All posts by admin

Blockchain Disrupts the Fashion Industry by Susanna Koelblin

There’s no denying it, the fashion and retail world will become one with technology. The line between these two industries is blurring and is reflected in trends such
as chatbots, change in the Brick and Mortar structures, virtual realities, artificial intelligence, robots, 3D printing, Internet of Things and blockchain.

One of the most cutting-edge developments is the incorporation of blockchain technology. Blockchain is a global online database that anyone with an internet connection can use, but it doesn’t belong to anyone.

Block What?

A blockchain is a distributed database maintaining a constantly-growing list of data records secured from tampering and revision. The data are recorded in a blocks structure, with each block holding batches of individual transactions. Meaning the database is secure, open, auditable and what makes it unique is that it runs without a single centralized operator. The defining feature of a blockchain is that it cannot be modified by any party, it is coded in a way that prevents fudging the data, whether that data is bitcoin quantities or the origin of a piece of clothing. That means information can be transmitted through huge networks, such as supply chains, and be added to by users on those networks without compromising security.

Conceived in 2008, it is mostly used in the banking sector for the moment, because the technology easily helps tracing transactions and it happens to be the main technical innovation of the bitcoin. The idea was to create a decentralized digital property that keeps track of who owns what. Today it is not bitcoin, but blockchain that everyone is buzzing about…

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Book Review: An Intimate Affair by Jill Fields
by Andrew Sia

I’ve had this book in my possession for a little while now. According to the author, the book began as a research paper while she was a graduate student at the University of Southern California. The paper further developed into her doctoral thesis although she didn’t enter graduate school with the idea of the book in mind. Obviously one thing led to another and her papers were published as this book.

The book presents the history of intimate apparel during the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in New York City. The writer closes the book at the end of the twentieth century. This industry really has come a long way.

The history of undergarments, whether cotton underwear, silk lingerie, or foundation garments with elastic straps and metal hooks, needs to be understood in relation to social and economic changes, such as the increasing rationalization of work and leisure and transformations in the shaping, conceptualization, and representation of the female body.

Per the author, an article in a 1921 trade journal used the term intimate apparel when referring to a set of undergarments. This is the earliest reference to the term that one can find.

The interpretive framework and historical understanding the writer presents draw upon a range of methodologies and disciplines, including costume and art history, literary and film criticism, and scientific analysis.

The relationship between fashion and eroticism, fetishism, seduction, modernity, and identity are all important components of the industry’s trajectory, and help lead us to an understanding of its history….

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Country Report: Mexico
by Andrew Sia

Mexico has been on President Trump’s hit list with his threat to build a wall between the country and the U.S. He also promised to dismantle NAFTA in an effort to protect U.S. workers. These promises, which were first made during his presidential campaign, are now facing challenges from within his own party, not to mention from Democrats.

I thought it would be good to feature Mexico in our next report as it’s one of the most important production bases in Latin America. I still consider it one of the better countries to carry out apparel production and certainly intimate apparel is one category where the skills needed to produce could be found here.

Brief history

Mexico was a site of advanced civilizations. The Mayans, who were agricultural people, moved up from the Yucatan and built huge stone pyramids and invented the Mayan calendar.

Mexico was inhabited by many of the Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Maya and Aztec before the arrival of the Europeans.

  • The earliest human artifacts are chips of stone tools found near campfire remains in the Valley of Mexico, which were radiocarbon-dated to circa 10,000 years ago.
  • In 5000 BC an agricultural society began that supplemented hunting.
  • Around 1500 BC, the earliest civilization in Mexico was the Olmec culture. The Olmec culture spread throughout Mexico into other formative-era cultures such as Chiapas, Oaxaca and the Valley of Mexico. This included the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, and also artistic and architectural complexes. This formative era of Mesoamerica is considered one of the six independent cradles of civilization.
  • During the post-classic period, circa 1000-1519 AD Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture.
  • The Aztec empire did not exert supreme authority over conquered lands. It built a tributary empire covering most of central Mexico and received tributes from the others. The Aztec were noted for practicing human sacrifice on a large scale but avoided killing enemies on the battlefield. This ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.
  • The Spanish first learned of Mexico during Juan de Grijalva’s expedition in 1518. The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire began in February 1519 when Hernán Cortés arrived at the port of Veracruz with 500 conquistadores. After gaining control of the city he moved to the Aztec capital in search of gold and later decided to conquer the Aztec empire.
  • The Spaniards arrived and brought the first smallpox epidemic, which killed the Aztec king and 3 million natives. The Spaniards were spared as they had been exposed to the disease for centuries and had developed immunity to it.
  • The Aztecs began to believe the epidemic was a punishment from an angry god. This led them to accept their fate and they no longer resisted the invaders. Their belief in the “superiority” of the Christian god resulted in the Aztecs accepting Catholicism and yielding to Spanish rule throughout Mexico…

