Blog: Leonie BarrieSri Lanka: Poya day plant visits

Leonie Barrie | 1 December 2009

Two of Sri Lanka's leading jeans and fabric factories opened especially for delegates from the Sri Lanka Design Festival this week, despite it being a poya day or Buddhist holiday.

Setting off from the hotel at 8.30am, the trek to Avissawella, 55km south east of Colombo took a relatively speedy hour and a half on streets that were considerably quieter than usual as shops closed and locals flocked to the temples. Even so, it still says something about the state of the road network here when an average speed of just 36km an hour is considered fast.

Textured Jersey Lanka, the first firm on the day's itinerary, is a joint venture between Hong Kong's Pacific Textiles and Brandix Lanka, Sri Lanka's largest apparel exporter. Aiming for a $100m annual turnover by 2010, it specialises in cotton, viscose, Modal, micro-Modal and Tencel single jersey and rib interlock fabrics for lingerie and active leisurewear.

With knitting, dyeing and finishing facilities all on-site, the company has 1,200 employees and produces 2.5m metres of fabric each month for customers that include Marks & Spencer, Intimissimi, Victoria's Secret, Adidas and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Like many of the firms here, a focus on the environment and worker welfare pervades all operations, from treating all water used in textile processing, to providing employees with transport, meals, uniforms, and medical facilities.

The second visit of the day took in denim specialist Orit Apparels Lanka, which claims to be Asia's leading firm for denim production and washes. The 15-year-old business boasts 5,000 employees and produces 720,000 pieces per month across its seven plants, which include two specialist dry processing units and four production facilities.

Customers such as Levi Strauss, JC Penney, Macy's and Jones Apparel Group turn to Orit for men's and women's jeans with added value finishes and features including 3D whiskers, dermabrasion and hand sanding. Waste water treatment tops the firm's environmental activities, but it admitted the take-up of greener products such as organic and Fair Trade cotton is limited by their price premium.

Leaving the plant for the journey back to the hotel, workers gathered in the lobby to give us a loud send-off. Clearly they were looking forward to getting back to the poya festivities.


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