The restrictive COVID regulations and the overall sharp rise in transport costs are currently hampering regulated apparel sourcing in the Asian region. Meanwhile, resources are hardly available in Eastern Europe and Turkey. The Dominican Republic can help solve sourcing and transportation challenges, Kischel says. "We are finding that duty-free import of face fabrics from Europe or Asia and duty-free export back to Europe for production and finishing in the free trade zones is attracting more and more manufacturers and brands to the Dominican Republic," says the textile and apparel engineering graduate. "Many European ingredient suppliers already have a presence on the island. Outer fabrics have to be imported, but jersey, for example, is also produced locally in good quality, so this product group is also exported 'free on board' to North America." Transportation to Europe is inexpensive and expeditious, he said, with a 40-foot container currently shipping from port to port in ten to twelve days for about $3,500. By comparison, Asian shipments are currently three to four times higher.
The local infrastructure lends itself to the project due to another fact: "Many companies in the Dominican Republic are certified according to WRAP, which is similar to the European Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) program," says Kischel. WRAP certification demonstrates ethical and responsible business standards that include environmental factors. For Kischel, this is an important location advantage that he has personally verified. WKS operates a laundry in a free trade zone in Santiago de los Caballeros for the production of washed pants such as denims and chinos but also garment dyed variants for local customers. The development of own, individual collections finds numerous customers especially on the local market. The site produces up to 10,000 items per week on an area of over 3,500 square meters. In the process, attention is also paid to sustainability. The site is BSCI-certified and only uses auxiliary materials that meet the requirements of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) association. To achieve environmentally friendly used effects, WKS uses sustainable denim finishing laser technology in the island state, for example. The water required is recycled at a nearby wastewater treatment plant, he said.
"Numerous companies approach us and ask for recommendations on suitable local production facilities," Kischel added. "For questions about starting up on the island, I recommend approaching the German-Dominican Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Through our local network, we can also suggest production companies."