No company embraces and embodies the qualities of natural cotton quite like Japan-based Watanabe Pile. Founded in 1963 by Nobuo Watanabe, the mill has a considerably shorter history than that of cotton. This shortage in years, however, has no bearing on the quality and integrity that Watanabe Pile puts into its production of premium organic cotton textiles.
Watanabe Pile is based in Japan'e Ehime Prefecture in the city of Imabari, where it has prospered since its inception over 50 years ago. The company was founded as a small mill focused on producing exceptional cotton textiles in an honest and sustainable manner. Today, Toshio Watanabe -- the son of Nobuo -- serves as President and CEO of Watanabe Pile. He leads a small team of 24 employees who help produce some of the finest and most innovative fabric in the industry, particularly the popular Imabari towel.
In a country where towels play an integral role in everyday culture, the Imabari towel (reigning from Imabari City where it originates) is the most unique and the most coveted in Japan. Imabari is well known for its mild climate and soft water, which contribute to the production of high quality woven products like the Imabari towel. Aside from their high quality, the cotton towels are known for their absorbency and most of all their 'naturalness' -- Imabari towel manufacturers do not complicate the product with prominent colors or patterns, so the quality and craftsmanship take center stage. Watanabe Pile respects this mantra through and through.
"We especially emphasize on using organic cotton and natural dyes," says Fumio Watanabe, brand representative of Watanabe Pile. "We carefully select each material in each stage of the fabric making process. The soft twist yarns are also implemented in the pile making, which cannot be imitated by other companies".
Watanabe Pile's emphasis on authenticity and environmental responsibility is unmatched. Believing that genuine, quality materials speak for themselves, the company works with only the most optimal raw cotton and cotton yarns sourced from Japan, Central Asia, the United States, India and Peru.
"Organic cotton is not only kind to one’s skin, but it is also kind to the natural world," adds Watanabe. "Thus, wearing organics equates to a clear conscience."
The team then strictly monitors the entire production method, from fiber processing to weaving and design, to ensure the 'goodness' of the material remains intact. From weaving to dyeing the product is fully made in Japan -- a rightful point of pride for the mill.
Sustainability and a healthy environment are what drive Watanabe Pile's production process. Aside from using the finest organic cotton, the mill also chooses to work exclusively with natural dyes.
"Wouldn’t it be obvious that the dye that comes from your garden, instead of from a chemistry lab, would feel fresher and more honest," explains Watanabe. "We use dyes on our fabric from flowers, fruits, and vegetables grown Japan."
Since towels are so close to skin on a daily basis, a product that is gentle and soft on even the most sensitive skin is crucial. Watanabe Pile produces an extensive range of bath, face and wash towels all made using organic cotton and natural dyes. This ode to honesty and letting the fabric speak for itself is what makes the mill so respected. To Toshio and his team of skilled craftsmen, good fabrics mean happy customers, and that is most vital to the company.
With success at home, Watanabe Pile hopes to bring the wonder of the Imabari towel overseas to international markets and showcase its work to the world. The company plans to showcase innovative materials in its newest collections, as well as continue collaboration with designers to create lifestyle products like loungewear. Whatever the case, rest assured it will be done with the utmost care and responsibility, always with the natural environment and the consumer in mind.