R&D investment is helping drive more interesting products at affordable prices.
“Innovation is the key, it’s about new techniques not simply creating mood boards,” said Sing Li, executive director at Nameson. “We are a manufacturer so it’s important for us to work on new developments in washes, garment construction and other techniques.”
All markets remain tough and competition for orders is fierce so for a manufacturer to hold onto the business they need to offer unparalleled creativity. For Hong Kong-based Nameson that has meant investing in special washes, developing whole garment knitting and looking to work with spinners who can give them exclusives on yarn.
One of the biggest costs for knitters is linking. While knitting is now automated, linking remains a job that must be done by hand and finding skilled workers who can do this work is becoming increasingly difficult. This has driven Nameson to invest in ways to improve whole garment production.
Next Big Thing: Whole Garment Knitting
“We are developing way to make more interesting [whole garment] styles using commercial yarns,” said Mr. Li. “The CM is higher than for traditional knits but it’s getting closer to those prices.
“We have invested in new Shima Seiki machines and we are experimenting with ways to create new styles using commercial yarns to make more interesting styles at affordable prices,” said Mr. Li.
Other developments include ‘double-dyed’, a process similar to cold dye but is color fast; acid wash looks that are over-dyed to get a new effect; hand brushing on heavy gauge knits; and overprinting on traditional jacquards. Nameson is also playing with using traditional interlock stitches on sweaters. We can put fully fashioned marks on the interlock,” said Mr. Li. “These garments are not cut and sewn, they are actually linked.”
Nameson also tries to find ways to update looks from previous seasons. “Sometimes we pull out old samples and play around with them to see if we can create an entirely new look,” said Mr. Li. “Anyone can knit a sweater…it’s about how to make things that are different and special,” he added.
The Flexibility of a Vertical Operation
The company has factories in both China and Vietnam. Nameson has 4,000 knitting machines in China and 2,400 in Vietnam. In addition, it does its own cashmere spinning, and has an embroidery factory, which enables Nameson offer a lot of manufacturing options to its customers.
Customized Product Development
“When we develop new ideas for our customers we pull together what we are seeing in many aspects of the market, from the catwalks to trade fairs. We don’t just go online and download some trends that someone else has created. Instead, we try to understand our customer’s brand signature and then help them to update their core styles, as well as introducing our own new developments,” said Mr. Li.
Looking at the market, Mr. Li admits that the US is very tough and highly price-sensitive, however Europe is improving and is more ‘aspirational’. Brands there are willing to experiment a bit and are willing to pay a little more for products that they see as being better quality or more innovative.
“I’m very optimistic…our Vietnam factory is running smoothly, the feedback from customers is good,” said Mr. Li. “Everything is cyclical. So a lot depends on your strategy.”
I’m quite confident that the coming year will be good. You have to be able to change with the market, but if we do this we will be okay,” Mr. Li added.