At the beginning of June (ages ago!), I was on a two-day excursion with my class, visiting Austrian labels and textile producers. We got a really good insight into the different kinds of companies: From the big factory with mostly machines and hardly any people down to the family-based company, where the whole (limited) production is on one floor of an old building.
We started by visiting Löffler – they produce active wear, with specializations in biking and the nordic winter sports: They dress the Austrian National Biathlon Team, for example. They produce everything in Europe (except for the cycling-gloves), and mostly in the Czech Republic (if I remember correctly). They do produce samples and smaller, more specialized orders in their factory in Upper Austria, as well as their fabrics! They have a couple of huge, round knitting machines, which produce high-tech fibers, many of them invented by Löffler. They looked incredible, they reminded me of Star Trek’s warp core, or maybe something Spider Man related. They also had smaller ones, which produced undershirts – just like that, coming out of the machine, every 6 minutes! They had these typical ‘muscels’ on them – you know, on men’s active underwear, the shirts that seem to imitate the human body and its muscels through differently textured fabric – all done in one go! I couldn’t believe it!
The whole process is actually a secret (they have patents on so many things) and we weren’t allowed to take pictures, I just have this one for you: On the right, the (machine-)cut pattern pieces, always a stack of many layers at once, all labeled and ready to be sent to the Czech Republic – all the cutting still happens in Austria, including adding details like the logo or laser-cutted designs.
The next stop was a small traditional costume company – Tostmann Trachten. I have quite a lot pictures of this visit, so I’ll dedicate a seperate post to it!
The next day, we continued travelling to Kitzbühel, to the headquarters of Sportalm. While their style definitely does not meet mine, I did find it interesting to see how it all works. And I actually do like their sligtly over-the-top Dirndls! The design team as well their pattern- and samplemakers are located in Tyrol, the main production happens in Bulgaria – in a factory owned by Sportalm, which is not the rule: Normally, companies outsource their production completely, hiring factories and giving away all responsibility. Through having their own factory, Sportalm can ensure fair wages, secure jobs and safe working conditions.
But back to their headquarters. We got a tour by the owner and saw everything from his office to the embroidery machines and the warehouse. And so many meeting-rooms! Really, they were everywhere, each of them differently furnished in the typical Sportalm style: Rustic and modern at the same time, with a good dose of kitsch. But that’s just their aesthetic, and you can see it everywhere, so at least there is a continuity (And I like that). Funny story: On one of the desks in the design departement sat a dalmatian, with his paws on the keyboard, looking very important and busy… Maybe we’ll all wear dots next season…
The last company we visited was Linz Textile. It was a real factory, with mostly machines and hardly any people – some really cool machines, for that matter. I took a lot of pictures, which I will show you in another post as well.
Our last stop was the Lentos museum in Linz. The exhibition was called ‘Love & Loss’, it was about fashion and fashion photography. Not that spectacular, but they had 4 McQueen pieces, which I adored… The Iris Van Herpen dress from my June post was exhibited there as well.
Overall, a very exciting trip – I love getting behind the scenes of basically any company as it is always interesting to see how it all works.