Friday, 1 March 2019

Visit to Wolford Headquarters: Part One - The Tour

Last week I had the privilege of being invited by Wolford to visit their headquarters in Bregenz, Austria.


As readers of Hosiery For Men will know, Wolford is one of the world's most prestigious and iconic hosiery brands.

We have featured and reviewed lots of Wolford tights, leggings and socks on this blog, and more recently have started to feature Wolford body and skinwear.

Wolford have provided great support for this blog and are a hosiery brand that recognises its products can be worn by everyone.

I spent a day and half in total at the Wolford HQ. I will write about the experience in two parts.



In this first part I will cover the tour of the Wolford complex and meetings with colleagues at Wolford. In a forthcoming second part, I will share some further reflections on the visit.

I was invited to Wolford by the online department, and they organised a very full itinerary for me.

Bregenz

The Wolford complex is a landmark building in the beautiful Austrian city of Bregenz. The city is on the eastern shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance), the third-largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, between Switzerland in the west and Germany in the northwest. Behind the city is the Pfänder mountain.



The Wolford headquarters

The Wolford complex houses both the administrative headquarters of the company, as well as the production facilities.





After an introduction to colleagues in the Online Department, I was taken on a tour to see the whole production process. 

Production process

This was fascinating and incredibly informative experience.

Wolford have been in the hosiery business for almost 50 years, and you can see the experience and expertise in everything they do.


Hosiery knitting machine from the 1960s.

Knitting Department

The core area of the production process is the Knitting Department. Around 80 employees work here in three shifts.

This is where your Wolford tights are made using the most advanced knitting technology.

Different yarns are bought in or developed by Wolford themselves for different products. 324,000km of yarn are used daily. 30,000kg of yarn is used every month.

In the Knitting Department there are almost 400 circular knitting machines. These are highly advanced machines, that Wolford programme, adapt and modify for each particular style of tights. Each machine is dedicated to a particular garment and size. It was actually quite something to see the exact machine that makes a pair of Wolford Neon 40 tights in XL.

In the Knitting Department special atmospheric conditions, a microclimate, are maintained to ensure that the yarns, which are very sensitive, have the perfect level of humidity.

Each pair of tights is made with two tubes. Each tube is knitted in a cylinder in the knitting machine. Time taken will vary depending on the product and knitting technique. The tube for a plain pair of tights might take just a few minutes; a pair of tights with a complex pattern will take much longer.

Each pair of tights uses around 12km of yarn!

Yarns are mainly synthetic, such as polyamide and elastane, but also include natural fibres such as cotton and wool.

The machines are constantly monitored by very skilled workers, who can identify if there are any flaws or problems. Each tube, when completed, is white.

Steaming and sewing

The next stage is for each tube to be steamed to shrink to its exact expected size and texture. This also ensures that the tights do not shrink further when you wash them. The temperature is over 100°C.

The two tubes are then sewn together to finish the tights. This is also done on specialist machines with skilled workers. The stitching is of the highest quality. The toe seam is also stitched using very fine thread to ensure maximum comfort.

Did you know that when the panty/brief section and gusset is sewn, the back seam is longer than the front to ensure a perfect fit?

Dyeing

The tights are then dyed into the full range of colours that each garment is available in. The dyes are created and mixed by Wolford's own team of highly-qualified textile chemists.

There are about 100 employees in Dyeing Department. This is also highly specialised work. The dyeing process takes 6-12 hours, depending on the colour and material, and includes washing, dyeing and final treatments to ensure that the colours are fast and do not degrade. Fabric softeners are used to make sure the garments feel soft and comfortable.

The department using different colouring systems including Colorcombi, Paddle-Dyeing, Pack-Dyeing and Jet-Dyeing. Thousands of pairs of tights can be dyed in one dyeing batch. The tights are placed into special bags as they pass through the dyeing process to protect them from any damage.

I visited Wolford's own in-house laboratory where dyes are tested to ensure they are safe on the skin, as well as being environmentally friendly.

Forming

Next we took at look at Forming Department. Here the tights are put onto aluminium legs and then treated with hot steam at 100-125°C in special machines.

This process gives the tights the correct anatomical shape - a shape that is maintained no matter how many times they are worn and washed.

Quality control

What stood out throughout the production tour was the emphasis at every stage on quality control. Literally at every single stage there is a process of checking: the arrival of the yarns, the knitting of the tubes, stitching, dyeing and more. Even when products are finished, random samples are taken from each batch and rigorously tested to ensure the absolutely highest quality standards are maintained.

For example in one pair of tights the elasticity, the length and width of the waistband, the panty, legs and toes are all measured. Each pair of tights is also manually inspected by the trained eyes of experienced workers for any type of fault, however minor.



The aim is to make sure that every single pair of tights is perfect in every aspect. Only when each pair of tights has passed every stage of quality checking, are they packed and made ready for sale.

So now, readers, you know why Wolford tights are such high quality garments, and it's also why they are more expensive.

Lunch

I had a delicious lunch, with colleagues, in Wolford's own restaurant.



Presentation

In the afternoon I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation to a group of Wolford employees from different departments.

I shared information on tights and legwear for men through the ages, the background to the Hosiery For Men blog, developments in fashion such as gender free and unisex styling, data and learning of our recent Men Buying Tights survey, and the issue of inclusivity towards male customers. We had a useful discussion on what Wolford might do next in relation to men who buy their legwear, and some Wolford colleagues shared ideas on unisex approaches they are currently working on.


Final meetings


Later I met with key staff in the Wolford Design Department.
This was a hive of creativity and innovation. It was fascinating to see how far ahead new collections are planned.

And finally the visit ended with meetings with colleagues in the Product Management and Research and Development Departments.



Part Two


Stayed tuned for the second part of the report on the visit to the Wolford HQ.

6 comments:

  1. Wow! Such a great experience! Wolford is really working hard that customers will be happy <3

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  2. Well done good piece you should be proud. Is it costing you money. Can i chip in. Im not well off but greatly support the cause. Many £10s czn add up...

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  3. Hopefully they are having also more unisex designs for the body wear range (body & skinwear, shirts & pullover) in mind for men to combine with the legwear.

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  4. How interesting! We are looking forward to reading part 2!

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  5. Absolutely fantastic! Thanks for this review! I do hope they expand the male range in pantyhose and stockings.

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