NEW YORK — Finishing wrinkle-resistant all-cotton garments may be the most pressing issue for apparel makers attending the Bobbin show.
“Wrinkle-free is the topic that’s on everyone’s mind,” commented Phil Harber, president of Atlanta-based Vaporpress International, “especially shirtmakers. They sent up a trial balloon on Father’s Day, and now they are looking to expand into WR dramatically. Everybody will be checking out WR equipment at the Bobbin show.”
Richard Sussman, president of Sussman Automatic Corp., Long Island City, N.Y., agreed that apparel makers endeavoring to improve their WR products will be evaluating WR finishing equipment at the show, but added that WR shirts have yet to prove themselves in the market.
“Shirts are having a more difficult time gaining acceptance than pants because the retailers are not putting the same effort into selling them,” he said.
According to Sussman, proper finishing will make the shirts easier to sell.
“Proper finishing is even more important for shirts than it is for pants,” Sussman commented. “If a shirt is finished improperly, you’ll have an imperfect press forever and ever.”
Sussman said shirtmakers can best ensure a clean press by inspecting shirts after they are pressed on machines. Any wrinkles can then be pressed out by hand.
“You have to make sure you get a proper finish on all areas of the shirt,” he said. “If you’re not satisfied with the press, touch it up with an iron. I think that’s what a lot of people are doing.”
Warren Hartenstine, president of Forest Hill, Md.-based Kannegiesser USA, said sleeves and plackets present the most problems.
“The critical areas are to get the sleeve heads and seams pucker-free,” Hartenstine said, adding that the problem goes back to how the garment was sewn.
“The major problems in finishing WR have to do with sewing,” he explained. “When you sew in a circle, the feed of the sewing machine sews in puckering.” He said presses with strong vacuum action can restore the “flatness” to the garment when finishing.
Hartenstine advocates using finishing equipment that presses and cures in one step because he said the puckering will return when a shirt is cured in an oven even if it is removed in the pressing. Kannegiesser is currently marketing a finishing system that presses and cures in one step. The company planned to install its first TwinStar system at a manufacturer in Saipan this month. A system is currently on trial with Oxford Shirting here in the United States.
Hartenstine said the second major problem in finishing WR shirts — getting the placket flat — also stems from sewing. Shirtmakers, he said, are changing the way they sew shirts and making better use of interlinings to combat the problem.
“They are taking out the problem seams to get rid of the puckering,” he said. “Often they replace felled seams with safety-stitched seams. Also, there’s been a dramatic increase in fusing — especially in the placket. A lot of puckering appears in the placket of a WR shirt when it is not fused. More collars are being fused for the same reason.”
Harber, of Vaporpress, said shirtmakers are trying hard to make sure they produce the best possible finish on their WR shirts.
“Shirtmakers are taking the time to talk to the chemical suppliers and equipment manufacturers,” he said. “They’re far behind the pants makers on the learning curve, but they’re getting into WR quickly and they’re doing it right.”
He and other finishing equipment vendors said demand for better equipment is high. Many vendors are backlogged with orders.
“My business has been excellent this year, and it’s all attributed to WR,” Harber said. “The retail buyers stocked up on WR for back-to-school and have already bought in more for Christmas — and the manufacturers don’t have offshore competition yet.”
Vaporpress will also be showing equipment for finishing pants. “We’ll be showing new pressing machines for both WR and regular trousers,” he said. “Both are computer controlled.”
Sussman said improving the finish on WR pants is still a concern of pants manufacturers, even though several manufacturers have been selling WR pants successfully for some time.
“Manufacturers of WR pants are still dealing with the question of hot-head versus traditional presses,” he said, adding that all-cotton WR trousers are much more difficult to finish than cotton/polyester blends.
“They’ve found that cotton is a much more difficult fabric to stabilize than polyester. Poly added strength to blends. When blended pants were put in the ovens, the poly held the cotton together. It was the poly that held the crease. Now the cotton has to stand on its own. Manufacturers have to get the pants into the ovens quickly because humidity and just jostling the pants on racks could lose the crease.”
Sussman said the manufacturers producing the best WR pants are narrowing the tolerances in the curing ovens to ensure an even cure.
“People using close tolerances like Levi’s, Haggar and Farah are getting much better results,” he said. “Consumers are going to see the difference when they experiment with other brands.”
Despite all the interest in WR, other types of finishing equipment will also be drawing interest at Bobbin. Wichita Falls, Texas-based Washex Machinery Co. is focusing on denim processing.
“One of the most important issues in finishing is denim processing,” said Fran Bennett, marketing services manager at Washex. “In the past, people felt they had to sacrifice quality to get volume processing.”
Bennett said the company’s 4,000-liter model DPM 4000, which was introduced at last year’s Bobbin show, has proven extremely popular with jeanswear manufacturers. She expects more interest in the machine now that it has proven itself in the field.