WHEN: October, 2019
WHERE: Valencia, California
BEACHES VISITED: 3
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE: 85
EVENT HOSTS: Supima
THE TEAM GOES WEST
The Supima team invited several brands that use Supima cotton in their products to visit the production and see the picking, ginning and classing processes firsthand. Mat (founder) and me, Emily (creative director), ventured out west to California to see the harvest firsthand and get to know some of the faces that make American-made possible. Keep reading to see what the weekend was like.
DAY 1 | ARRIVE IN LOS ANGELES
Mat and I flew into Los Angeles from Detroit on Monday afternoon and after picking up the rental car, getting to the hotel and settling in, we made our way to Venice to stroll down Abbot Kinney. Just a few weeks before the trip, we found out that we’d be getting the keys to the soon-to-be GETTEES flagship store just 1 week after we’d be getting back from California, so the designing, build out and opening of the store was constantly on our minds. In LA, Abbot Kinney is a mile long boulevard of popular shops and restaurants so we went to explore and find inspiration for our storefront. Store associates probably thought we were crazy since we were paying attention to things like signage, lighting, hang tags and the store layout rather than perusing the products. A several hours and 2 miles of walking under our belts, we enjoyed dinner with a waterfront view in Marina Del Rey and put our toes in the Pacific Ocean before calling it. That evening, Mat’s dad, Chris flew into LA to join us for the next day of meetings.
Sunset at Manhattan Beach after arriving in Los Angeles
DAY 2 | KNITTING MILLS
Tuesday morning, we headed into downtown LA to visit our California knitting and dying partners. The first stop was at Antex Knitting Mills. After a tour of the facilities, we sat down with the Antex team to see some new materials we were considering for new products.
A machine is used to dye various patterns across material.
Fabric is pulled across rollers in order to stretch out newly knit and dyed materials and bring them to a stable state.
Like us, Antex is a vertical knitting mill. This means they not only knit the materials but they dye them as well. A vertical business model means fewer steps and fewer shipping costs since the material doesn’t need to move from one supplier to another as well as more quality control. This allows us to work directly with Antex to develop custom materials and custom colors, such as our Supima Flex-Terry, without passing on excessive markups to our customers.
Charles, of Antex, shows us around the knitting mill.
An Antex employee sorts through and organizes orders.
After a quick lunch, our next stop was with our good buddy Abe over at Pacific Coast Knitting, Inc. Abe’s mill develops amazing and beautiful luxury knits including things like silk and cashmere knits. Again, after a quick tour of the mill, we sat down with Abe and pulled some samples of new materials we’re planning to roll out in the fall. (I would tell you more, but that would ruin the new product launches. Stay tuned!)
Chris looking through fabric samples.
In the evening, the three of us chatted about the possibilities for the GETTEES storefront, new products and materials over dinner and then wandered along the Manhattan Beach Pier.
Manhattan Beach Pier at sunset.
Chris, Mat's dad, probably telling us a story about the last time he was in Manhattan Beach.
DAY 3 | TRAVEL DAY
While Chris flew back to Detroit, Mat and I made our way from Los Angeles to Valencia where we’d be attending the first annual Supima Harvest Celebration, a two-day workshop and celebration of all things Supima during the harvest season of cotton in October. The organizers chose Valencia to host the celebration for its access to the San Joaquin Valley where 93% of Supima cotton is grown.
DAY 4 | SUPIMA HARVEST CELEBRATION: INTERACTIVE SESSION
The first day was an information overload kind of day (in a good way!). Supima hosted several panels and presentations to teach us all about Supima from the farming practices and how the cotton is grown and harvested to the history of the cotton to the benefits of the use of Supima in household and apparel products. We already new Supima was top of the line but after being able to hear various farmers and the Supima team speak about the cotton, we left knowing we can answer almost any question you can throw at us and with even more confidence in our choice to use Supima cotton as the backbone of our product line.
A Supima cotton bulb.
Farmers, Jake Cauzza and Kirk Gilkey with Mark Lewkowitz, CEO of Supima, speak about water conservation strategies.
After the day of presentations, we enjoyed a beautiful dinner at Castaway in Burbank, with views of the San Fernando Valley while networking with like-minded industry leaders and brands.
DAY 5 | SUPIMA HARVEST CELEBRATION:
COTTON GIN AND FARM TOUR
Both the longest but the most exciting day of the trip, on Friday at 6 am, we loaded into a bus. and headed east into the San Joaquin Vally. Our first stop was in Corcoran to visit Gilkey Enterprises and tour the company’s cotton gin.
After the cotton is picked from the fields, it's brought to the cotton gin where the fiber is detached from the seed and cleaned using roller gins. Gilkey's gin is a co-op gin, which means several neighboring farms all deliver their freshly picked cotton to the same gin.
Cotton coming off the fields to the gin.
The inside of the gin, lined with rollers.
Fresh picked cotton with the seeds and plant matter before the ginning process versus seedless and cleaned after going through the rollers.
That's me, Emily, dancing in a pile of Supima cotton.
After being cleaned, the cotton is packed into 500 pound bails. A sample is pulled and each bail is labeled with a unique bail ID.
After being cleaned, the cotton is packed into 500 pound bails. Each bail receives a unique bail ID that identifies the farm and lot the cotton originated. A sample is pulled from every single bail, labeled with the corresponding bail, and then sent to the USDA classing office where the cotton sample is graded to ensure quality.
The packed bails are covered and loaded to be shipped out across the country.
Denise Gilkey, me, Kirk Gilkey and Mat before leaving their farm.
After the gin tour, we made our way to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Classing Office in Visalia where the samples from all of the individual cotton bails are tested and graded for softness, fiber length and color. The bails are graded against a standard set for cotton that year using a rating system from 1 to 5. Supima typically rates between 1 and 2 because of its superior fiber length and softness.
Employees pull samples from the conveyer belt and scan the unique bail IDs into the database.
My feet and some Supima samples.
Employees use laser technology, scales and machinery to test the cottons color, cleanliness and fiber length.
When the standard is set for the year, the standard is displayed in rating boxes. There are 5 boxes, for grades 1 through 5 against which all cotton is tested.
Following a farm to table (of course) lunch, our last visit of the day was at the Cauzza Grower’s farm in Buttonwillow to see the cotton fields themselves! Upon arriving, we were met with a champagne toast and about 15 of 20 other local Supima farmers, there to talk with us about their family farms and their history of growing Supima cotton.
Jake Cauzza, a 3rd generation farmer and the current owner of Cauzza Growers, brought out one of several cotton pickers. These million dollar machines are used to gently pull the cotton from the plant, making the process much more efficient and effective.
The front of a cotton picker displaying the teeth designed to pull the cotton bulbs from the plants without tearing the fiber.
The massive cotton picker flexes its muscles.
Jake Cauzza and his son, a possible 4th generation Supima farmer, stand near the loud cotton picker.
A cotton field ready for harvest.
Mat walking through the rows of the cotton. My feet buried in the narrow rows between the plants.
A cotton boll ready to be harvested.
Me taking photos of the cotton, many of which you'll find across the website.
Mat and I looking like Children of the Corn (except cotton).
Watch the Supima Harvest celebration Video
Day 6 | TRAVEL BACK TO DETROIT
And just like that, it was time to head back to Detroit’s fast-approaching winter and cold temperatures. But not before a quick stop back at Manhattan Beach!
GETTEES in the California sand while taking in some final sun rays before heading home.