Upgrading Taiwan's hosiery industry
By Tang Hsiang-yi and Lin Yuting, Supplement Writers
December 30, 2011, 12:49 am TWN
Amid increasing globalization of trade and in an increasingly competitive market with ever-lower retail prices, Taiwan's textile sector has been hard hit. The hosiery industry is no exception.
"After close to 70 years of development, Taiwan's hosiery industry now faces challenges like growing costs of labor and raw materials, foreign competition, stifling over-reliance on producing as OEMs, lack of brand development and innovation and a generational gap in talents," remarked Luo Li-qing (羅立清), director of the Hosiery Industry Development Center (HIDC, 織襪產業發展中心).
In response to these challenges, the Material and Chemical Research Laboratories (MCL, 材料與化工研究所) at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院材化所) has pushed for remedial strategies including field evaluation of industry needs, data collection and analysis, assisting companies in applying for the Smile MIT (Made-in-Taiwan) certification (臺灣製微笑產品標章), marketing quality certified products (in both B2B and B2C modes), amplifying design competence, reinforcing brands through improved design and packaging, and mentoring new talents to fill the generational talent gap.
With the launch of the HIDC in Shetou Township (社頭鄉) this past May, the Industrial Development Bureau under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (經濟部工業局) has started reconciling industry needs and market trends. By introducing fashion-awareness and smoothening the line from R&D to marketing, the HIDC aims to help hosiery enterprises develop products with a high value-margin and upgrade to a vertically integrated, sustainable mode of operation.
Shetou Township has long been a hub of hosiery production. The HIDC sets out to revitalize the local hosiery industry by all the above mentioned means, plus assisting in worker training, quality control, product certification and integration of the academic resources.
"Asia University (亞洲大學) and Mingdao University (明道大學), for instance, lend their design talents while Feng Chia University (逢甲大學) and Chienkuo Technology University (建國科大) lend their expertise in dyeing, finishing, and mechanical engineering," said HIDC director Luo Li-qing (羅立清).
Adding Value Through Technology
According to Luo, the MCL has developed various materials for making uniquely functional hosiery. Highlight features include "heel-wrapping design," "ergonomic design," shock absorbance with sole-loop, suppression of trichophyton mentagrophytes, abrasion resistance at the toes, and water-vapor permeability, mark-free design (無痕設計) and hollow polyester yarn for the instep (腳背聚酯中空紗). As Luo explained, fabric functionalities were conferred during the dying process, applying MCL's chemical research.