. Retailers carrying Supima product include Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers, Lord & Taylor, Bed Bath and Beyond and Costco.

Supima product can also be found in direct mail-order catalogs from Lands' End, Linensource and L.L. Bean. Examples of brands carrying Supima trademarked-products include Ralph Lauren (towels), WestPoint Home (towels and sheets), Springs Wamsutta (sheets), Brooks Brothers (men's dress shirts), James Perse (casual knits) and Michael Stars (women's knits).

While much of the Supima meeting centered on marketing efforts and a little bit of humor through a keynote speaker, Keith Deputy, a cotton grower from Anthony, N.M., was elected board chairman to represent the Phoenix, Ariz.-based organization. He follows Don Cameron, a cotton producer from Helm, Calif., as chairman.

Deputy grows about 650 acres of Pima and about 850 acres of Upland cotton on both sides of the Texas/New Mexico border north of El Paso, Texas. He gins with Mesa Farmers Co-op, located between El Paso and Las Cruces, N.M. He also grows pecans, corn silage, winter forages and alfalfa.

“I’m really nervous about my cotton right now,” Deputy said, noting that heavy monsoon rains and some cool mornings could hamper his crop.

“We had 4-6 inches of rain over a one-week period,” Deputy said, adding that some fields saw even more rain. “Now we’ve had some mornings in the 46-47 degree range.”

Deputy is in the process of working with his fields to prepare them for defoliation. Given the recent turn in the weather in his region he is not betting on the kind of heat needed to dry out the cotton.

“I think up until these rains our crop looked outstanding,” Deputy said. “Now we’ll have to wait and see.”

 

tfitchette@farmpress.com

 

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