Written by Kevin Van Lancker, CEO
Production in Latvia
There used to be a time that cycling brands out of Italy were way ahead of their competitors from other parts in the world. They were based close to the knitting factories that were all based in the North of Italy (Bergamo/Milan- region).
Today, anno 2016, most of the knitting factories have moved all or large parts of their manufacturing to cheaper labour countries which are close-by such as Hungary and Romania.
It is true that most development still takes place in Italy and therefor, working with Italian fabric suppliers is a must for most of the cycling brands, willing to offer a product made of ‘Italian’ fabrics. Fair enough.
Now, due to the ease of trade within the EU-zone, apparel manufacturers based in all EU member states, can quickly avail of these Italian fabrics to include in their product.
Therefor, it’s fair to state that most of the development in the cycling industry will no longer come from the manufacturers in Italy, but all eyes should now be pointed at the cheaper labour countries such as the Balkan and the Baltics.
The Sportswear Factory in Riga (Latvia) has been producing high end cycling, triathlon and skating gear made of Italian fabrics for years. The engineering part, the new cuts, the fitting and everything else came out of Latvia. Latvia has a strong heritage in producing apparel. Many of you don’t know that brands such as H&M used to (till 2015) produce large amounts of apparel in the Baltics. Even Chanel and other Italian and French high level fashion brands relied on production or development companies in Latvia.
A lot of know-how is still available from garment construction to sewing technologies. Until recently, nobody had used this advantage to stand out. Till The Sportswear Factory, led by Belgians and Latvians started to focus just on bringing the right mix of cycling expertise out of Belgium with manufacturing skills from Latvia.
Today, our view is that mass production of 1 single article in the Baltics does not make sense any more. The closing of renowned factories in Latvia that were stuck with the old mentality that mass-production is the only way for survival, is a sign that our thinking is right.
However, The Sportswear Factory in Riga is specialized in smaller volume production per style. Focussed on amounts from 1 till 500 pcs per article. Turn-around times that nobody had seen before in the cycling industry. We offer brands a very high level of flexibility in terms of production but also can help with all the development work. From picking the best materials, to fine-tuning the cuts.
The latest technologies are available. Very strong relations to the Italian fabric suppliers, blended with crafting skills of the highest level and the close collaboration with cycling brands and their customers and sponsored pro teams globally, have made us one of the preferred partners to top brands for cycling apparel supply worldwide.
Should you, as a starting or established brand still look in the direction of Italian suppliers? I guess no. Especially if you know that factories like us are executing your order here in the Baltics and are sending the finished product back to the brand who then ships it as ‘Made in Italy’. We could produce it here with a label that says: ‘Designed in – your country of origin – and produced in EU.
Our plant also employs graphic and product designers that can help you to achieve that perfect design, cut and fit that you wish for.
But do not get me wrong. We did not say that you, as a cyclist, should not consider working with Italian brands. Each of the brands, no matter where they are located, have their own vision on how cycling products should look and fit. If you find your perfect garment amongst their ranges, go ahead.
This article is written for brands looking to produce cycling apparel at ‘factories’ that are putting in a stamp as ‘Made in Italy’ while you are being fooled and your product is actually made elsewhere. A product ‘Made in Latvia’ should say as much good things as a ‘Made in Italy’ sign.
We look forward to an astonishing year and welcome you to our facility at any time so we can give you insight in the ‘How we do it’ at The Sportswear Factory in Riga, Latvia.
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