Japanese manufacturer Shima Seiki is among the leaders in computerised flat knitting machine technology. Compared to its circular knitting and warp knitting counterparts, flat knitting is the only knit manufacturing method that is capable of producing shaped pieces for garments. Shima Seiki has taken this technology to its extreme by realising the world’s first 3D shaped knitting of garments in whole form, i.e. without seams. Since its pioneering introduction of Whole Garment knitting technology in 1995, Shima Seiki has dedicated itself to the advancement of this new form of knitting, with over 200 patents realised in its development. In 2005, the company celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Whole Garment technology.
The root of Whole Garment technology lies with Shima Seiki, being the company’s very first product. Shima Seiki was founded with the purpose of developing the world’s first seamless glove knitting machine. This technology has since become increasingly popular as an alternative to conventional knitting. Its benefits are many, including better fit and comfort through 3D shaping, improved draping through elimination of seams and minimum material usage through one-piece construction. The reduction in sewing and linking processes also results in quick-response production, less dependence on diminishing skilled labour sources, and of course, savings in labour costs.
The technological breakthroughs have also resulted in developing new knitting techniques that expand the range of knitwear as fashion. New shapes, new patterns and new textures can now be knit, using a wider range of new materials. Shima Seiki, in an effort to extend these new capabilities to designers, has started organising fashion shows dedicated to the concept. The first such initiative taken by the company was a fashion show it organised at Pitti Filati in Milan Italy, to exhibit their S/S 2007 collection.
However, the ‘big event’ for the company was the celebration of its 45th Anniversary held at its headquarters in Wakayama, Japan. The 3-day event was marked with the hosting of the ‘Garden Fashion Show’ featuring the Whole Garment collection of Italian designer Saverio Palatella, proprietary designs created by several Japanese apparel brands, and Shima’s own Total Design Centre featuring a synthesis of knitwear with other forms of fabric production and embellishment. This was followed by a factory tour for the guests to preview some of its new machines such as an improved version of the LAPIS warp/weft hybrid machine, SWG021N/041N/061N and 091N Whole Garment mini accessories series, and also the new high-speed Whole Garment prototype machine.
Saverio Palatella is known for his collection of knitwear with new shapes that use high quality materials. The designs created by him for the Whole Garment exhibit are deceivingly simple at first glance, yet a closer inspection reveals the complex twists and folds that make his designs unique and interesting. Several of the resulting designs have even been patented for their originality.