For Down Under Cotton tampons entrepreneur, Kim Coskun, sourcing 100 per cent homegrown, traceable cotton is a journey that has made all the difference.

Standing in the vast, surreal expanse of ‘Gundy’ cotton fields billowing out to the horizon, Kim Coskun is 350kms south-west of North Brisbane and a long way from home. While regular visits out here would be uncommon enough for a city-dweller like herself, perhaps even more out of the ordinary would be swapping peak-hour traffic on one of those days to commandeer the wheel of a $1.2 million cotton picker. But as it turns out, Kim isn’t generally one for following well-trodden paths. And in the case of Down Under Cotton, she has much preferred to trailblaze her own.

Kim’s entrepreneurial idea was sparked in 2015 by her growing unease in the disparity she was witnessing between the depiction of women in advertising imagery for period products on television, and the real-life experience of menstruation itself. Natural curiosity then led her into researching the type and provenance of fibers used in the Australian tampon market at the time, where she soon became disillusioned with her findings. Kim began to boldly envision a more sustainable alternative – one that would defy the norms of an industry dominated by the use of synthetic fibres, as well as imported cotton. “We always want to support Aussie farmers where we can,” she says. “But at the time this wasn’t an area where this was an option for women to do that in the product choices available. We wanted to fill that gap and offer tampons that support Australian grown and our farmers.”

"We wanted to fill that gap and offer tampons that support Australian grown and our farmers."

A sustainable, all-Aussie alternative

Kim was emboldened into action and reached out via the Cotton Australia webpage, which listed a number of cotton growers nominated for awards. Her aim was to meet some of the faces behind the Australian cotton industry and learn firsthand how this natural fibre was grown. It wasn’t long before she stumbled across family-owned and operated cotton growers in Goondiwindi, Rob and Andrew Newell of Korolea Farming (BCI – Better Cotton Initiative accredited). There was an instant connection as Kim was invited out for an immersive weekend with the father-son duo, who kindly offered their hospitality and expertise in real cotton country.

“I got the opportunity to get hands-on and learn, among other things, how to successfully get a syphon going – used for irrigation,” she recalls. “It’s definitely a lot harder than it looks. I walked away with two blisters!” Korolea Farming were only too happy to join forces with Kim by the end of her stay – also offering her ongoing mentorship as well as donating the first bale for the trialing of her new product.

Fast forward to February 2021 and Down Under Cotton was successfully launched while Kim was on maternity leave. Kim shares that the six-year road to manufacturing these products has been long and challenging at times, but also incredibly rewarding. “There has been lots of negotiating and learning along the way, but I’m so happy to say that, together with Aussie farmers and the Australian Cotton industry, we have achieved our goal to make our products with 100 per cent Australian cotton.”

Bringing a more sustainable alternative to market was imperative for Kim, with the high-quality natural fibres of cotton being hypoallergenic for sensitive skin and containing no synthetics or dyes. “Due to its unique fibre structure, cotton breathes better and is more comfortable than synthetic fabrics,” she explains. Down Under Cotton has also successfully created full traceability from paddock to product – ensuring Aussie cotton by using the bale identification number which travels with the cotton for the full length of the production process. The environmentally-friendly packaging further features the company’s steadfast commitment to this goal.

Normalising period talk

Another thread to the Down Under Cotton journey for Kim, has been working to dismantle social stigma and changing the discourse surrounding the subject of menstruation, in order to encourage the conversation and normalise period talk.

“I spent a lot of time talking to people about my idea – from cotton farmers to the CEO of Cotton Australia. I have never felt ashamed talking about menstruation and I think neither should women in general. I knew from very early on in my journey that I wanted to make a change about the way we feel and talk about periods.”

Head office for Kim at the moment is at home, rotating her Down Under Cotton roster around life with her 14-month-old boy, Jack with partner, Tom Rutter. While conceding that there’s not much sleep to be had there in the city, she says it’s equally so in the country.

“Farmers work around the clock to keep Australia’s economy going,” she explains. “They are the producers of so much of our food and fibre in Australia and I deeply admire their work ethic. They’re the ones who keep local communities strong and invest their livelihoods, making sure people have jobs. I feel extremely lucky to have met and worked with some amazing people.”

{words: Simone Gonzalezphotography: Grace Quast}