Wolford AG

The city of Bregenz, Austria (population 30,000) lies only a few miles from the Swiss/Austrian border on the shores of Lake Constance. A few minutes from Bregenz's city center finds me at the five-story headquarters/factory of Wolford (1,800 employees and revenues of 143 million Euros), the high-end maker of hosiery, bodywear and swimwear. I know this is the place because there's a huge two-story billboard on the side of a building showing the sexy long legs of a model wearing Wolford hosiery and, there's another large stand-alone billboard in the parking lot of a woman wearing bodywear. Boy, I'm a legman and maybe I'll luck out and get to watch a photo shoot (wishful thinking on my part).

Newly built in 2001, the glassed-in, three-story front part of the building houses corporate offices. Attached to the rear is the five-story factory, which has been on this site since its founding back in 1950.The atrium lobby is large and very stylistic with lots of black and white including a black granite floor. I count eight half-mannequins (the bottom half) lined-up in a row all sporting exotic Wolford hosiery. There's a collage of Wolford ads on display plus a sign saying "no cameras". My favorite item though is the very realistic-looking sunglass-clad female mannequin peering down to the lobby from an upper floor railing.

Checking in with the receptionist I ask for Margot Lang, Public Relations. Ms. Lang e-mailed several weeks earlier letting me know they had received my letter of introduction sent to CEO Fritz Humer. Of course one of the first questions asked the gracious Ms. Lang is one I always ask when visiting a company in the apparel industry: Are you wearing any of your company's products? Lang points to her pullover and says it's a Wolford.

About 1,500 employees work here in the headquarters/factory located in an industrial part of town though on the other side of the road it's residential. There's plenty of free parking for employees and covered parking for cycling commuters. Smoking isn't allowed in offices, meeting rooms are named after cities and everyone eats in the cafeteria. It's a 1 hour and 25 minute drive to nearest big airport (Zurich) and five minutes to nearest freeway.

Next to the headquarters/factory site there's a freestanding two-story Wolford flagship boutique. Adjacent is a company restaurant, open to the public, called "WOW"-which stands for World of Wolford. Both overlook Wolford Piazza, an open space with pools of water. I go with Lang to check out the boutique and learn they even make men's attire such as socks and tights.

It isn't possible to see CEO Humer's third floor corner office or the boardroom. Any employee perks? Employees receive a 40% discount at a company store selling slightly imperfect Wolford apparel.