Royal fans have snapped up the first batch of official Royal Wedding souvenir tea towels, according to a report today by the BBC.
Souvenir firm Emma Bridgewater Pottery, based in Stoke-on-Trent, revealed that the first run of 4,000 tea towels, designed by the artist Matthew Rice, had sold out completely within a fortnight of their launch. A second run is now on the cards, in order to meet demand for the towels ahead of the wedding between Kate Middleton and Prince William – which the company is racing to complete.
It said that it has received a total of 10,000 orders for items being sold in the Royal Wedding range of products.
Speaking from the company's factory store, manager Jamie Shawcross told the BBC: "We have been inundated with people wanting a memento of the special day."
The Japan earthquake and resultant tsunami has caused an outpouring of sympathy and assistance across the world – with charities, governments and public appeals all gathering essential supplies to help the victims of the disaster.
Among the supplies required, towels are one of the most important, helping to keep refugees from the quake – as well as their babies and young children – clean and dry.
Today a chartered plan containing the first batch of relief items from China left Shanghai to assist the Japanese rescue operations, containing 2,000 towels and blankets, 900 tents and 200 emergency lights, according to Chinese Ministry of Commerce official Yang Hongbin.
The plane will arrive in Tokyo this evening, whereupon the towels, blankets and tents will be distributed to survivors of the terrible disaster.
Thousands have been killed or remain missing in the aftermath of the quake and tsunami, and charities across the UK are also gathering towels, bedding and other essential relief items.
Dunster First School in Somerset took action on behalf of baby orang-utans recently, with a very special towel collection.
The local newspaper reported this week that following leading wildlife campaigner Annie Birtwell's visit to the school, plucky pupils helped amass dozens of towels for use at Annie's rehabilitation centre for orang-utans in Borneo, which helps orphaned apes which have lost their habitat to logging. At a special school assembly, where the campaigner told the children about the centre and gave them all a picture of a cute baby orang-utan, she explained that the towels were needed as hammocks for the baby orang-utans – and the kids were quick to take action, eventually collecting over 100 towels.
Annie Birtwell's involvement with the school began when two of the pupils, eight-year-old and six-year-old Louis and Olivia Stanbury met her last year. They had the idea of collecting towels when she explained what would help the life of the baby apes in Borneo.
Japanese towel makers were left angry and confused this week after a Shanghai-based company scuppered their bid to market the "Imabari towel" brand in China.
The Shikoku Towel Industrial Association, which comprises 125 towel makers, was in the process of applying to the Chinese Trademark Office to register its brand name and logo – only to find that a small Chinese towel wholesaler had beaten them to it, leading to the office rejecting their application. Even the logo was the same – albeit turned on its side!
"We cannot allow the Chinese company to copy our brand, which we have nurtured carefully with deep affection," an association spokesman told the Daily Yomiuri newspaper.
The Imabari towel brand was created some four years ago to counter the importation of what it saw as low-quality imported towels, mainly from China. To gain brand accreditation, association members have to meet strict standards of manufacture and water absorbency for their towels.
With the first official Royal Wedding 2011 tea towels hitting the shops today, souvenir collectors should also be aware of another unique royal event due to take place next year.
The towels commemorating Prince William and Kate Middleton's nuptials are currently available from the Royal Collection gift shop opposite Buckingham Palace, bearing the entwined initials of the couple in the centre, under a crown and ribbon design.
But for the Queen's 2012 Diamond Jubilee, the manufacturers of souvenir tea towels and other commemorative items will face a slightly different approach to design – the winning entry in a Blue Peter competition.
The winner, 10-year-old Katherine Dewar, has designed the official Jubilee emblem – a crown above the Union Flag with diamonds down either side.
The excited competition winner told the BBC that she was “looking forward to seeing people waving flags with my design on to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.”
The world's number two tennis champion Roger Federer admitted this week to being so enamoured of the towels provided for the Australian Open tournament that he steals four of them after every match.
Federer is currrently Down Under seeking his fifth title win at the Australian Open, and recently beat his fellow champ and personal friend Stanislas Wawrinka in three straight sets.
In a post-match interview, however, the Swiss superstar faced an awkward serve – being asked by cheeky Aussie sportscaster Jim Courier how many of the £35-a-pop towels he had pinched from the courts that week.
Federer was unabashed, and explained that his motives were more Robin Hood than robbing millionaire. He said that he had taken four at each match – 20 so far – and revealed that "I give them away 'cause my friends all want them. I might take one, if that."
They must be high-quality towels indeed, to be so highly sought after!
The BBC reported this week on the economic miracle experienced in India's western province of Gujarat, which has bounced back from a devastating earthquake and is now home to the world's largest towels factory.
