There was a time when North Carolina was a world leader in textiles. Thanks to industrial innovations, a plenitude of accessible waterpower, and readily available raw materials, by 1921 the state boasted 341 mills producing $191 million worth of textiles annually. This booming industry not only ushered in an era of growth but reshaped the landscape into company towns, industrial communities throughout North Carolina’s Piedmont and foothills. Places like Cliffside, a hamlet located in southern Rutherford County along the Broad River, known for the largest gingham mill in the South. But the dawn of the twenty-first century, with its globalization and consolidation, nearly erased all of it. The good news now is that some companies are finding a way to rebound.
In 2019, Crypton, a high-performance upholstery fabric company, purchased Cliffside’s historic Abercrombie Mill, reviving innovative luxury home fabric production. Today Cliffside is once again a proud leader in the fabric industry thanks to the Crypton Mills at Broad River, where sustainability, well-being, and American made craftsmanship come first.
That mission is an extension of Crypton CEO Lance Keziah’s belief that companies shouldn’t just be makers but positive change makers, both for communities and the products they prepare. Crypton illustrates this mission in lines such as its first to-market Crypton Home Performance Recycled Cottons. In keeping with the company’s commitment to “think globally, act locally,” the fabrics are designed and woven at the Crypton Mills at Broad River and featured on Universal Furniture products which are also handcrafted in North Carolina. In an era when the fashion industry is responsible for 20 percent of waste globally, Crypton is making a difference by weaving this collection from 50 to 70 percent recycled cotton repurposed from the garment industry. In fact, Crypton’s Cliffside crew are pioneers in modern upholstery production. They are the first in the home design sector to incorporate Recover cotton yarns into home fabrics. Made using a closed-loop technology that turns cotton apparel that would otherwise be considered waste into valuable new fiber and ultimately pure cotton yarn, until now this innovation was used almost exclusively in clothing manufacturing. But these aren’t just eco-friendly fiber alternatives. Performance Recycled Cottons also feature the company’s patented spill repelling, stain-and-odor resisting properties. Thanks to the partnership between the two esteemed North Carolina brands, an industry that was once waning is now growing and advancing the trade for the greater good all while upholding the state’s title as the nation’s premiere region for furniture.
The design and technology capabilities may have changed since the historic Abercrombie Mill became a textile hub 120 years ago, but the place and the people behind America’s preeminent fiber firm remain the same: a small North Carolina community weaving its way into the future.