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Interview with David Greenstein

David Greenstein
David Greenstein

American cotton has benefited from issues with Egyptian cotton
Recently, Egyptian cotton’s credibility was questioned by American cotton growers, who assure more purity to brands when it comes to pure, sustainable cotton. Brands understand the confusion prevailing in the definition of Egyptian cotton, and are looking for sources to verify where their cotton is coming from and to get the purest cotton possible in their products. Home textiles major Himatsingka adopted DNA tagging technology to understand the source of their cotton. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion.com, David Greenstein, president of Himatsingka talks about what led them to adopt this technology, and how successful has it remained for them.

How did you become aware of the Egyptian cotton issue?

We are not sure we have formed an opinion as far as Egypt is concerned, especially as we do not have an answer to what the term ‘Egyptian cotton’ is actually supposed to mean: Does it mean grown in Egypt? Does it mean extra long staple? Does it mean 100 per cent? There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer to this question. The DNA identification of the Egyptian cotton genome in mature fibre is the subject of an ongoing research at Applied DNA Sciences. We await their findings and will act accordingly.

What does this mean for the US cotton industry?

Because of the confusion prevailing with Egyptian cotton, and a growing list of countries whose cotton is being banned by responsible brands, there is a direct positive result for American cotton. US-grown cotton is fundamentally reliable at source. The US cotton infrastructure is well organised, continually monitored, sustainably grown, machine harvested, and therefore, highly suitable for brands and retailers that care about good ethical and environmental practices. The confusion in the world with respect to cotton, where it comes from, how is it grown, etc, will in my opinion have a positive influence on demand for US-grown cotton.

How can brands and retailers protect themselves, or how will they know that their cotton is genuine?

That is an excellent question as we faced this exact issue ourselves. We came to realise how important it was for brands and retailers to understand exactly where their cotton comes from, and how claims made on certain origins and certain levels of purity of cotton can be proven. We see a global trend among retailers and brands asking that question: "Where does my cotton comes from?" That is what led us to adopt DNA tagging at source, as this is the only way we know of to be sure that we know where the cotton originated, allowing us to trace our tagged cotton through the supply chain to the shelf.

Please brief us further on your decision to adopt DNA tagging technology.

We wanted to protect ourselves, and our customers, by using the amazing technological advances of DNA tagging in combination with Fibertyping, to be sure that our product was pure and as advertised. It became incumbent upon us to make the right decision, as this technology became available to us. It wasn't necessarily easy to do. We had to make a lot of adjustments in our supply chains. We had to institute difficult production protocols and we had to assume the risk of bucking an age-old industry practice.

How successful has this technology remained for Himatsingka?

We adopted the DNA tagging technology towards the end of 2014. So far, we have tagged almost 40 million pounds of US-grown Pima Cotton, and we have seen incredible results. It has helped us understand our supply chain. It has resulted in a purified supply chain. And so far, all the thousands of tests that we have done after adopting this technology has shown us that our supply chain is now fully accountable. We can now say, without a doubt, that we have done everything humanly possible to match the label with the content.

Will Himatsingka embark upon a marketing campaign to educate consumers about your purity promise?

We branded our fibre and our platform, PimaCott. We have just launched the first part of the marketing campaign. Now, the consumer can begin identifying with the brand. They can understand that this is American-grown Pima cotton, tagged at source and tracked and traced through the supply chain in order to assure the greatest purity possible. We can now educate customers, consumers, retailers and brands of the fact that there is something special about PimaCott-the assurance of purity. We encourage your readers to visit our website to understand the supply chain and how the technology works. The reader can also appreciate how different it is from the existing practices around cotton. They can get to meet the wonderful farming families that grow this incredible strain of fibre. As time unfolds, and as more products become available on shelf, we will be launching various consumer-facing campaigns that direct the consumer to the product itself.

What is the focus of Himatsingka's growth for the next two years?

Our leadership position in redefining the cotton supply chain has resulted in sizable increases in demand for our products. Himatsingka is currently undergoing largescale manufacturing expansion, increasing its factory capacities to keep up with this expected demand.
Published on: 18/05/2016

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.