Go behind the scenes of the Albini Group’s Mill in Albino Italy just outside Bergamo and see what makes the world’s greatest cotton for dress shirts.
Sourcing Stories: The “Kings of Cotton”
It’s milled in Italy, but why are Egyptian-cotton fibres so sought after?
When the founder of modern day Egypt, King Mohammed Ali, brought with him seeds from Brazil (cotton & linen) and the Caribbean (cotton and linen) in the early 1800s - he found that in the Nile River Delta farmers were able to grow the longest, finest and softest cotton fibres. Long fibres make it easier and thus more cost efficient to produce. Ancient Egyptians were growing cotton and linen since antiquity and the new seeds yielded global leading results.
Extra-long fibres also make for a more durable garment. And the most noticeable benefit? The supremely soft “hand” touch. Think of extra-long staple fibers in cotton as the cashmere of shirting fibres. This is why Egyptian cotton is considered “the cotton of kings.”
The entrepreneurs of the Albini family as well as U.K. businessman Thomas Mason started sourcing the fibres from Egypt in the 1800s and the rest is history. More than a century of innovation has yielded the results you see today. When Albini Group purchased Thomas Mason more scale was reached. A lot of the workers are second or even third generational employees. The knowledge is not easily transferrable and passed down through the firm’s institutional knowledge.
Today the Albini Group leases thousands of acres from the Egyptian government to ensure they can provide sustainable farming and ethical development working conditions for the people. It is a win-win for Hall Madden to be able to source shirting fabric from Albini. Our clients receive the best cotton and linen shirts and Albini can continue their mission to create the best fabrics.
What kind of innovation has their been since computers?
In the “old days” mills would have to create their own swatch books and samples by glueing different pieces together to create just one swatch. This time intensive practice made it very difficult to scale out the business. Tailors would travel by boat to global locations. You would be lucky to see your bespoke garments in 6-12 months.
This is why in the past you didn’t see a lot of checks, but mostly solids and stripes. Making a check swatch was nearly impossible at the time.
Recently, Albini has harkened back to the old days of bespoke tailoring by making it easy to make one-off garments. When a client commissions a shirt the fabric, for which there are over thousands to choose from, is cut and shipped to our factory the next business day and arrives in as little as three days.
Why did we go visit Albini?
Well first off we are friends of the brand. We are also the fastest growing made-to-measure client they have ever had. For this visit, Albini Group wanted to spend time showing off their new sustainability and organic cotton initiatives — values we share with them. They also proudly unveiled their new women’s collection that we will be releasing in conjunction with our soon to be launched women’s line in the fall. Hall Madden will be the first U.S. brand to carry the women’s collection.
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