Cotton Traders: A British Mail Order Company Shares the Dream of Nelson Mandela
To the casual reader the term cotton traders would suggest people who produce and market cotton for the textile industry worldwide. And conjure up visions of global operations like Plexus which promotes its brand as involved in “farming, ginning, warehousing, manufacturing, logistics, and marketing operations.”
Think laterally and out of that box, but not too far away, and you will discover a British company which goes by the name of Cotton Traders. A pun on the name of one of its founders. After enjoying huge success as international rugby players through the 70’s, Fran Cotton and Steve Smith founded Cotton Traders in 1987 and over the years have made it into one of the most successful mail order companies in the UK. By 2010 it employed 1000 staff and boasted an annual turnover of more than £65 million.
Their catalogue features his and hers, menswear, womenswear, footwear, and accessories collections.
The Cotton Traders brand received powerful product placement on the big screen in February 2010 with the smash hit 'Invictus' starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Clint Eastwood directs the film which is based on the events of the 1995 Rugby World Cup where South Africa achieved victory with the open support of the new president, the freedom fighter of the century, Nelson Mandela.
During the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Cotton Traders sponsored England, Wales and South Africa, so the Cotton Traders logo is visible on the Springboks’ training jerseys and tracksuits.
And that is how a British company started by two rugby pals played a role in the dream of the South African hero, Nelson Mandela.
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