Underwear takes off

  • 2001-11-29
  • Leah Bower
RIGA - Sitting on the fence between West and East, Latvian lingerie manufacturer Lauma is finding a precarious balance between the two markets.

With export markets ranging from the United Kingdom to Russia and Sweden, Lauma is taking more in profits this year than expected and channeling the funds into increased production, said Janis Balodis, technical director at the Liepaja-based company.

Lingerie is not the only thing Lauma is in to, but producing bulk underwear material and other domestic textiles as well as finished bras and panties is certainly a growth area for the company.

It plans to open a third store, like the other two in Liepaja, on Dec. 1, signifying that what was mainly a wholesale company is now branching out.

Currently, production of underwear fabric accounts for 66 percent of Lauma's production.

General textile production and medical articles account for another 6 percent and lingerie for 28 percent.

Elastic lace, knitted ribbons, embroidered cloth, curtains, tablecloths, medical belts and elastic bandages are all produced by the company better known in for its lacy feminine undergarments.

But the demand for women's underwear is surging ahead.

The number of panties, bras, briefs and other underwear turned out by Lauma has jumped from 2.26 million pieces in 2000 to a projected 2.5 million in 2002.

Although the company commands about 16 percent of sales in the Baltic region, the Latvian Development Agency said Lauma is not alone in exporting large swaths of its products.

"Currently 70 percent of the total output of Latvia's textile sector is exported to the European Union," a report by the agency read.

The textile sector is the oldest branch of Latvian industry. Factories first produced textiles and textile articles in Latvia at the end of the 18th century.