All For the Pursuit of Perfection
Perfectly balanced wines, perfectly tailored suits, and perfectly proportioned architectures all have so-called perfect indicators. But what about towels? Has anyone thought about the perfection in a basic white towel?
Society defines what is valuable, and people go above and beyond to pursue the ultimate in "valuable" things. What's quotidian is then considered ordinary and often forgotten. It’s all customary. So daily necessities such as towels were not given a persuasive core value until the emergence of Imabari towels.
Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture
Imabari is Japan's largest producer of towels. About 120 years ago (Meiji period) when towels were introduced to Japan, Imabari was one of the first cities to start producing towels due to its geographical advantage. Facing Seto Inland Sea, Imabari has long daylight exposure as well as warm climate and endless natural soft water for all four seasons, which are all excellent resources for making quality towels. Along with the efforts of many people, Imabari has gradually become a towel town with high levels of quality, technique and production.
Imabari Towel and Water Resources
The city of Imabari is warm in all seasons, and there are more sunny than rainy days. Its water source does not rely on rainfall however. Due to the river flows originating from Mount Ishizuchi, the highest peak in western Japan, Imabari has abundant groundwater sources, and its water quality is low in hardness and heavy metal. With this unique environment, Imabari towels have earned the reputation of being safe and high quality. They are popular among Japanese brands across all ages, and they have become the icon of quality.
Speaking of the characteristics of Imabari Towel, it has a unique method of "first bleaching then dyeing". Washing the towels with an abundant amount of water produces a soft touch. Because of the large quantity of water needed for the process, the endless water source is the key in supporting Imabari's towel industry.
Continuous Technique Innovation
When thinking of quality, technique usually first comes to mind. Due to continuous innovation and many people's hardwork, Imabari earned its place in Japan. For example, the Jacquard loom introduced by Nakamura Chuzaemon has improved the original method of 1-weaving, 2-bleaching, 3-dyeing into 1-bleaching, 2-dyeing, 3-weaving to improve the towels' softness, which has become a feature of Imabari Towel. The soft yarn produced by the "bleach first" process is very suitable for detailed knitting patterns. Today, every towel manufacturer continues to research and introduce new techniques. In fact, Imabari weaving process is now renowned internationally and has been the choice of Burberry, Celine and other fashion brands when they outsource to make a variety of complex and delicate patterns.
World's Premium Cotton
There are many different types of towels made to suit each user's various needs and preferences, and therefore there are different types of cotton planted for different usages. Imabari towels for example, use a rare type of cotton that produces ultra-long fibres. Ultra-long fibre cotton has the characteristics of being delicate and soft. Such cotton varieties can only grow in specific areas with specific conditions such as climate and soil. These ultra-long fibre cotton varieties only account for about 5% of the total cotton production in the world. Some of these varieties include:
Sea Island Cotton
With its characteristics of being long, strong and soft, only a few Caribbean areas can produce West India Sea Island Cotton, also known as dream cotton. In the past, it was considered as a high-end product which was offered tribute to the British empire. Its texture resembles cashmere to the touch, which is highly praised by many fans.
Xinjiang Super Long Cotton
In the desert climate where rain is scarce and daytime is extremely long, this high-grade cotton irrigated by meltwater from Tianshan Mountains has precious silvery fibre with lengths comparable to Sea Island Cotton.
It is an American-made high-quality long-fibre cotton that has long been a specialty of high-end cotton with consistent quality. (Supima® cotton is a registered trademark of the Supima Association.)
This variety was found in Egypt about 100 years ago. Planted in the Nile region, Egyptian cotton is known for its elasticity and resilience, often used to produce durable products. Among Egyptian cotton, GIZA 45, GIZA 70, and GIZA 88 are the most famous.
Cotton can't withstand pests. In order to obtain stable harvest, many cotton farmers will spray a lot of pesticides and/or fertilizers. Non-organic cotton has always been regarded as a heavy environmental burden. Organic cotton needs to be chemical-, fertilizer-, pesticide-, and defoliant-free for at least 3 years. Only organic cultivation techniques can be used, and it has to be certified by a government organization. Because the cotton was grown without using chemicals, towels made from it are less irritating to the skin and friendly to the environment. It is especially suitable for use on baby's delicate skin and is more gentle on sensitive skin. Some but not all of Riamist's towels are made of organic cotton, and we wish to continue to expand our product lines in order to care for our customers with sensitive skin as well as be more friendly to the environment.
Imabari towels have strict regulations to control their quality. The certification is embodied by a trademark of red, white and blue: red symbolizes enthusiasm, blue symbolizes high-quality water, and white symbolizes sincerity. In addition to the basic safety, touch, durability, and environmental considerations, there is even a "sink within 5 seconds" standard to test the towels' water absorbency. Only the towels that can pass the series of standard tests are eligible to display the trademark.
Regardless of the stores or brands, all certified towels will have a trademark label sewn on the edge of the towel. At present, there are more than 100 towel manufacturers in Japan who produce Imabari-standard towels. Since every manufacturer has to pass the same strict Imabari regulations in order to bear the trademark, we can have the peace of mind of thinking "as long as it has an Imabari certification, it is a good towel."
In addition, on the back of the trademark label, a four-digit registration number is always sewn to identify which member of the Shikoku Towel Trade Union manufactured the towel. So if you prefer a certain towel and would like to buy more from the same manufacturer, you can use the company's registration number to search for the styles you want to buy.
It is also worth mentioning that Imabari Towel have created an unprecedented "Towel Sommelier" assessment. Since 2007, the towel appraisers' evaluations have been held every year. "Towel Appraisers" are like wine tasters to the wine industry: only qualified personnels can sell towels in specialized stores. Imabari Towel has also created a "Towel Meister" title. Only those who have been in the industry for half a century or more can receive this qualification. Currently, there are 5 people in the world who are considered "Towel Meisters".
About the pursuit of perfection, it all comes down to perseverance.