Fashion-forward women have high standards when it comes to choosing pantyhose to complement their outfits. Whether choosing high-fashion patterned hose as the finishing touch to a tailored look, or a pair of trouser socks for a more casual approach to the day, they look for products that offer exceptional appearance, uncompromising comfort and durability.
Although they have come to know that they can find all of these qualities in the products from Onetex Inc., they might not give a second thought about why these qualities appear consistently in each and every product that leaves Onetex’s factory doors.
But these are precisely the elements Onetex’s designers put into every one of the company’s products, every day.
“Hosiery manufacturing is a lot more complicated than people realize,” says Patricia VanderHaeghe, vice president of manufacturing and logistics for the Montreal-based company. “We have a large development team of experts on the technical side, some with over 35 years’ experience in hosiery manufacturing, and this enables us to really have that edge on manufacturing techniques,” she adds.
Employing 400 workers, Onetex is Canada’s second-largest hosiery manufacturer. The company produces pantyhose and tights for women and children, and is a major distributor of socks and intimate apparel throughout Canada’s major department stores, specialty boutiques, discount stores, food stores and drug stores. Its customers include Wal-Mart Canada, Costco, Sears, The Bay and Zellers. It also manufactures private-label brands, which appear in Canadian and U.S. retailers. Its 187,000 square-foot facility includes one of the largest hosiery distribution centers in Canada, and has the capacity to manufacture more than 4 million dozen pairs of hosiery annually. The company’s current throughput is about 2.8 million dozen pairs of hosiery per year.
Trust in Quality
A manufacturer’s excellence shows when it’s entrusted with other companies’ brands. The top-level brand names for which Onetex makes products include WonderBra, Just My Size, Hanes, Cameo, Whisper, Cover Girl and Volage. The stake of their reputations ride on Onetex’s factory floor, but they are more than confident of the superior quality Onetex will deliver. “We are known in the industry for supplying a superior quality product because of our strict quality-control procedures and our high standards in choosing our materials, including quality yarns of both North American and European origin,” says VanderHaeghe.
She notes that many other hosiery manufacturers tend to choose inferior yarns and have few inspection procedures. The end result is garments that fit poorly and have the durability issues that frustrate women. Every time a woman opens a package of hosiery manufactured by Onetex, however, they are assured of the quality awaiting them because of the attention to excellence on the design and manufacturing floors.
“We have a 100 percent inspection rate philosophy,” says VanderHaeghe. Onetex begins its product inspection in the knitting department, where its 520 Italian knitting machines do their magic. “We keep our equipment well maintained with our preventive maintenance program and updated with the latest versions of machinery available. This enables us to do the more intricate patterning work necessary for the production of fashion leg wear, and also allows us to produce a superior knit stitch for basic pantyhose,” explains VanderHaeghe.
Onetex manufactures pantyhose by producing two knit tubes for every pair of hosiery required. The knit courses within the tube define a waistband area, a panty section and a leg portion. Once knit, the tubes are scoured and then routed to the sewing department for assembly. The tubes are loaded onto the automated sewing equipment where the panty portion of each tube is slit, the product label is inserted and the panty portions are sewn together. The toe portion is then sewn closed and the cotton gusset is inserted.
The products then move to the examining department, where they undergo a further quality inspection. “Employees examine each product to make sure there are no pulled threads, holes or other manufacturing defects,” says VanderHaeghe. Computerized, custom-engineered equipment is used to measure cross-stretch and rope-pull measurements to ensure that the products are on standard sizing specifications. “What this means is that we guarantee consumers that our products will fit the body type we say it will fit on the package,” she continues. “Many manufacturers rely on a manual test process, consequently allowing more room for error in producing products that don’t fit right, which is a major consumer complaint with hosiery.”
Onetex then bags the products and prepares them for the dyeing process. Once dried, the products are routed to the boarding operation, where they are examined again while being pressed. The products are then packaged and sent to the distribution department to be shipped. Ever sensitive to the environment in which it operates, Onetex has equipped its facility with water-reclamation machinery to recover and treat all of the water used in its dyeing process, so that only purified water is released.
Fit to be Tried
Developing and manufacturing hosiery requires much consideration for the design and engineering details. Says VanderHaeghe, “You have to be careful about sizing and make sure your product fits well and is comfortable, so the process requires a lot of fit testing and adherence to precise specifications.”
Before its products actually arrive on the market, Onetex fit-tests them by using real people of all body types. “We do ‘wear tests’ where we ask people to take the products home and repeatedly wear them and wash them. We ask them to comment on product appearance, comfort and durability so we can be absolutely certain that we are putting products on the market that meet our high standards,” VanderHaeghe continues. Altogether, Onetex’s product development is about a 20-week process, and the company boasts an order fill rate of greater than 98 percent.
Onetex’s new line of hosiery and intimate apparel, slated for a September launch, will be sold throughout the United States and Canada under the Volage name. “Volage” is the French word for “veil or whisper-like,” thus suggesting something very dainty and sensual. “This new line will be very high-end, and what will be distinctive about it is its European styling in terms of design and fabrication,” VanderHaeghe explains. The hosiery will incorporate products manufactured with flat-lock seams; breathable, diamond-shaped gussets; and a superior selection of yarn combinations, typical of true European hosiery design.”
Onetex “will continue to be a leader and trendsetter with our innovative designs and our superior quality,” VanderHaeghe adds. “Advancing into the intimate apparel industry is a major growth objective for us, and we believe that we are offering a line of products that will be fashionable and of the quality standard that consumers have come to expect from our company.” She also notes that the company is giving careful consideration to expansion into international markets in the near future.