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How It’s Made: KOTN

It is important to know where things come from. To understand a product’s origins, and how it arrives in our hands, is to place value in what we own. In our ongoing series, we highlight the people and processes that help bring to life some of today’s most revered and ordinary items. Consider it a backstage look at what it really takes to craft something truly exceptional.

For as long as it has been around, the t-shirt has been considered a wardrobe essential for men and women. Immortalized by the generations before us, its utility has been an invaluable part of life. And yet, for something as universal as it is — something that we all wear through a manner of different life circumstances — it has remained relatively unchanged. Sure, its ubiquity has never demanded more. As the adage goes, why change something if it isn’t broken? But what would happen if you took something as plain and ordinary as a t-shirt, and tried to make it beautiful?

That’s the question that three best friends — Rami Helali, Mackenzie Yeates and Benjamin Sehl — asked themselves when they created their brand of premium essentials, KOTN. To the Toronto-based company, beauty is defined by thoughtful design, quality materials and respect. It is defined by integrity.

Photos courtesy of KOTN

Photos courtesy of KOTN

We live in an age where transparency is key. From the way that we interact with each through social media to the speed at which information is dispersed, never before have we been a more connected people than we are now. As consumers, this transparency has translated into strict standards that we demand of the companies that so eagerly compete for our attention. We demand to know where things come from and how they are made. We demand perspective and accountability. Most importantly, though, companies demand that of themselves — at least the good ones. Such is the case for KOTN.

The very ethos of KOTN is built off of two pillars that comprise the foundation of their brand — beautiful design and social consciousness. Egyptian cotton has always been renowned for its premium quality, geographically certified in the same way as champagne and Scotch whisky. (The fiber’s extra long strands are what give it its soft texture.) Due to the country’s declining state over the past decade, however, subsidies to farmers were cut off by the government, leaving a treasured industry in a critically vulnerable position. It was Rami’s Egyptian heritage and the country’s fragile state that served as the catalyst from which KOTN was born. Working with local farmers in Egypt, this Toronto-based company provides private subsidies to 14 independent and family-owned factories by way of fertilizer, seeds, business consultants and scholarship grants for Cairo’s agricultural university. By working with them, they have created a direct-to-consumer business that cuts the middleman out of the process, allowing more money for farmers and lower prices for the consumer. They are cultivating skills, fostering relationships and investing in the people that they work with — attributes that any business should aspire to in today’s society.

And when you respect the process and the people that you work with, you end up with a product like a KOTN t-shirt. Yes, they are incredibly soft, look good with everything and fit in all the right ways. But nowadays, it’s more than just the item that’s important; it’s the story and principles behind it. This small, fledgling brand has proven that even an item as ordinary and simple as a t-shirt can be beautiful and have the power to affect change.

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