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Keff NYC Up and Running

Knitwear factory begins production in the Garment Center.

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NEW YORK — There’s water in that oasis.

This story first appeared in the January 2, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Keff NYC, a dream of veteran knitwear executives Ricky Schiffer and Leonard Keff, is coming to life this week as production is set to begin in their 7,500-square-foot knitting factory in the heart of the Garment District at 142 West 36th Street.

A visit to the second-floor facility last month found the state-of-the-art Stoll machinery installed and humming away with sample making and quality checks, as Schiffer, who overseas sales, and Keff, focused on manufacturing and operations, explained the production flow of the freshly painted shop and offices, their exuberance for getting started on fall sweater knits as palpable as the samples and swatches they proudly show off.

“The good news is that we’re really in operation,” said Schiffer. “Last week, we received orders from several Seventh Avenue designers, some for samples, some for actual production. We had a request from one retailer that had been importing from China, wanting to see what we can do.”

Keff NYC will be focused on producing women’s and men’s sweater knits, ranging from three to 14 gauge, with capabilities for finishing on Italian machines that have also been purchased and were being demonstrated, and in-house washing and processing, as well as shipping. Some cut-and-sew capability is seen down the road. The projection is to be able to make 150,000 to 160,000 pieces a year at this facility.

Keff and Schiffer said the business could not have gotten off the ground without the help, advise and expertise of the nearby Stoll Fashion & Technology Center. The three-year-old facility at 250 West 39th Street consists of sample-making and production departments, a showroom and library, training for commercial and educational purposes and a parts department. They credit Beth Hofer, senior manager for customer relations and educational resources at the Stoll Center, for showing them the way, and Carol Edwards at Stoll’s Knit Resource Center for assistance in product development. Keff said Hofer and Edwards have steered potential customers their way since the business got off the ground this summer.

“Stoll has given us tremendous support,” Keff said. “Beth and Carol have been phenomenal. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The partners explained that they want to stay focused on their niche of high-quality, better fashion knits with hands-on customer service and the ability of New York designers and companies to work with Keff on product development and sampling through production and finished goods, within blocks of their showrooms and offices.

“We’re offering the added value of being in the market,” Keff said. “We feel that being in the heart of the market has tremendous advantages and the response has been phenomenal.”

With higher costs and problems in importing, they also feel the time is right for more Made in America manufacturing and local production.

Schiffer added, “The look on people’s faces when they see what we can do, how fast we can do it and that they can see it in action themselves has been amazing, and we can’t wait to really get started.”

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