Nimbly’s Christian Birky discusses innovating manufacturing in the United States and on-demand production during his presentation. | Photo by Shima Seiki

Nimbly’s Christian Birky discusses innovating manufacturing in the United States and on-demand production during his presentation. | Photo by Shima Seiki


Shima Seiki Debuts a Collaborative Apparel-Technology Space in Los Angeles


Mike Caird of Shima Seiki showcases samples from yarn spinner UPW, while speaking with an attendee. | Photo by Shima Seiki

Shima Seiki, the nearly 60-year-old Japanese machine manufacturer and technology firm, recently unveiled its new showroom in the Arts District where it can take advantage of the neighborhood’s roots in the apparel-manufacturing industry and its place in fashion’s future.

“We can feature and highlight each of our machines with our new showroom,” said Hayato Nishi, who manages sales and senior business development for Shima Seiki. “There are three main highlight rooms—one will be our sustainability room, the other will be the technology room and the third will be our Apex 3 Design System classroom.”

The approximately 6,000-square-foot showroom was unveiled March 13–14 during the company’s fifth annual G3D Seminar, a two-day event called “Yarn to Shelf.” The new showroom replaces the company’s previous showroom located at the California Market Center.

“We saw that there is a revitalization in the Arts District. The building at 2301 East 7th St. used to be a textile industrial building where there was a lot of manufacturing,” Nishi explained. “It was a perfect merge because this location is a manufacturing hub and there have been manufacturers within the building.”

While Shima Seiki nodded to the past with its new location, Nishi notes that the company will introduce the future of manufacturing with its Apex classes by the end of 2019 with a focus on solving its customers’ greatest needs to ensure future success.

“There are some trading companies that use our technology as a communication tools with their overseas factories. We’ll have to create a class that caters to that sector,” he said. “There are also programmers that utilize our machines on a day-to-day manufacturing basis, and they need to enhance their knit-programming capabilities, so we’re going to have classes cater to that.”

A collaborative environment

Nicholas Brown, the conscious-fashion liaison for Fair Trade LA, attended the launch to learn more about how 3-D knitting technology can support a sustainable apparel industry. He is also Fashion Revolution’s L.A. ambassador and works with designers such as Christian Wijnants.

“They brought together all these different people from the fiber industry and brands to have a discussion, and it’s the perfect space to have this hub to foster different partnerships,” he said. “I have a knitwear designer who I work with from Antwerp who is coming in next month, and I can’t wait to take him down there and see what he thinks of this process.”

Within each of the rooms, visitors can learn more about how Shima Seiki’s machinery helps create more technologically advanced or sustainably made apparel. There are also areas that showcase the types of materials that would be most relevant to a company’s mission as it works toward these trends.

“The sustainable room and technology room are segmented to highlight two different areas where we’ve seen a lot of growth,” Nishi explained.

The technology room features an SVR machine that relies on 2.5-D knitting for apparel, automotive, medical and industrial purposes. By observing Shima Seiki’s SWG mini machine, visitors can learn how knit accessories such as hats, scarves and socks can be created using 3-D knitting technology using a smaller needle bed.

“The samples in the technology room will be more on the performance and technology side so we have some wearable garments that monitor your heart rate,” Nishi said. “There is also a cooling jacket/vest.”

The sustainability room houses two of the brand’s Mach 2XS machines, one of which offers 8-gauge and the other providing 15-gauge needles. Showcasing samples from its customers, Shima Seiki also displays yarns created from fibers including 100 percent organic cotton and traceable wool.

“Since our whole-garment 3-D knitting technology is one of the most sustainable forms of knitting right now, we dedicated one room to more-natural fibers,” Nishi said. “We wanted to create a space for people to see the machines in action, the materials they could possibly use and the products that might come out of the machine.”

As part of the new showroom, the educational offerings for Apex technology—which include the Apex 3-4 launched earlier in 2019—reveal the ways that this 3-D design system can streamline the entire supply chain. These features include technology such as digital yarn design, virtual swatches, simulated wovens and digital avatars generated from fit-model specifications.

“Our goal is to set up a room for industry professionals to take classes on the Apex 3 design system,” Nishi revealed. “This design system is primarily for digitalization. It’s our platform for knit digitalization for designing in the manufacturing language.”

The G3D Seminar theme of “From Yarn to Shelf” was meant to be a play on the popular culinary farm-to-table trend surrounding local-ingredient sourcing.

“We wanted to highlight the benefits of our whole-garment technology and how we skip the cut-and-sew fabric-buying process and go from yarn to garment, but at the same time if you utilize our Apex design system you can utilize that all the way through retail as well,” Nishi said.

The event was an opportunity for on-demand 3-D-knitting company Nimbly’s co-owner Christian Birky to open a discussion through his presentation called “Distributed and On-Demand: The Role of Whole Garment in Supply-Chain Innovation.”

As a Los Angeles­–headquartered manufacturer that focuses on utilizing technology to promote a cleaner and more sustainable apparel supply chain, Nimbly Made’s business relies on the Mach 2XS resources offered by Shima Seiki. Birky is currently working with the company to expand his base.

“It’s a small but growing group of fascinating people who are seeing what Shima has built around 3-D knitting,” he said. “Everyone has their own lens and reason for being there.”

Annie Lim, the senior knit designer for M.M.LaFleur in New York, was at the event to talk about the role of Shima Seiki’s Mach 2XS whole-garment technology, which her company used when making its Noble Knit Collection manufactured at Tailored Industry in Brooklyn, N.Y.

She was impressed with the showroom’s inclusion of a sample archive and the ability to demonstrate the machines’ capabilities.

“The atmosphere is generally one that makes it open to be collaborative. You have the tactile experience with the archive and a visual experience with the machines,” she explained. “It was a rare chance for me to be in the same room with someone who is doing research for engineering technology or wearable-technology robotics.”