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“Materialize Your Idea!” is the mantra of the recently established Centre of Innovative Material and Technology (CIMT) at the Hong Kong Design Institute, a material resources interactive learning platform that makes a difference.

The fast-growing material industry has resulted in a huge variety of material choices. Apart from conventional materials, there are more innovative, lesser known materials available in the market with great potential for design and innovative use. Many material producers have reflected that the knowledge of materials is often transferred incorrectly to the users, resulting in excessive or improper usage due to a lack of understanding.

At present, there are limited systematic material libraries or material centers in Hong Kong that can house a broad collection of design materials and relevant information. Local students and designers often acquire news and inventions of material from trade shows, trend forecasting services and magazines, fabric suppliers, etc. However, most of these sources are specialized for a limited number of stakeholders and they are not systematically centralized, time-wise and location-wise.

The CIMT was established to serve all design disciplines from interior design/ construction materials to advanced fabrics, allowing interdisciplinary design activities and knowledge exchange through multi-material applications. The official opening took place on April 7, 2017, with a mission to serve as a platform for knowledge exchange for design, innovative processes and materiality. The CIMT is dedicated to higher education and creative professionals, allowing students, teachers, alumni, design practitioners and other materials users to review state-of-the-art resources, putting the latest and most exclusive materials at their fingertips…

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Fashion Quote: “Red Is The Ultimate Cure For Sadness” by Bill Blass
Illustration by Tina Wilson

William Ralph “Bill” Blass was born on June 22, 1922 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was an American designer and the recipient of many fashion awards, including seven Coty Awards and the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bill Blass was among the first American designers to attach his name to his brand. With licensing deals, he was also one of the first designers to attach his brand to a variety of products, including luxury items such as perfumes, linens and even cars.

Blass began sketching in his youth and enrolled in the Parsons School of Design. At the start of the Second World War, he was one of a thousand men who served in the “Ghost Army,” part of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers that used visual trickery, including phony bridges, fake artillery positions, and trucks with massive speakers that played the sounds of a whole battalion, all a hoax to throw off the German army. The 603rd Camouflage Engineers stayed near the front of battle during most of the war and saved many Allies (Allied Forces) lives.

After the war, Blass returned to fashion and made both his name and brand with the help of his mentor, Baron Nicholas de Gunzburg, who was also a mentor to Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein. Blass later found additional success with sophisticated women’s sportswear…

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(When the Labor Market Gets Tough, the Tough Turn to Robots)
by Andrew Sia


In our October issue, we featured the article “The Industrial Revolution to Evolution and What’s Ahead.” The industrial revolution occurred between 1820 and 1840, and began in countries such as Great Britain, France, Germany and Belgium. It took exactly 150 years for this revolution to shift to Asia and now we are starting a new era with the introduction of robots.

Just 30 years ago, industry growth was rapid and cheap labor was abundant. Factories were set up overnight like mushrooms without much concern for efficiency, quality or tooling. If there were any problems, a factory would just move massive amounts of workers around rather than invest in any automation. Not many considered using CAM as manufacturing equipment. For a long period of time, China was labeled as a low-cost-country-model economy.

Consulting firms would assist manufacturers by introducing industry best practices like Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, and the Taguchi Method. This would ensure quality, drive up production efficiency, and reduce waste and cost. With fierce competition from within and from neighboring countries, price reduction eroded profitability.

China’s adoption of robots

Factories in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) started to upgrade their manufacturing methods by using robots. A hybrid assembly line, with both robots and workers working side by side, is the global trend today in factory automation. Robots are programmed to work safely with the workers to drive up quality products.

PRD is home to nine mainland cities in the province of Guangdong, notably Shenzhen and Guangzhou, as well as China’s special administration regions of Hong Kong and Macao. The World Bank recently declared the PRD as the world’s most populous megacity, with 66 million residents, equal to the population of France.

