The large company hall in Hersbruck cannot be seized at first glance because of all the machines. The background noise, on the other hand, is ubiquitous. There is a constant hissing and clacking. As Peter Ressel leads us through the narrow aisles of the machinery, the sources of the noise only gradually become apparent. A hiss escapes from an ironing press, from which hot air flows. The clacking comes from the countless sewing machines that move their arms in a mechanical jerk and drive needle and thread into the fabric.
Here we are, standing in the middle of the Création Gross production line. "This hall is one of the few remnants in the German textile industry," says production manager Peter Ressel. You wouldn’t know it by looking at it: Everything rattles and clicks, like in a well-oiled clockwork. Ressel knows each machine by name, knows about the individual advantages that are so important for producing a perfect jacket. He talks enthusiastically about his fleet of machines, which is worth a total of 1.2 million euros. The seamstresses at the Hersbruck site have a complete sewing and ironing workshop at their disposal. Around 1,000 individual items such as jackets, vests and pants are still produced here each year.
The production line is divided into four different areas. From the cutting and fixing of the fabrics to the sewing of the individual parts, the trouser production and the ironing, everything is under one roof. What’s special about it, says Ressel, is that "for almost every seam, there’s a specialized machine plus a special ironing machine."
Five seamstresses and six ironers work at the factory. Approximately five complete pieces are produced each day, with the number varying depending on the complexity of the garment. The jacket is still the pinnacle of menswear. No other garment is more complex, has more additions and layers. It takes seamstresses up to 180 minutes to complete a jacket, depending on the number of pockets.
It’s a long way from the bale of fabric to the finished suit. It begins at the cutting table. Countless rolls of fabric with valuable outer fabrics from Italy stand ready on large trolleys. The fabric rolls are first spread out flat on a long table. The production manager skillfully turns a wheel at the side of the table. Suddenly, needles pierce through the fabric from below. "This fixes the fabric for cutting," Peter Ressel is pleased with the effect. Depending on the individual part, a pair of hand scissors or a mechanical push knife is used. Here, too, digital progress has found its way into the process. Ressel proudly presents a CNC machine that processes data from the CAD program and transfers it directly to the cutter. The result is a cut that is accurate to the millimeter. The CNC machine fixes the fabric by sucking the material with air. In this way, the machine achieves a high-precision cut, which is essential for high-quality fabrics.
In one corner of the workshop stands a machine that has been a feature of the manufacturing textile company for decades. It is the circular knife, also known as a punch. With its 18-ton press power, the hydraulic apparatus punches out leather patches for elbows, interlinings, breast strips and much more.
PREPARATION OF THE SEWING
Neatly lined up, dozens of front parts, back parts, sleeves and side parts now lie on the cutting table. Before the seamstresses sew the individual parts together, several layers of fabric are joined together to give the finished suit its fit. A fusing machine uses 120-degree heat and three bars of pressure to join top fabric and the reinforcing fusing material, Vlieseline. Adhesive, which reacts at 115 to 127 degrees, is used to permanently fix the upper and lower fabrics. In addition to the fabric interlinings’ form-giving properties, they are also used to make a suit durable for everyday wear. "Just think about how often a suit is taken to the cleaners. A jacket has to withstand that, too," the production manager points out, examining the joined fabric layers with a trained eye.
The men’s suit remains the most elaborate garment in manufacturing. A suit jacket alone can consist of up to 160 individual parts. Only highly specialized machinery can guarantee the production of this complex clothing segment. "Men’s outerwear is strongly characterized by special machines," says Ressel. The production hall in Hersbruck is filled with machines. None of the equipment is double; each machine in the fleet has a special capability that is crucial and important for production. The production manager enthusiastically points to the most expensive sewing machine in the factory hall. It costs 24,000 euros and imitates a hand stitch. It is also the slowest sewing machine, taking six minutes to complete a seam where other machines take one minute. "As crazy as it sounds," Ressel attests, "this approach to serial production of suits saves time and, above all, ensures uniformity of fit."
"Of course, there are not only automatic machines in Hersbruck," says Peter Ressel, leading the way past some workstations that are currently occupied. Especially in the sewing room and in the trouser production, the dexterity of the experienced seamstresses comes into play. Ready-made garments are still a craft, even if many work steps have been automatized. Many fabrics require a steady hand, and the hand stitching that is still sometimes necessary is what makes a jacket a garment that gives shape to the body on the one hand and reacts flexibly to body movements on the other. Sample production stands and falls with the workers who have remained loyal to Création Gross for almost their entire working lives. The record is held by a seamstress who has been with the company for over 45 years. She is the only one who can operate all the machines. Her colleagues, many of whom have been with the company since the 1980s and 1990s, also have the proven expertise for most of the machines. In 2025, the company will look back on its one hundred year history.
At the end of a complex production process, the garments reach the ironing department. Here, the suits receive their final touches. The waist, collar and shoulder shape are worked out with hot air, breathing life into a two-dimensional garment. The suit is now ready-made. The buttons are sewn on at the end. They would damage the presses and ironing machines, says Ressel. At the inspection station, the finished goods are checked to ensure that they meet the specifications: Was the model description followed? Is the material correct? Is the workmanship correct? Has it been ironed cleanly? The garment receives labels and hangtags and is ready for shipping.