The history of naturally colored cotton dates back thousands of years. Seed for the first variety of naturally colored cotton was entered into the U.S. Cotton Germplasm Collection in 1935. Over the past 100 years, cotton breeders and plant geneticists in the United States have attempted to develop viable varieties of naturally colored cotton. Fibers have always been prized for their natural colors that do not require bleach or dye. However, researchers have often abandoned their efforts because the fiber lacked length, strength, and fineness—properties required to produce clothing, home furnishings, as well as any other product made from cotton. Naturally colored cotton is not widely available today because of the traditionally poor fiber qualities exhibited by these plants.
In April, 1978, Dr. Jim Olvey planted the first naturally colored cotton of his career in research conducted for Drs. Lee Stith, Carl Feaster, and Warner Fisher at the Cotton Research Center in Phoenix, Arizona. This cotton was primarily used for educational purposes in order to allow school children to experience different varieties of cotton. After being harvested, the colored cotton was ginned and then spun by a group of hand spinners in Arizona. This pillow was made over thirty-five years ago by hand crafters using naturally colored cotton.
Jim Olvey earned his Doctorate in Cotton Breeding and Genetics. Over the next several decades, he continued to intermittently cross-pollinate naturally colored cultivars while continuing to develop high quality white cotton that is grown by farmers across the United States.
As with many agriculturally-related jobs, working with cotton was a family affair. Both of Dr. Olvey’s sons, Michael and Christopher, began working with cotton from an early age.
After graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in Economics, Mike began researching and breeding cotton full-time with Jim. With expertise in developing high quality cotton, Jim and Mike are expertly qualified to improve the quality of naturally colored cottons.
After years of researching and developing a number of high quality naturally colored cotton varieties, The Natural Hue Company was officially incorporated in 2015. The goals that the Olveys set out to achieve are being accomplish by breaking down barriers to fiber quality, which has been illusive in naturally colored cotton fibers—until now.
Jim and Mike Olvey’s research continues in order to ensure naturally colored cotton is a long-term sustainable product that eliminates bleach, salt, and dyes used in the coloring process. The rich quality of this naturally colored cotton will provide consumers with products that are naturally beautiful and environmentally friendly.