Its GDP is $1.2 trillion, which accounts for 10% of China’s GDP and represents a quarter of its exports.

Net inflows of migrant workers fell from 1.1 million in 2008 to 600,000 last year. Rising competition and a shrinking workforce are not only Shenzhen’s problem, but the nation’s as well. PRD pushed toward four powerful trends in order to make the region fit into the future: diversification, integration, automation and innovation.

Wages in PRD are a third higher than the national average, but shifting production out of the region can only bring a cost differential of between 20 to 30%. The entire supply chain is centrally located, so it’s not worth uprooting to a cheaper production site elsewhere within China. The standard wage for workers is RMB 4,000 or U.S. $600 per month. PRD still has the best logistics, manufacturing and supply chain.

Across the manufacturing belt of China’s southern coastline, thousands of factories are turning to automation in a government-backed robot-driven industrial revolution that the world has never seen. Since 2013, China has bought more industrial robots each year than any other country, including high-tech manufacturing giants such as Kuka of Germany by Midea, a Fortune 500 company and one of the world’s biggest white-goods manufacturers, and a joint venture with Yaskawa Japan and South Korea.

By the end of this year, China will overtake Japan as the world’s biggest operator of industrial robots, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), an industry lobby group. The pace of disruption in China is “unique in the history of robots,” says Gudrun Litzenberger, general secretary of the IFR, which is based in Germany, home to some of the world’s leading industrial-robot makers.

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Word Trade in Turmoil
by Andrew Sia

President Trump withdrew from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and threatened to renegotiate NAFTA, creating uncertainty. He also canceled the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP), leaving the European Union in disarray with the rising threat of protectionism.

This triggered Europe to shift their focus to Asia and other emerging markets. Europe had been looking to intensify trade with Asia over the last decade by signing trade deals with South Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam. With the U.S. leaving the TPP negotiations, the EU is in discussions with the remaining 11 nations. Brussels continues talks with Mercosur, the South American trade bloc and is considering discussions with the Gulf States, although for the time being those talks have stalled.

These events have prompted us to look into South America and the trade agreements these countries have built.

Union of South American Nations or União de Nações Sul-Americanas, often referred to by one of its three acronyms – UNASUL, UNASUR, and USAN. The UNASUL Constitutive Treaty was signed on May 23, 2008 by the 12-state members at the Third Summit of Heads of States in Brasilia, Brazil. The Union’s headquarters is in Quito, Ecuador. Panama and Mexico were present as observers at the signing ceremony.

The member states come from the Andean Community, Mercosur and some others…

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The New Frontier of Intimate Apparel: Revisiting The Sports Bra as a Standalone Category
by Andrew Sia

This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the sports bra, first invented in 1977. This is definitely the golden age of the sports bra and it has been two years since we first featured this garment in our journal. I was producing sports bras a long time ago and have forgotten when we first started production. At one time, a sports bra was something good to have but definitely not a must to carry in one’s clothing line. Whether a name brand or store-brand, you would find them at random.

Picture from Sweaty Betty

But the world was very different then. People were not so health conscious. A visit to the gym for a workout was only part of the life of the elites. People changed into sportswear before exercising and would then change back into street attire afterwards. In those days the dress code was very important.

Back then, the choice in sports bras was very limited and available sizes were also quite limited. The bra was meant to flatten the breasts and stop them from moving during a workout. I can’t recall if there were cup sizes. Most likely they went by band size and we labelled them small, medium and large. Perhaps we were only serving a small group of customers and we didn’t need to make more sizes to cover a wider demographic.

Although the construction was relatively intricate, I would say the limited styles were uninspired and the fabric selection unflattering. The bra came in basic underwear colors, mostly white.

In the past twenty years, average bra sizes have jumped, from 34B to 34DD, a difference of four sizes. This information comes from an industry survey and I’m not going to argue with it, although I would want to say that the band size may have increased by one size as well, to 36. If you look at a typical order today, the size range is moving up, both the cup sizes and the band sizes.

Weight gain, breast implants, eating habits and lifestyle choices are all basic reasons for this trend. There are more players throughout the supply chain, from manufacturing to retailing, and the emphasis on customer education to customer service and a larger selection of product categories have all helped expand this industry. Today we have a market that is more demanding than ever.