Gujarat's north-western region of Kutch had long been a difficult place to make a living, with infrequent rains and low employment. The situation was made even worse in January 2001, when a massive earthquake ravaged the area and flattened cities – including the regional capital Bhuj.
The public response, from Indians at home and abroad was impressive, with £80 million of aid being delivered and a government policy aimed at sparking an economic recovery. The government was quick to establish tax-free zones in order to encourage investment.
The policy paid off in spades, with some £10 billion coming to the region and 110,000 new jobs being created. Among these were the jobs at the biggest towels factory in the world – the Welspun plant's enormous mechanised looms manufacture over a quarter of a million towels every day.
So successful is the plant, that it has even eclipsed UK towel-maker Christy's as the official supplier of towels to the Wimbledon tennis championship.
Welspun chairman Balkrishan Goenka told the BBC that the regional government's policies had made the establishment of the factory possible.
"There were no local taxes for the first five years and no excise duties. Nor were there indirect taxes to government - they were exempted for five years," he revealed.
"Those were the primary benefits. More than that there was huge support from the local government so industry can come faster."
A new video from a US trade association published this week shows the ubiquity of cotton products in the modern home – from bathroom towels to keep us dry, to the bed linen we all rely on to get a good night's sleep.
The new video from Cotton Inc. can be viewed free online, and has been published as a companion to the latest Cotton Incorporated Home Textiles Survey.
The survey revealed that cotton towels and bed linen, plus other home textiles, are still a massive attraction to shoppers for the American home – the poll revealed that 96 per cent of American women had bought cotton towels and sheets before.
The trade body's product trend analyst Jenna Caccavo said: "Cotton is a great choice for home textiles because it's comfortable and natural."
"Whether you're looking for bedding for your family, or prefer re-usable towels in the kitchen and bathroom, cotton makes sense throughout the home."
Indeed, a US bathroom without cotton towels appears to be almost unthinkable, according to the survey, with 80 per cent of homemakers expressing a preference for the material.
"Consumers look to cotton for typical bath products like towels and swabs, but what they might not realize is that cotton cellulose is also found in some surprising things we use every day, like shampoo, nail polish, toothpaste, and even some LCD television screens," Ms Caccavo added.
The Cotton Incorporated, research and marketing company organisation is funded by US upland cotton farmers and importers. It exists to increase awareness of this most useful textile product.
They seem so ubiquitous now, that it is easy to forget that towels had to be invented by somebody. All cultures and countries ensure that towels are on offer when we visit their hotels and guest-houses – but there are still those who stake a claim on being the place from which all towels originated.
The country in question may not seem so eccentric for claiming such a thing when we think about its unique contribution to ablutions – the Turkish bath.
Turkey is the place where most historians of such things agree that the modern towel originated – in the city of Bursa to be precise, which is still famous for making so-called "Turkish towels."
The towels of Bursa were originally made of cotton or linen, and by the 18th century were also constructed with a central looped pile section.
Originally, such towels were destined for a bride-to-be's ceremonial bath before her wedding – at the historic Turkish hamam. Different towels were made available for the shoulder, hips and head. This elaborate arrangement was made keeping the special Turkish baths in mind.
Weavers became famous for their own variations on the towels, which they referred to as “havly” - the modern Turkish word for towel is still “havlu”. But where old-style weavers could only produce three or four towels a day, modern weaving techniques have allowed the style to be copied and produced across the globe.
Nowadays such fluffy and warm towels are used in bathrooms all over the world with far less ceremony than their originators could have imagined.
We are used to hearing stories of pop divas such as Mariah Carey or J-Lo with their outrageous backstage demands, but who would have thought it of clean-cut, boy-next-door singer Bryan Adams – a man apparently obsessed with clean towels!
The Canadian rocker is playing India next month and has made some pretty high-rolling demands ahead of his touchdown on the sub-continent.
Bryan begins his tour in Pune on 12 February, before playing gigs in Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, finishing up in Hyderabad on the 16th.
For each event, the voice behind such hits as Everything I Do", "Please Forgive Me", "18 Till I Die" and "All For Love" wants a fleet of forklift trucks on hand, a hospitality party after each show and 100 clean white towels to be provided.
Bryan has also demanded dressing rooms which have natural light and definitely NO fluorescent lighting.
However, we should not judge the singer to harrshly. It turns out that the 100 towels are to help his crew freshen up after the shows – and he is also insisting that barricades for the standing audience should not be any further than 1.2 metres from the stage so that he and his band can interact with the Indian audience. He will not be demanding any outrageous food items, as the vegetarian Adams travels with his own personal chef.
Lastly, a percentage of all the corporate/VIP ticket sales are to go a locally-based charity, which works for the welfare of underprivileged children across India.
Faced with such big-heartedness, who can begrudge Bryan a few hundred towels?