After the dust settles and the spinning is done, the woven fibers of cotton have one last clothing line of defense between the producer and the consumer. Retail serves as the penultimate destination for cotton’s journey. Cotton Row Clothier, based in Lubbock, Texas, connects supporters of Texas Tech University to products made with 100% cotton.
“I was blown away at how many people said, ‘Oh, we always are looking for 100% cotton stuff or cotton-theme stuff,” Dillon White said, owner of Cotton Row Clothier.
White is an alumnus of Texas Tech and the current owner of Cotton Row with his wife, Allison White. He started his own design and apparel business from the comfort of his bedroom in 2016. That business, Hub City Design, has grown 50% to 70% every year. After working in collaboration with the original owners of Cotton Row , Brady and Tania Raindl, White said he was given an opportunity he could only pass up once.
White declined Raindl’s first offer to sell him Cotton Row Clothier. However, as a Texas Tech grad and someone who values agriculture, White said he was willing to take the unique business if it came with the license to market Texas Tech apparel.
“When I bought the company, I wanted to make sure the [Texas] Tech license came with it.” White said.
Fortunately, it did.
The original owner, Brady Raindl, was a cotton trader and started Cotton Row Clothier in 2016.
“They went above and beyond,” White said, “from sourcing the cotton to it being sent off to be turned into fabric, which they would just put on huge spools of fabric and then you have to send it off to be sewn into T-shirts.”
After White purchased the business in 2020, Cotton Row Clothier adopted a more economically viable business model, still using 100% U.S.-produced cotton clothing but purchasing it through a wholesaler rather than sourcing it himself.
“It’s called Cotton Row, so all of our shirts are cotton,” White said.
That comes at a cost. White said he pays a 55% premium for the American-made product despite the wholesaler offering the exact same product from a foreign source at a cheaper price.
White desires to keep the Cotton Row name in the boundaries of the original business design, a 100% cotton clothing store. Global supply and local production problems challenge that.
The company struggled during COVID-19 from the ensuing supply chain issues. Orders were coming in, but Cotton Row had no way of fulfilling them. The only solution White had for the supply problem was to wait. The business remained steady despite slow order fulfillment.
Cotton Row also has to weather West Texas droughts, which are a main focus of Texas Tech research with regard to cotton production.
Darren Hudson, Ph.D., a professor at Texas Tech for agricultural and applied economics, and the director of the International Center for Agricultural Competitiveness believes weather is a huge contributor to the viability of cotton production.
“Everything hinges on the weather,” he said. “Forty to 50% of the cotton that’s grown out here is rain fed, so it’s not irrigated at all. Last year there were zero acres of dryland cotton.”
Local weather is directly tied to the success of Cotton Row. White said oil and cotton producers make up 75% of the companies Cotton Row does business with and when business is bad for them, business is bad for Cotton Row.
Even with the adversity, walking the clothing line, Cotton Row Clothier stays true to its roots of West Texas cotton farming by continuing to sell 100% cotton products. A business that is down in the dirt with local cotton farmers, Cotton Row Clothier, will continue to support the cotton industry and market its Texas Tech apparel.
“We just try to make the coolest Texas Tech hats,” White said.