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), athletic participation rates continue to rise. The number of teams competing in NCAA sponsored sports reached an all-time high of 19,086, a 6-fold increase over a 20-year period.

According to Cotton Incorporated Sports Apparel and Lifestyle MonitorTM, walking is by far the most popular fitness activity for women, with the other activities listed below:

• Walking – 80%
• Cardio training – 47%
• Aerobics – 41%
• Running – 37%
• Dancing – 34%
• Yoga – 33%

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Robot Takeover of Apparel Production
by Susanna Koelblin

First large scale shoe robot factory unveiled: Adidas will use machines in Germany instead of humans in Asia to make shoes.

Adidas, the German maker of sportswear, has announced it will start marketing its first series of shoes manufactured by robots in Germany starting in 2017. More than 20 years after it ceased production activities in Germany and moved them to Asia, Adidas unveiled the group’s new prototype “Speedfactory” in Germany. As of this year, the factory will begin large-scale production. What’s more, Adidas will also open a second Speedfactory in the U.S. in 2017, followed by more in Western Europe. According to the company, the German and American plants will, in the “mid-term,” each scale up to producing half a million pairs of shoes per year.

Does this pose a threat to Adidas’s traditional manufacturing base in China, Indonesia and Vietnam? After all, labor in the region is becoming less cheap these days, and manufacturers are increasingly turning to robots. The current model in the apparel industry is very much based on sourcing products from countries where consumers are typically not based. In the longer term, Adidas could even produce the shirts of Germany’s national football team in its home country. The shoes made in Germany would sell at a similar price to those produced in Asia, where Adidas employs around one million workers. Arch-rival Nike is also developing its robot-operated factory.

This development in the shoe area is just the beginning and will be leveraged to the apparel industry as well.

Adidas recently unveiled the first silhouette produced by its Speedfactory facility, the Futurecraft M.F.G. (or Made for Germany)

Put aside for a moment how moving jobs back to a country with high costs gives companies an incentive to automate. There’s a bigger issue: After displacing western manufacturing workers, robots are poised to do the same in developing economies. It will be hard to re-shore jobs that no longer exist. It took 50 years for the world
to install the first million industrial robots. The next million will take only eight years. Importantly, much of the recent growth happened particularly in China, which has an aging population and where wages have risen…

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AW 2018/2019 Preview of Lingerie Trends and Direction by Simone Gerschitzka

The beginning of the season, AW 2018/2019, is about to start in our creative heads so I’d like to share a few thoughts and findings with you. Most important, before any lifestyle trend or fabric innovation, all of us in charge should carefully check our collections and items already out there on the shop floor; what is the best-selling item and why, what needs an update, what needs to be cancelled, and so on. This way, you reach the best financial and environmental result for both your business and customer, who will more than appreciate your approach. So let’s have a closer look.

Before “paddling” into creating AW 18/19 please examine your existing collections.

Then define precisely the new strategy and have a good look at the AW 18/19 lingerie trends. “Reflect contemporary femininity” could describe best which trend lies ahead.

Suggested key styles:

  • Underwire styles with versatile strap details, optional strapless bras — both lightly padded or even non padded, depending on your market
  • Soft cup bralet, fashionable light as well as functional for larger sizes
  • Light weight camisoles, also to be worn as outerwear
  • High waist briefs are a must
  • Low waist briefs or hipster styles and thongs
  • Sports bralets and sports underwire bras, also sports briefs • Shaper camisoles and shaper briefs

The main focus lies in two areas:

  • “light easy to wear every day luxury,” which is meant to be worn from morning till end of the day
  • “athleisure,” low & high impact sport like walking, yoga, tennis, running, etc.

Key fabrications and features:

Fine Chantilly look like stretch laces, splitable galloon laces, cotton look & feel embroideries, pre-cut panels with either bonded edges or freecut, microfibers,
dull, shiny, or semi matte, all over flock prints, velvets, silky knits, feel good qualities incorporating bamboo & aloe vera, textured surfaces, pikee looks, burnouts, lightweight stretch silk blends, jacquards, flexible hardware such as flexy rings and slides, laser cut motives & details, high tech cottons, cotton nets, wide rustic looking bands for waists, shoulder straps and detailing.

Apart from the whole sport movement category, I would like to mention that post- surgery shapewear is a huge separate category, which is becoming very important, very fast. Certain well-known fabric producers cater to this specialized area…

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