An innovative take on the suit

It’s possibly the most innovative clothing company in the world – Israel’s Bagir is making recycled suits, suits that breathe and even indestructible suits. Bagir has the largest number of registered patents anywhere. Here it shows off a suit made …

It’s possibly the most innovative clothing company in the world – Israel’s Bagir is making recycled suits, suits that breathe and even indestructible suits.

Bagir recycled suits
Bagir has the largest number of registered patents anywhere. Here it shows off a suit made from recycled plastic bottles at a New York fashion event.

Over the years, the name Bagir has become synonymous with well-dressed Western executives. But suits are no longer reserved for the formal workplace – nor are they made of the same materials.

“The world of suit design is changing rapidly,” says Moshe Gadot, director of global development and marketing at Bagir’s multi-national headquarters in Kiryat Gat, a small town in southern Israel. “Customers are becoming more eco-savvy, transient and young. They are looking beyond style. Without constantly innovating, we would lose our market share.”

And innovate they do. Bagir describes itself as the most innovative tailored clothing company in the world, and strives to live up to that description. The firm’s Innovation Labs employ more than 50 technology designers who research consumer needs with endless developing and testing. They have come up with a suit made from recycled plastic bottles and an “indestructible” suit, made to survive infinite cycles in the washing machine, to name just two of the products of their hard work and imaginations.

“We’re an Israeli company, but have a worldwide outlook,” Gadot tells ISRAEL21c. “The Israeli side of the company deals exclusively with product development. It’s a small unit – a beta-site factory to run innovation ideas. All the prototypes are made here.

A suit is slicker, sexier

The company’s main production factories are in Port Said in Egypt and Dalian, a city in northeast China near the Korean border. Both are joint ventures with a local partner. “The production in Egypt is aimed more at the US market, due to accessibility and an agreement between Egypt and the US that allows importing without duty. The Chinese facility is mainly for European markets,” Gadot explains.

“We have other units in Vietnam and Romania. The Romanian production facility is mainly for the German market, while the venture in Vietnam is relatively new. We have to spread our risk – we see the upward movement of Chinese labor costs, while in Vietnam they are still lower. It’s a good split of manufacturing. Vietnam has excellent facilities,” says Gadot. Bagir used to manufacture in Jordan, “but Jordan is no longer in the picture,” he adds.

Established in 1961, Bagir has grown steadily and now has 2,400 employees worldwide, producing about five million units annually. Projected sales for 2010 are $154 million.

Bagir suit
A well-fitting suit can help make you look slicker and sexier.

FIMI, Israel’s first dedicated buy-out fund, acquired 50 percent of the company in 2007. “The company is still expanding,” Gadot notes. “Surprisingly, maybe, the international suit market is still growing, although the economic situation has yet to recover. Our output is growing at different angles – it used to be mainly tailoring for the workplace, where offices now often have freer dress requirements.

“The suit market nowadays is mainly for the younger generation. Young men aged 18 to 21 feel a little different in a suit – less casual, slicker, sexier. That’s the direction the market is growing in.”

Macy’s and Sears sell Bagir

The Bagir Group’s global presence, vertical structure and innovation help to leverage the company as its breaks into new markets and consolidates itself in old ones. In 1973, Bagir became the first non-British clothing supplier to Marks and Spencer. Now it provides suits for leading British labels including M&S, Burton, House of Fraser and Moss Bros. Most of its activities are for private labels.

“One in every six men in the UK owns a suit made by Bagir,” Gadot notes proudly. In the US, Bagir’s suits, jackets and trousers are marketed through major outlets such as Macy’s, Jones New York and Sears, as well as world-renowned brands such as GIR Collection, Pierre Balmain, Nicole Miller, Simon Carter, and higher-end labels such as Brookes Brothers and the Limited brand.

The company’s methodology is based on examining the customers’ needs, Gadot emphasizes. Bagir boasts full control of the development and manufacturing processes – from fiber to the finished product. “The management is Israeli, but wherever we market we have our local office. In London, New York and Frankfurt, the teams we have there are getting the feel for what’s hot in fashion and design.”

“Suits are not an anachronism – it’s a young market, even here in Israel. More stores are offering in-house tailors, H&M for example – remember that young people are still growing. It’s one of the few products marketed to be adjusted. A well-fitting suit makes us look perfect – let’s face it, no one is perfect but tailoring gives us broad shoulders and pulls our stomachs in. That’s what tailoring gives you.”

Gadot points out that the way customers shop for suits has also changed. “People used to buy suits in department stores – there was often one floor or department designated for men’s suits. Now you can find suits under lifestyle brands, alongside the more casual garments. This is the new look.”

The suit with the smallest footprint

Bagir strives to be more than a global fashion innovator – it also endeavors to be environmentally friendly. Its flagship product nowadays is its line of EcoGir recycled suits, made from discarded PET plastic bottles with a washing ability that obviates the need for dry cleaning (which uses toxic chemicals).

With 42 percent less carbon emissions, this process saves 33 percent of the energy normally used in production and significantly reduces the product’s ecological footprint.

As Gadot points out, a stylish lifestyle can still be eco-savvy – and sustainable fabrics have come a long way. “The other part of the innovation – as Israelis, we always think of innovation – is to create a new era of suits, to revolutionize the product. This is how we believe we’ll survive.” Now, says Gadot, Bagir highlights breathable, highly ventilated and stretchable travelling attire with a water repellant finish.

Bagir was the first company to create a washable and tumble-dryable suit, and to adapt NASA technology to the manufacture of its apparel. The tailoring company with the largest number of registered patents anywhere, Bagir also makes what it calls the world’s first indestructible suit, designed for perpetual washing.

Gadot is sure that future markets will continue to evolve. “We, as a provider, have to adjust our facilities in terms of organization and production, to be more fashion-oriented. This means smaller quantities [of each suit] and more varied designs.”

“We’re in a period of pressure right now,” he admits. “We see increases in prices of manufacturing, salaries in China, and raw products such as wool. This trend will continue. On the other hand, we don’t feel it is right to raise prices in the present economic climate. This is producing a squeeze, and something must change. It cannot go on like this for long, and only the strong will survive.”