The apparel industry is moving toward sustainability, American made and next gen product development—and Shima Seiki is moving right along with it.
The Japanese machinery manufacturing company’s new showroom in a former industrial textiles building was constructed in part to break down traditional notions of knit textiles. In themed rooms and teachable workspaces, Shima Seiki is able to showcase its technologies and start a conversation with brands about the unique applications machine knitting makes possible.
Hayato Nishi, who manages sales and senior business development for Shima Seiki, said the company’s new West Coast headquarters is a far cry from the office they opened only a few years ago.
“That office was really only there to offer support and maintenance to our machine customers,” Nishi said. “But we noticed there were some customers who required hands-on R&D and maintenance training.” At first Shima Seiki was able to provide those trainings in the previous office in downtown Los Angeles, but as soon as the company had a chance at more space, they took it. The new showroom is in L.A.’s arts district, in a repurposed textile building that had been used by tech companies and video production studios in recent years. “We thought it was a perfect time to move into this neighborhood and this building,” Nishi said. “Our customers have an interest in transparency, and people are re-shoring, so we wanted to show how 3-D knitting can bring production back to the United States.”
In the new location, Shima Seiki has themed rooms that showcase parts of its ethos. In the technology room, the company shows machines and finished products made with its 3-D knitting and Apex design system—and not just from the apparel market.
“When people think of Shima Seiki, they think of knitting machines, and when they think of knitting they only think of sweaters,” Nishi explained. “The tech room is there to showcase how knitting can be a solution across industries: automotive, industrial, medical and footwear.”
There’s also a sustainability room, which will demonstrate how making entire pieces with Shima Seiki’s patented WHOLEGARMENT technology can save time, energy and material resources. The company’s machines can craft an entire garment in one piece and create very little waste compared to processes that require cutting and sewing. “Here, we’re highlighting some of the more sustainable fibers, yarns that create a minimal carbon footprint,” Nishi said. “We’d like this to serve as an inspiration and research room: if customers are interested in developing a sustainable item, or designers need ideas for a sustainable garment, they can come in for inspiration and get the ball rolling.”
Shima Seiki is developing an Apex classroom to teach customers how to use the Apex design system. The design software is separate from the company’s knitting machines.
“It’s not just knit programming but also swatch simulations, yarn design, 3-D mapping, woven simulations, and more,” Nishi said. “We’re still determining what classes to offer, but we’d like to have both basic function and advanced training, so companies can ultimately take on more knit capabilities.”
Though the classroom curriculum is still underway, Shima Seiki’s building is now open. In mid-March, the company hosted a grand opening and a seminar on 3-D knitting, and will hold similar events in the future. At Shima Seiki’s G3D seminars, which happen twice a year, apparel industry experts get the chance to learn more about 3-D garment construction. “We have lots of different players, from mills to retailers and factories,” Nishi explained. The next seminar is tentatively planned for October 2019, and thanks to the new space, Nishi said, more people than ever will be able to discuss new advancements and solutions in fiber development, factory standards and retail practices.