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
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