Textiles come from the Far East? Way off the mark: In Braga, in North Portugal quite literally tailormade promotion wear is produced, in relatively small volumes and in a quality that is on a par with the upper retail segment. A visit to Picos.

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“The textile industry enjoys a long tradition in Portugal, but has unfortunately lost a great deal of signficance due to the competition from the Far East. There are indeed still textile manufacturers in Portugal today – but they don’t work for the mass market, they specialise on niche markets instead,” explained Jose Dias, one of the CEOs of Picos. The company from Braga is one such specialist that relies on class instead of mass. Picos was founded in 1997 by Jose Dias and Jean-Michel Abou – the brother of the French exhibition organiser Guillaume Abou (656 Editions). “In the beginning there were two product lines: the own brand that was created by Jean- Michel ‘Wanna T-Shirts’ and rugby shirts that were very popular at the time,” explained Dias. “We more or less started from scratch with three employees.“ One year later the first catalogue was published, followed shortly afterwards by an own website and an online configurator. “We were the first textile company to offer a configurator,” reported Dias proudly. At some point in time, the small specialist attracted the attention of the big players of the textile industry. “In 2005, after an inspection process that took months, we were taken over by Russell Europe,” said Dias. “A few years later Russell was taken over itself by Fruit of the Loom – and they weren’t interested in custommade designs. So, we bought the company back in 2010.“

Attention to detail

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The Picos Team inside the company’s factory.

Under the slogan “be different, be yourself”, the “old new” owners constantly extended their core competence. Today, Picos produces and delivers for volumes of just 50 pieces upwards. Dias: “We only have a small standard line-up of around 35 products, the rest are produced on demand.“ This is why the storage space for finished textiles occupies only a small fraction of the warehouse in Braga – the remaining space accommodates lengths of different fabrics in twelve standard colours as well as a warehouse for accessories such as buttons, zips, etc. “All components that we use come from Portugal,” said Dias. “We exclusively use highquality such as Ne36 or Ne30 ringspun cotton. All of our fabrics comply with the Oekotex guideline. In addition to this, we are doing more and more products with Eco-Dye.“ Picos buys the fabrics, yarns and accessories, the customising is also outsourced to partner companies. Picos itself carries out all of the production steps from the fabric to the finished garment. “The process starts with strict quality controls,” reported Dias. “All of the fabrics are checked for their colour fastness, bleeding and their behaviour in the tumble drier.“

Picos also distinguishes itself from its fellow competitors when it comes down to carefulness and precision when creating cutting patterns and with the final cut. “The cut has a huge influence on the end quality,” explained Dias. “Whereas many of the big factories stretch the material when cutting, here it lies loosely. Thus, we guarantee a high accuracy of fit with hardly any deviations.” The ready-cut fabric is sorted into different parts and brought to the adjacent sewing department. Around 20 of the 40 Picos employees work in the production, the majority of them behind sewing machines. “Every sewer processes several orders at the same time – this means we can exploit free capacity more efficiently and plan things more effectively,” explained Dias. “Normally, our delivery time in the custom made area is around five weeks for standard fabrics and colours. Textiles in pantone colours take one to two weeks longer.“

The finished textiles have a discrete silicon label attached to them, which only contains the necessary information – ideal for customers, who want to launch their own brand. As far as the further processing is concerned, Picos offers almost unlimited possibilities, that go far beyond conventional customising methods and which orientate themselves more on the retail market than on the promotion market.

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All of the production steps from the fabric to the finished garment are done in-house.
Boutique quality

Some of Picos products actually find their way into the pedestrian zones and boutiques: Manufacturing garments for renowned brands has been an additional pillar for the company for years, a second showroom is available for the “Fashion” sector. “Many designers appreciate our know-how, our quality standards, our reliability and our flexibility,” said Dias. “In return, we obtain valuable inspiration from the fashion world – we have practically always got ‘our finger on the pulse of time’ when it comes down to new trends, cuts and customising technologies.“ However, the main pillar is still promotional textiles, which Picos exclusively supplies to resellers. “Of course, we serve the upper segment of the promotional products sector rather than the mass market,” said Dias. “Our programme is ideal for the merchandising sector – where fans are prepared to spend a bit more. We also produce a lot of corporate wear, for example for car brands and club wear: Many clubs, i.e. aviation, golf or yacht clubs place great value on a feeling of solidarity and enjoy showing this in the form of exclusive outfits.“ Customer groups Picos would like to offer more possibilities to in the near future: “We are further extending our offer to include decoration technologies,” announced Dias. “In addition to this, we will be expanding our selection of materials, among others to include technical and ‘intelligent’ fibres.”

A further major project is the relaunch of the website – Dias: “We want to push the online business and in this connection are developing among other things a new T-shirt, poloshirt and sweatshirt/jacket configurator, which also works on tablets and smartphones.“ The best prerequisites therefore that plenty more Picos textiles will be making their way onto the market in future.

www.picos-eu.com

A detailed report about the Iberian promotional products market can be found here: Part 1 and Part 2.