Top Textiles for Over a Century


Very few companies can boast over 100 years of operations. Doubletex, now into its third generation as a family owned and run business, is one of these companies. Established in 1910, Doubletex is one of the largest private textile innovative solution providers in North America. The company has been through many ups and downs over the years, through a wide range of economic climates and conditions. Business in Focus spoke with Richard Zuckerman, Executive Vice President, about the company’s history and how it has maintained success over time.

Charles Zuckerman started the business in 1910, then known as Toronto Quilting and Embroidery Ltd. His sons George and Murry took over, followed by the third generation currently running the business, Stuart, Alan and Richard Zuckerman. In the late 1950s, the company began its transition into great expansion and innovation. Doubletex branched out from its Toronto base to include factories in Winnipeg and Montreal.

Doubletex is a true Canadian success story driven by passion, motivation and determination in changing times. By expanding their operations decades ago, the Zuckermans were able to self-finance machinery acquisitions. Doubletex began to specialize in materials such as non-woven insulation (or wadding) as well as laminating woolen fabrics for coats. The company’s machinery and specializations worked for the changing trends and demands in fashion, including the double knit craze of the 1970s.

This trend influenced men’s leisure suits along with women’s dresses and pants. “They were made from 100 percent polyester at the time,” explains Richard Zuckerman. “We were able to purchase equipment that was able to handle the double knits that were being processed in our factories. We were scouring and heat setting most of the knits in Quebec and Ontario. The Montreal plant grew much larger than the other two, and by the mid 70s, we were starting to become very well-established in new areas.”

Richard, Stuart and Alan attended business undergraduate school in Canada, and then attended the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, where they studied textile engineering. At that time, the sewing industry was strong in Canada. “As a result we were able to sell most of our product in Canada and were able to use the world as our weaving basket,” Richard explains. “We would dye and finish fabrics to make them sellable, and what was special about us was that we could accept significantly smaller dyelot quantities than was offered by industry previously.”

Times quickly changed as global competition rose in the garment industry. Imported garments from Asia and Central and South America posed tremendous risks for domestic businesses. The Canadian textile industry simply could not compete with the prices associated with low wage and environmentally unrestrained countries like China, whose fabrics could also now enter Canada duty-free, due to changes in Canadian Government policy. Talks about free trade agreements were growing in Canada and the United States. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was established in 1992, connecting Canada, the United States and Mexico in a trade relationship. The United States, however, went on to develop other trade agreements with Caribbean and Central American nations, excluding Canada in the negotiations and so too the trade benefits thereafter. “This was a difficult time for Canada,” Richard recalls, adding that the business took quite a hit. “The rest of the world was still inundating North America with cheap garments.”

Canada’s textile industry was nearly decimated by these trade agreements. Access to the domestic and American markets was threatened by imports from Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Retail shelves were filled with cheaper products as the more expensive, Canadian-made garments fell by the wayside. This trend continued into the new millennium.

The management at Doubletex took a strategic approach and decided to change with the times. The company had grown substantially since its humble 1910 beginnings, and the Zuckermans were determined to keep the momentum going. “We had to work very hard from 2000 through 2010,” Richard explains. “During that period of time, the destruction of the sewing industry made us find a new customer base that was more concerned with quality, consistency, and flexibility than price.”

Doubletex decided to capitalize on its competitive advantage as a company based in Canada, with a strong history and knowledge of textile production. As a domestic company Doubletex is competitive with its shipping times, which from Asia could take up to three months. It was clear that some customers were looking for flexibility in production, exceptional standards and durability. Flexibility in production meant that fabrics could be produced on very short notice, in small quantities and with specific colours and finishes. This specialized production met a different need, and served a different market than those sourcing cheap garments from outside of North America.

Some major organizations comprise the customer base of Doubletex, including the Department of National Defense, Canada Post, the RCMP, emergency medical services, and police forces. These clients have specific needs. They benefit from the flexibility of a domestic garment supplier, as well as an incredibly durable product.

A critical success factor for Doubletex has been its emphasis on customer service, research and development, and a workforce with both exceptional experience and expertise. “We are able to… visit the police or fire stations to canvass over a cup of coffee. We find out what they really need,” Richard says. “We listen very carefully and translate that into how the customer should cut up the garment and make it more comfortable from a cut and sew point of view, and then we put our characteristics into the fabric that engineer longevity into the product.”

Today, Doubletex is a major supplier of innovative performance-wear fabrics to world-wide branded producers. The high quality and durability of Doubletex fabrics ensures that the products are built to last. Customers invest in the products knowing that it is more cost effective over time than cheaper overseas options. The company engineers the fabric, fibre, yarn and dye in order to make it stronger and longer lasting. An example is the Truflex line of durable fabrics, which offer comfort, stretch, and crease resistance, and in addition, won’t sag or bag even after multiple launderings. The company has also developed specialty finishes to protect garments.

One of these specialty finishes is Fresh3, a non-toxic finish with anti-microbial properties to provide protection against hazardous and odour causing microorganisms. This product is particularly valuable for emergency medical services and police, nurses, and hygienists as the garments protect workers against pathogens by killing bacteria that come into contact with the fabric.

Another specialty finish is H2Out. H2Out manages moisture by spreading it along the fibres, ensuring that the moisture evaporates very quickly. The fabric also spreads dirt and stains in the same way, making it easier to wash. This is a permanent finish on all Doubletex fabrics.

Ultrapel is Doubletex’s dual action stain blocking finish, repelling water and stains while also releasing ground-in dirt. The finish forms a coating around each fibre to block stains and water. Even tough stains like blood or oil will not penetrate the fabric. This complex process works at a molecular level, changing the fibres on a permanent basis so that the molecules absorb water and dirt or kill bacteria.

Looking forward, Doubletex is developing fire retardant technologies. “Our lamination business is going to start to take off with new products,” says Richard. “This includes new fabrics that are laminated with waterproof breathable films… We will be entering the protective industries that include fire retardant industries, security and protective wear in a big way in the next couple of years.”

The company’s substantial innovation means that its products are in demand all over the world. For companies wanting the high quality fabrics from Doubletex and the cheaper manufacturing costs of offshore production, Doubletex has successfully championed Outward Processing legislation with the government of Canada. Doubletex domestic textile inputs (fabric, wadding, quilting, laminations) can be exported to any country in the world in order to make garments in those countries from the Canadian input. Those garments can then be imported back into Canada, duty free. According to Richard, this program “allows us to have our unique high quality textiles overseas, ready to be cut into garments.”

Doubletex has achieved success by working together with other major players in the Canadian textile industry. “Even though it has been a very difficult last 10 years, we have emerged as leaner and much stronger,” Richard describes. “The people left in this industry are survivors with their own territories and expertise. We as an industry are trying to work together so that we can come up with solutions that are unique to what the end user wants. We are not afraid to share information. We work together with people in yarn, weaving and people with specialty finishes that may be at the other end of the world.”

The Doubletex success story is grounded in strong principles of integrity, innovation, working together. After over 100 years of business, there is no doubt that the company is well equipped to succeed well into the future.

July 17, 2018, 7:19 AM EDT

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