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Cause You’re Not Basic: Cotton Ball Harnesses the Impact of Minimalism

Cause You’re Not Basic: Cotton Ball Harnesses the Impact of Minimalism

Anyone who’s visited the US knows the feeling of walking into a rainbow colored American Apparel store.

Their basic cuts, vibrant colors, variety in choice, and “Made in America” promise of heritage, were all dynamite selling points for AA for decades.

I spoke to Cotton Ball founders Zena Sallam and Ahmed Habib, about how an unassuming idea turned into a fruitful fashion business venture.

Everyone needs a perfectly cut, comfortable and reliable basic T-shirt. This is a closet staple we can’t live without, and many fashion houses skip over this item assuming, we as consumers, will manage to get these basics elsewhere. But the question is, where exactly? Can we guarantee their quality? What about consistency of finding the product? And most importantly where do we get the perfect cut?

While on a trip to the USA, Zena was intrigued by the number of stores claiming and selling 100% Egyptian Cotton basic T-shirts. A luxury, we as Egyptians can barely find in our local stores. An obvious and massive disconnect.

Cotton Ball started as a homegrown brand, based in Egypt, offering customers something we all truly need: reliable, wearable, and durable basics, in a variety of shapes and colors, for both genders as well as unisex pieces.

Zena found that the reason people shop for basics at several different stores such as H&M, Lacoste and Polo Ralph Lauren for example, was because each store has a different cut that the consumer prefers. Zena, along with her husband Ahmed, wanted to create a brand built on the idea of a wholesome basics line, with all the cuts and colors needed to make Cotton Ball a one stop shop. Focusing all their energy on finding the ideal materials.

Starting from the bottom and cultivating the product from scratch, sourcing, weaving and dying their materials; Cotton Ball have total control of their final product. This helps ensure quality, consistency, and colors that are the exact shade envisioned.

Many brands today are too focused on being ahead of the curb, generating controversy, or thriving off of shock value, to even worry about producing basics. The power of a basic T-shirt was therefore briefly overlooked, something Cotton Ball built its business model on.

Cue: Maison Pyramide , a fashion strategy house, and Cult, an ultra avant garde shoes and accessories label bringing stark contrast to Cotton Ball's minimal aesthetic, both based in Cairo.

In cooridnation with Maison Pyramide and coming together with Cult, the “Cause You’re Not Basic.” campaign - displayed throughout this article, photographed by Amina Zaher with Makeup by Chanel Arif - came to be. A stand against chaos and complexity in fashion, and sort of celebration of the metaphorical founding fathers of fashion, The Basics; the basic tee, pant, dress and jacket.

The basics we wear every single day, the pieces we can incorporate into any outfit, the clothes we actually can’t live without.

Cotton Ball is an Egyptian brand through and through, they offer a minimal line of product that works. Each shirt style is named after areas in Egypt such as Giza, Fayoum, Alex, Aswan, and Delta. With staple pieces and collections that come out every season, to ensure loyal customers' return for their reliable dose of beloved basics.

They have a store in Zamalek that acts as an open vitrine.

In Zena’s words, “We opened our doors, turned on the lights and people were immediately curious and wanted to come in and try on our product.

Cotton Ball embodies that age old tumblr quote, “Simplicity really is the key to brilliance.”

Elegance is elimination.
— Cristóbal Balenciaga
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RADIC. Smiljan Radic.

RADIC. Smiljan Radic.