While today Anna Yeager Brakefield is at the helm of beloved and successful Southern brand Red Land Cotton, that wasn’t always in her plan. In fact, it couldn’t have been further from it. After growing up in a small town in Northwest Alabama – “smack-dab in the middle of a cotton field,” as Anna likes to describe it — her ambition was to move far away from small-town life in Moulton, Alabama, and instead live in the Big Apple. She did just that, getting a job at a New York City advertising firm after graduating from Auburn University. After she got engaged to now-husband Nick, she made the move to Nashville, but she never quite found the fulfillment she was looking for. “I just wasn’t happy with my career and what I was doing,” Anna explains. “It’s really funny how life preps you for things, and you don’t even know it.”
What life was prepping Anna for, she believes, was the move back home to Alabama. At the very same time she was wrestling with unfulfillment in her career, her father, Mark, was hoping to start a new cotton business with Anna. “Sometimes you have to get away to have respect for where you came from,” Anna says. “If I hadn’t gone to New York City and lived that life, I wouldn’t have the same appreciation for the way of life here that I have now. So when he approached me about coming home and starting a business, I was ready to give it a try.”
So Anna headed home, back to the nearly 5,000 acres she grew up on. She and Mark got to work, knowing they wanted to make a bedsheet, and they wanted it to be made strictly of their own homegrown cotton, which they also custom gin. “Being able to gin our own cotton automatically gave us a lot of quality control, as we are able to control the heat and moisture put on the fibers,” Anna explains. “We could make sure that we were selecting only the absolute best cotton for our product.”
With quality cotton readily available, it was time to determine the style of sheet to be made. Mark was nostalgic for the bedsheets he grew up sleeping on, so to recreate that feeling, they took an heirloom 1920s bed sheet — loaned to them from a family friend at church — and reverse-engineered it to determine the weave and yarn size they wanted. They landed on an open weave with substantially sized yarn, which provides the softness of a high-thread-count sheet with the breathability of a nice percale. That gave Mark the same feeling he remembered as a kid. “He felt so strongly about it, and any time you can have a strong conviction about what you’re going to make, I think it’s a home run,” Anna says. “I felt that really fit the feeling of what we were trying to do, which was bring back a way of making things that are done right.”
Red Land Cotton started out with two lines of bed sheets, one with a decorative hemstitching and another with cotton lace. With both products, Anna ensured that they were both 100 percent made in the U.S.A. “That’s really hard to say, as so much of the textile industry in the United States has been decimated, but it was incredibly important to us to make that happen,” Anna adds. “We are the only single cotton farm in the United States that is making a product direct-to-consumer strictly from our crop.”
Not only are the sheets made in the U.S.A., but they are practically made completely in the South, with the cotton being grown and ginned in Moulton, then spun, woven and finished in South Carolina. It’s then cut and sewn in Moulton by a group of local women who have a combined 200+ years of experience.
Red Land Cotton ran out of its first shipment of sheets almost immediately when it launched in October 2016. Since then, the company has grown to include bath towels, duvet covers, shams and even 100 percent cotton quilts – one of Anna’s personal favorites as they can handle being thrown in the washer and dryer. While that list of offerings continues to evolve, what won’t change is the process by which they are made. Anna and Mark will continue to carefully manage the cotton from seed to stitch, and it will continue to be a family affair. Anna’s brothers have gotten involved by helping their dad with farming, Anna’s sister-in-law manages their local storefront, and her mother helps at the store as well – when she’s babysitting Anna and Nick’s little girl Katharine.
“Our message seems to really be resonating with people,” Anna says. “More people are wanting to know where the products they use every day come from, and it’s something that’s important to me – important for us – to provide to our customers. There’s a lot of love and passion that we pour into every one of our Red Land Cotton products.”
That’s a quality that can’t be beaten!
Learn more about Red Land Cotton and shop their products at redlandcotton.com.
All photography by Stacie Kinney.
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