Historical manufacturer no. 4: KingGee
Robert Adcock founded KingGee in Sydney in 1926, with a focus on durable and practical work wear.
The very first pair of the brand’s iconic overalls was actually produced by Adcock in a tiny rented home in Rawson Place, laying the foundations for a wider range of workwear that soon became known for it’s quality and craftsmanship.
As KingGee’s reputation grew, so too did the manufacturing side of the business.
During the Great Depression and Second World War, for example, KingGee manufactured uniforms for the defence services.
While very grounded in practicality, KingGee was also one of the most innovative manufacturers when it came to fabrics and technologies.
The 1960s saw the company produce its Red Label Drill, which set the standard for drill fabrics in Australia. KingGee was also known for using the latest in fabric treatments.
From Tinofast to Teflon to Nano-TexTM, and then through to the introduction of Workcool garments designed to help combat heat stress, the company continued to test out new elements in order to maintain its reputation and top spot with durable, practical workwear.
In the 1980s, KingGee was also among the first Sydney manufacturers to see the value in new clothing production methods and machines.
“Hand shears and cardboard patterns are out. Computerised cutting and pattern-making machines are in. That’s the picture at King Gee Clothing Co,” a Sydney Morning Herald article from September 1985 reported.
It says the company’s Kingsgrove factory was at the forefront of new manufacturing methods, with equipment imported from the US and faster production than any clothing manufacturer using traditional methods.
Part of the reasoning behind this shift to higher tech clothing manufacturing was that it meant KingGee could produce clothing faster and keep up with cheaper overseas competition, which was already becoming a threat in the 1980s.
“The wage structure in Australia makes our production costs higher than our competitors in neighbouring countries,” Bob Adcock (junior) explained in the SMH article.
“This means we must be very efficient to remain competitive. We must outlay a lot of capital to buy the best possible equipment.”
The strategy may have paid off at first, but KingGee’s local manufacturing business was moved overseas in the 2000s when (current parent company) PacificBrands began closing down all its clothing factories in Australia.
These days KingGee clothing production is entirely overseas, but the company still produces workwear used by Australians across a wide range of industries.
Featured image: http://www.pacificbrands.com.au/