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Virginia Postrel

The Frayed Reputation of Egyptian Cotton

The exotic label doesn't necessarily mean what you think.
Shrinking harvest.

Shrinking harvest.

Photographer: Shawn Baldwin/Bloomberg

The scandal that has devastated the business and reputation of Welspun India Ltd., India’s largest maker of home goods like sheets and towels, may also end up wrecking the prestige of Egyptian cotton.

On Aug. 19, Target Corp. said that 750,000 Welspun sheets that were supposedly premium-priced Egyptian cotton were made of some other material. Target dropped Welspun as a supplier, immediately depriving the company of about $90 million in annual sales, or around 10 percent of its total revenue. Other Welspun customers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. are now investigating.