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Hong Kong - Cobalt fashion, one of the world's largest knitwear groups, has opened a new design and innovation lab in collaboration with computerized flat knitting machine manufacturer Shima Seiki.

It is hoped that the CS innovation lab will allow Cobalt, a joint venture between the Fung Group and South Ocean Knitters Holding Limited, to explore a wide range of flat knitting possibilities including advancing 3D and virtual design capabilities and driving efficiency gains in the design-to-production part of the supply chain.

Key here for Cobalt will be Shima Seiki's SDS-APEX 3 technology which, amongst its many functions, improves on the design evaluation process with its ultrarealistic simulation capability, whereby virtual samples minimize the need for actual sample-making. With design and manufacturing facilities spread across the world, this service will provide Cobalt with with significant savings in time, costs and material.

According to Leung Wai Ping, CEO of Cobalt Fashion, the partnership will also leverage Cobalt’s market intelligence, sourcing capabilities and extensive knowledge in knitwear and yarn along with Shima Seiki’s advanced knitting technology. "With a deep understanding of customer needs, the Lab will carry out highly specialized R&D and develop innovative technology and solutions to deliver quicker, more accurate solutions that address fast-changing market trends and needs, creating a win-win situation for everyone along the supply chain. Cobalt’s Design Hub and state-of-the-art Innovation Lab will service all the divisions under Cobalt Fashion," said Ping in a statement.

“I’m thrilled to open the doors to our new CS Innovation Lab. Cobalt is innovation-led and the Lab enables us to discover the ideas, technologies and solutions to produce better materials and knitwear for our customers. Since joining forces with South Ocean last year, we have built a world-class knitwear company with design and production capabilities to supply the best global brands and retailers. In Shima Seiki, we have now found a strong technology partner. The Lab is an exciting next step in our journey to innovate and redefine the knitwear industry with cutting-edge knitwear technology."

Cobalt Fashion Holding, is made up of four knitwear divisions, is 62 per cent owned by Li & Fung and 38 per cent by South Ocean. The deal combines the operations and resources of Li & Fung's vertically integrated sweater manufacturing business together with South Ocean's knitwear business to make it one of the largest and most innovative knitwear suppliers globally.

South Ocean Knitters Limited is mainly involved in knitwear manufacturing, operating spinning, dyeing and finishing facilities. The company was founded in 1974 and is based in Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong. The company operates as a subsidiary of Novel Enterprises Ltd. It therefore also brings yarn development and manufacturing knowhow to the table, while Li & Fung contributes product design and supply-chain logistics.

With a total turnover of about US$700 million, the JV aims to service brands and retailers at all price levels and in all segments, covering Asian markets including Japan, as well as Europe, the UK and the US.

South Ocean is a subsidiary of Novel Holdings Limited, which is known for working with brands such as Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger. President/CEO Silas Chou says the partnership is an important milestone for the global knitwear industry.

“The CS Innovation Lab represents our passion and commitment to be innovation-led in how we deliver value to our brand and retail customers,” added Silas Chou, President and CEO of Novel Holdings Limited. “Cobalt Fashion was formed on the foundation of a tremendous amount of synergy and the driving force behind that has always been a shared goal to drive innovation in knitwear that would benefit our customers and the overall knitwear and fashion industry - I’m very excited about the new ideas and opportunities that will come from this collaboration.”

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