Just recently, we here at Home and Living were able to test-drive some new linens made by Boll & Branch. OMG, can you say heavenly? Today we have an interview with the founders, Missy and Scott Tannen.
Q.: Scott & Missy, what was the impetus for starting this company?
M. & S.: Buying a great set of sheets should be easy. Boll & Branch was created because for most people, it isn't -- something Missy experienced firsthand. In late 2012, Missy needed to buy new sheets and found the experience confusing and frustrating. The retailers were using nebulous buzz words like `thread count' and there was no rhyme or reason for pricing.
Boll & Branch was conceived to make the process of buys sheets predictable and simple. We planned to take the thinking out of it for the customer and by selling direct online. And, by selling exclusively online, we wouldn't have the overhead and markups of the big box retailers so the price would be less than half.
Q. How did you decide what qualities you wanted in linen and how hard was that to achieve what you wanted?
M. & S.: On one hand, it was incredibly difficult because as hard as it is for consumers to make heads-and-tails out of the textiles industry, it is even harder to get straight answers out of the distributors and import/export companies. We quickly realized that private labeling someone else's product (which is the norm in the category) was not going to be a good option.
So, we started with old-fashioned market research. By purchasing different types of sheets and sleeping on them (and asking friends, family and random people to do the same) we started to hone in on the fabric attributes people were responding best to. Then, we worked to find the best quality cotton we could find that perfectly paired durability with softness and breathability and did a bunch of research. Premium organic cotton from southern India woven into sateen was a far-and-away winner -- being favored much more highly than so-called `Italian linens' and `egyptian cotton' which, we found, to be very inconsistent.
" ...we started to hone in on the fabric attributes people were responding best to."
Q. Can you tell readers why "organic" cotton is preferable?
M. & S.: There are two reasons:
1) The organic cotton, without any of the polishes and synthetics that are often added to sheets, was the most optimal combination of softness without loss of durability. The thread-weight at a single-ply 300-thread count (not any multi-ply inflated numbers) was just the right amount of breathability for all-season use. And it wasn't even close in comparison to other options.
2) Most of the cotton in the products we use comes from the developing world. Unlike more sophisticated farms in the US, cotton in these places is picked and cared for by hand. Quite simply, organic cotton is infinitely safer for the farmers and growers -- as well as the environment. The images of conventional (non-organic) cotton growers covered in highly toxic chemicals, spraying the fields by hand were very upsetting to us. By focusing on driving awareness of not only the quality of organic cotton, but also how much more sustainable that type of farming is for the people and their health, plus the environment, we have a product that we feel proud of.
People `told us' that you couldn't make an affordable product out of organic cotton -- because the crop is so expensive. What we realized is that this is just because the big retailers are accustomed to 400%+ markups. We choose to price fairly and sell a superior, organic product that is better for the people who make it, better for the environment and more comfortable for the customer at $200-250/set -- compare that to a $800 set of `luxury' conventional sheets at a big box retailer. You can understand why most of the big names in the bedding business haven't been thrilled that Boll & Branch is exposing the truths of the category!
Q. We love the size of the products and I know you allowed for shrinkage, could you speak to that?
M. & S.: `Pre-shrunk' is probably our favorite category misnomer. What does that really even mean?? The truth is that all cotton shrinks over time -- if it doesn't shrink, it isn't really cotton! So, we took that into account and made sure that even with a little bit of shrinkage, our products will always look great. A pet peeve of ours is that our old king set (before Boll & Branch) shrunk so much that we couldn't tuck it in. Boll & Branch sheets take that worry away.
So, why doesn't every brand do that? It's simple, in this money-hungry industry more fabric equals more cost. So, if they can make a smaller king flat sheet or pillowcase and they sell it for the same price, they make more money because the product cost is lower. We don't believe in taking advantage of our customers that way. Our sheets are oversized because it is the right thing to do -- and we don't upcharge a customer for things like `deep fitted sheets' and the like.
Q. What is on the horizon for Boll & Branch, a duvet cover, perhaps?
M. & S.: We just launched a line of cable knit throws, also made from organic cotton that are selling unbelievably well. Coming down the pike, our customers can look forward to some more colors, duvets and even a broader range of fabrics. There's always some surprises in store, too :)
Q. Is there anything you would like to tell Home and Living Readers?
M. & S.: You spend a third of your life in bed. You deserve to feel the difference of an incredible set of sheets and, finally, with our pricing structure luxury linens are no longer reserved for celebrities and the super-rich. We know they'll love them!
Take a look at the gorgeous pictorial in our slideshow...