Behind the Scenes: Aegean Towel Collection
March 11, 2021
Behind the Scenes: Aegean Towel Collection
The Aegean Towel Collection
One of the most widely used everyday objects was invented—and perfected—in Turkey.
by Joseph Meehan
The Aegean Collection is a range of Turkish towels and our first foray into bathing. Everything we’ve learned from sourcing, designing, and selling rugs went into the development of the Aegean towels—from how the fibers are grown to how they feel (oh so soft, by the way) to all the behind-the-scenes supply chain stuff that you likely won’t ever see or hear about, but is pretty important to us. They express the affordable, ethical beauty ethos of Revival in every way, right down to the Turkish cotton fields where they begin their life.
The Benefits of Turkish Cotton
The Bergama region lies inland from the Aegean Coast in Turkey. There, come fall, sprawling fields of cotton shrubs shed their leaves and emerge with cream-white bundles of fibers. Once harvested, these fibers are spun into what’s arguably the best cotton in the world.
Though Turkey is only the seventh largest producer of cotton worldwide, the long-staple cotton produced there is highly coveted. The salty sea air and unique terroir give the cotton properties that cannot be duplicated elsewhere.
Chief among those properties are the extra-long fibers, called staples. They can be spun into strong, absorbent, and smooth yarns. A towel woven from these yarns is strong and durable, doing its job just as well on day one as it does for the life of the textile. But it's also exceptionally soft and smooth, and only gets softer with every wash.
So Turkey already had claim to the best cotton in the world. But that wasn't good enough for some of the producers. They saw all that, and still asked themselves, "How can we make it even better?"
GOTS-Certified: The Global Organic Textile Standard
The answer was GOTS certification. The Global Organic Textile Standard is more than just a certification that your textile was made with organic yarns—it's a rigorous set of top-to-bottom standards that a company must continue to meet. The standards drive companies toward having a low negative environmental impact, and a high positive social impact.
The environmental impact is mainly concerned with organic fiber production. Organic agriculture reduces the overall amount of synthetic pesticides that end up in the soil of the fields, the waterways of the nearby ecosystems, and the people who work in the fields. The GOTS standard also restricts the use of chemical inputs in processing and dyeing the fibers.
The social impact standards for a GOTS-certified producer concerns the treatment of employees and impact on the surrounding community. The workers must be paid a living wage, and given the right to organize and bargain collectively. Other benefits, like health care, workplace safety, and maintaining a workplace free of harassment, violence, or discrimination round out social standards.
Simply put, a GOTS certification guarantees that not only is the textile you're holding in your hands made with the highest-quality organic fibers, but it was made, from seed to stitch, by ethical producers who treat their workers with dignity and humanity.
The Origin of Turkish Towels
That wasn’t always the case, though. Towels as we know them today were invented in the 7th Century, when Turkey was known as the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman kings considered textiles, and in particular Turkish rugs, part of their personal treasury, and ruled the industry with an iron grip. Weavers had to follow strict production guidelines, including thread count, weight, materials, and other qualities of their rugs. Every completed rug had to be inspected by government officials to ensure all the guidelines had been followed to an exacting standard.
While the system didn’t leave the weavers a lot of room for creativity or autonomy, it did result in a level of quality and consistency that made Turkish rugs and those that wove them famous wherever the traders carried them.
In the 17th Century, some of the master weavers began to apply their talent with rugs to towels. They elevated them with new patterns and embellishments. More importantly, they added the loops.
We take the loops for granted today, but they weren’t always there. Thanks to their experience weaving rugs, these master weavers were able to modify the twill weave of the towels to include an extra loop of yarn on one side. This gave the towels their signature pile and made them more efficient at absorbing water.
Our Istanbul office was a convenient starting point for exploring greater Turkey—where bathing culture was refined and the towel itself was perfected—to find the right partner for a towel collection.
The Aegean Collection
What makes the Aegean Collection unique isn’t the world-class cotton, the Turkish textile tradition, or the organic fibers—though of course those are all a big part of why we love these towels. What really sets these towels apart is the special process our producer partner uses when making the yarns.
Siro-spun cotton was developed in the 1970s as a way to spin a yarn that was sturdy enough to be woven on a loom (looms can be hard on a yarn, causing them to break if they’re not strong enough). The siro-spun process spins together two single yarns to make one strong, smooth yarn that can be woven into textiles with the same qualities..
This mechanical process also reduces the cost of the yarns, a savings that’s passed on to you in our case. Even better, it improves the strength of the yarns compared to normal folded yarns, so your towels look and feel as great on day one as they will after a hundred washes.
Once we had the yarns nailed down, we worked with our partner through many design tests to find the perfect weight, patterns, and dye colors for the towels. We landed on a plush but lightweight 700 GSM towel that's highly absorbent but also dries quickly. The collection was designed to be mixed-and-matched, with subtle stripes and a nod to art deco. Finally, the hues of the dyes are reserved, touched off with contrast details that bring them to life.