By  on May 19, 1994

ATLANTA -- Producers of all-cotton shirts and slacks said they must be in the wrinkle-resistant business even if hefty investments in machinery are required.

"If you want to be in the cotton business today, you have to do this," said Steve Leslie, president of Thomson Slacks Co.

Greg Hannah, president of Cotton Supply Co., Winder, Ga., agreed. "I think you would cut your nose off to spite your face if you didn't [invest in equipment]. It adds intrinsic value [to the product] if you do it right."

Howard Posner, executive vice-president of Salant Menswear Group, which recently started up wrinkle-resistant production in its Andalusia, Ala., facility, called that move "a natural progression off the success of WR pants. We feel like it's right for the market."

Costs vary according to production size and the type of process (post-curing, pre-curing, garment dipping, or vapor phase) a manufacturer chooses. Bob West, president of Mahan Oven & Engineering, said batch ovens cost around $35,000, while an oven as part of a conveyor operation costs about $50,000. Larger ovens cost up to $85,000.

"It's a big investment when the high-end machinery you've been buying is pressing and sewing machines," West remarked. "Comparatively, it's a significant cost."

Richard Sussman, chairman of Sussman Automatic Corp., said that curing ovens cost between $20,000 and $75,000, depending on production. The only other cost is that of treated fabric purchased from the textile mill, which would add about 25 cents per garment produced. "It's not outrageous," he said.

It's less expensive to buy pre-treated fabric than to treat a garment after it's sewn; however, many apparel makers are opting for the latter process, which they say yields better results. Also, sewing machines must be adjusted to handle the treated fabric. If the apparel manufacturer does treat the garment, then a laundry and chemicals add to the expense of buying just the oven.

Of course, one way to get around some of the costs is to contract out to companies that are set up already.

It is also conceivable to retool ovens from the days of permanent press, Sussman said, but warned that this is not practical because the old ovens cannot meet the specifications of the new ones. Temperatures can vary as much as 30 degrees in older ovens, he said, adding that the temperature variation in new ovens is seldom more than five degrees.

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