Just north of Porto is the city of Braga and the town of Vila Nova de Famalicão. The area here is dominated by industry. However, you would hardly know as the factories are tucked in between beautiful rolling hills and the farms of locals. Most of my days were dominated by driving but the moments in between and even the moments driving certainly made the journey worthwhile. Each time I reached my destination and stepped out of the car I couldn't help but think about how my footsteps led me there.
Navigating the waters and finding partner factories can be difficult enough stateside let alone a foreign country. As most things go, it just takes a bit of persistence. After many of e-mail's, whats app chats and facetime calls I would receive a lead. Then you purchase a plane ticket, rent a car, book a hotel and hurry your ass out the door.
The first factory I was interested in finding was a knitting factory, specifically a cut & sew circular knitting company. Pagi was the name that was pulled. As I arrived at their factory for the first time I stood there nervously. The receptionist greeted me and I was introduced to the owner, Armando whose tan face, big smile and relaxed attitude makes you think he's on permanent vacation (just see slide two). Alongside Armando was his pragmatic production manager, Augusto. The warmth and hospitality they showed me was like nothing I have encountered in this business before. Many owners of factories here in America do not show you the time of day and you are quickly escorted upon the discussion of minimums, cost, terms, etc... They asked for my story and I was able to hear theirs.
Pagi is a family owned business passed down by generation. Their facility is a two story building. The first floor is comprised of offices, a cutting room and embellishment machines (embroidery, etc.). Their sewing operation and finishing department sits on the second floor in a beautifully lit sun drenched room. What made their offerings of importance to myself was not only their operation but also their inclusion of neighboring companies into the business. Portugal possesses a rich textile history and Pagi has successfully tapped into that history. The community they are apart of allows us to develop incredibly unique textiles from scratch. The incorporation of unique yarns, knitting techniques and washes is all made possible due to this.
On my second visit to Pagi I was able to gather an inside look at this network of theirs. Before we took off we had other important business to attend to. They took me to a local restaurant where we ordered up Porto's well known
Francesinha dish and some beers. The dish is a Portuguese sandwich made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and served with french fries. Really, more of a dinner time dish as it will likely put you in one of your all time greatest food coma's.
Luckily, where they took me to next was the rather large factory and wash house of I.V.N. where I was awarded plenty of time to walk off that heart attack from my delicious lunch. I.V.N. is an impressive facility in terms of not only its size but also in its integration of our industry's latest in technology. Everything from the development of dyes to the dying, then the washing and even machines for techniques such as laser distressing are all located there. Our relationship comprises of Pagi and I.V.N. working together.
Their partnership allows us to quickly develop new techniques for the dying and washing component of Knickerbocker products. These post production steps involve the use of many resources, which makes teaming up with a sustainable company such as I.V.N. so important. The ability to recycle resources such as water is critical for achieving sustainability.
To be able to work with both of these factories is part of our mission in building a community of like minded individuals who put their best foot forward in the pursuit of their business. The experience and friendship they offered will not be lost on myself or Knickerbocker. This is our community to build together.