12 years ago when I started West Indies Wear, we were sailing around the Caribbean islands, living the dream..... albeit on a very tight budget. Adjusting to the tropical heat became our way of life, as we had sailed from the cooler temperatures of Southern Africa.
Every day we got up early and got our jobs done, so that by midday we were back on the boat, hiding from the afternoon sun..... we hibernated away, coming out again only for late afternoon cocktails. Here I am hiding from the sun under the awning, wearing my polyester Billabong boardshorts and heavy cotton tank top. Not ideal for the heat or the sun protection!
Being a trained fashion designer since I was 21, and someone who cannot walk passed any rack of clothing without FEELING the fabric.... I couldn't help noticing that the local markets and villages sold predominantly polyester and viscose clothing. Fabrics that filled me with dread in that heat.
.... and so began my obsession with natural fabrics. These islands need cotton I would think to myself, however I never did think to do something about that thought until my colleague from Billabong South Africa said "why don't you start your own label?"
So West Indies Wear was born with a collection of pure cotton fabrics. Recently, I got an email from a new lady to Our Island Family, Barbara wrote this …. "I have been searching for cotton clothing for years. Your business is a dream come true for me. Please keep true to what you have started and keep it all cotton. As an Island girl myself I spend many months each year truly living the island life going from warm weather beaches in Hawaii , Australia, California, Turks Caicos, Caribbean and beyond".
Here is a bolb of cotton still on the twig.....you can see how there are twigs and seeds mixed up inside the cotton balls, that has to be combed out of the cotton, to get it clean before yarn can be made from it. Here below, is a great photo of my friends who were driving through the cotton growing area of Australia and stopped to take photos of the massive rolls of cotton, that have just been freshly harvested.
As there are hardly any cotton processing plants remaining in Australia or the US nowadays, most of the Australian or American grown cotton is exported to garment manufacturing countries like India & China.
Why the Starfish?
From time to time snorkelling in the Caribbean we would come across a starfish lying on the bottom. Once when walking along the beach in Nevis, we actually found a starfish that had washed up, and we moved her back into the waves.
My first thoughts about putting starfish on clothing though, started one weekend, when I had brought home some products from Shipwreck Shops in St.Maarten (I was the General Manager for 5 years) to take photos on the beach. This starfish sat on my coffee table while I had my Sunday morning cup of tea, and it as then that it popped into my head to make the starfish tunic. Here is that tunic as it appeared in British Vogue a few years ago.
Since then starfish have appeared in all different forms on my clothing. Everything from sarongs to t-shirts to sundresses and duster jackets.
For the new collection, we have had starfish embroidered on a loose comfortable cotton beach shirt. It comes in 3 gorgeous colors and PLUS sizes! You guys are going to LOVE this one.
Here are some FUN FACTS about cotton.
- Cotton is a natural fibre, grown on a bush.
- Cotton grows wild in many places.
- Cotton has been cultivated for centuries
- Historians have found shreds of cotton dating back at least 7000 years.
- Cotton is grown in 17 states of USA.
- Cotton is grown in a 180 day cycle.
- Cotton is picked, pressed & transported to gins where the fibres can be separated from the seeds & processed into fibres, yarns & then woven or knitted into fabric.
- The worlds most favorite natural fibre is cotton.
- Cotton allows your skin to breath
- Cotton doesn’t trap heat inside.
- Since cotton is breathable it doesn’t hold odors like synthetic fabrics do.
- Heat rashes are less likely in cotton clothing because of its breathability.
- Cotton is a soft fabric. It is comfortable to wear.
- Cotton is a strong fibre, outlasting synthetics.
- Cotton is 30% stronger when wet, so is less likely to get holes when washing
- Cotton is an easy care fabric which does not need dry cleaning.
- Cotton does not cause skin allergies, which is why it is used for bandages.
- Cotton is so versatile it can be made into many different fabrics and garments.
- Cotton holds dye very well, so can be made into millions of vibrant colors.
Thank goodness for that, as I also have an obsession for island colors ....but that is another story.