Two companies have invested in the manufacture of bras in Sri Lanka, following the advice of Peter Wolf, former chairman of SR Gent, who has been working with the country's textile industry since 1988.

Fregasam Garment Industries and its sister company, Timex Garment, have begun production at a factory in the Wathupitiwela Export Zone in the north of Colombo. An Israeli designer, Noa Mandhein, introduced to the company by Wolf, will handle design, while Philippino supervisors have been brought in to oversee manufacture. The need to import these skills was due to the lack of a proper school of design in the country, according to Wolf.

Tilan Wijesinghe, chairman of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI), speaking at the opening, invited Wolf to set up a school of design, promising to give full BOI support for the project. He also pointed out that the company's decision to manufacture foundation garments was sound, since it did not carry a quota.

The factory, with a fully computerised Lectra marking and cutting system, cost Rs400m (US$5m) to set up, and has a target value for exports of US$15-20m per annum. The garments will be exported to the US and Europe. The company is working with Goddess of the USA and is having discussions with Sara Lee and Marks & Spencer.

Linea Intimo (Pvt) Ltd, a subsidiary of MAS Holdings - the largest manufacturer of lingerie and foundation garments in Sri Lanka - has begun a capital intensive investment of approximately Rs4.2bn (just over US$50m) in the Biyagama Free Trade Zone in the Colombo district under the aegis of the BOI.

Despite the quota free access offered to the US market by Mexico, MAS Holdings was convinced by its principal partner, US-based MAST Industries Inc, to select Sri Lanka as an alternative base for the proposed bodywear and underwear project. MAST Industries has over 24 investments in Sri Lanka, and this project is its largest investment in the country.

MAS Holdings' strategic partners are MAST Industries Inc; Triumph International, Germany; Courtaulds Textiles and Charnwood Elastics, UK. The principal customers include Victoria's Secret, GAP, Banana Republic, Vanity Fair, Triumph, Marks & Spencer, Bhs, and C&A.

For the first time in Sri Lanka, the apparel industry has been introduced to the new Santoni knitting machines for seamless bodywear and underwear.