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Cotton On: Like Australian Apparel (But Not Overpriced)

Since opening it’s doors in 1991, Cotton On has become the largest fashion retailer in Australia.

Everyone in Australia that goes to the mall knows what Cotton On is but in the US the company is not as familiar. Some people know it is a chain clothing store, but not the entrepreneurial story behind the founding of the $1.5 billion retailer in Geelong, Australia.

Cotton On founder Nigel Austin started in 1988 selling acid washed denim jackets at a street market in Geelong. He obtained the first products from his father who was a clothing wholesaler.


Cotton On Vicki Mesh Long Sleeve Top $19.95

In 1991, Austin opened the first Cotton On store and staffed it with his cousins. The company expanded to Asia in 2009 and the US in 2010. Now there are over 1300 retail locations in 19 countries.

The store sells a wide selection of cotton basics similar to American Apparel but at more affordable prices. They market multiple spin off brands as well, including Cotton On Kids and Typo, a quirky gift and stationary shop. In 2013 they acquired Supré, an Australian women’s fashion retailer. Cotton On Body is a line of women’s activewear, sleepwear and intimates. Factorie is Cotton On’s youth fashion line. And Rubi footwear and accessories are also sold at Cotton On.


Cotton On High Rise Flashback Denim Short $15

On the same level as global corporations such as Zara, Topshop, H&M, Gap or K-mart, the brand has come under scrutiny in the past for manufacturing in substandard conditions in Bangladesh. The products are usually designed by a team of people and then manufactured at factories in China or Bangladesh.

However there have not been any sexual harassment lawsuits by models and Cotton On seems to hire their workforce legally. The enterprise has seen an average increase in profit of 20% per year since 2010. This is in contrast to American Apparel, which sold for $88 million to Gildan in bankruptcy court earlier this year. Gildan, a Canadian wholesale clothing company plans to re-lanch American Apparel with products manufactured in overseas factories so they can compete with their rivals Fruit of the Loom.

cotton on accessories

Cotton On Essential Cap in Hot Pink Canvas $9.95, Farrah Round Sunglasses in Black/Purple Rev $9.95, Stretch Choker $9.95.

Olivia Oversized Tote Bag

Cotton On Olivia Oversized Tote in Silver Coated $12.95

The basic t-shirts, tanks, shorts and jeans can be worn every day, including sought after styles such as high rise shorts and destroyed 90’s jeans. You can buy cut offs, a t-shirt and a tote bag for the price of a single pair of shorts at a place like Urban Outfitters, and therein lies the genius of the brand’s marketing plan. Only rich people overspend on something that looks like it came from a thrift store. Sunglasses and chokers are around ten dollars a pair.

If the loss of AA has left a gaping hole in your life perhaps Cotton On can help soothe your pain. A $30 pair of perfectly ripped boyfriend jeans and a $10 crop top certainly will. Score 20% off your order right now. Simply click on the giant coupon below and start shopping.

Cotton On (US)

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