Since 1984, Christian Moreau, based in France, has been creating fashionable, high-quality sportswear for competitive gymnasts. Our script-style logo, representing the strength and fluidity of gymnasts as well as our products, accompanies top athletes worldwide to their most important national and international events, including the Olympic Games.
Last year we outfitted gymnastics teams from nine different countries at the Olympics in Beijing, with a number of those athletes making it to the podium, including three gold-medal winners: China's champion women's team; uneven bars champion He Kexin, from China; and floor event champion Sandra Izbasa, from Romania.
With a strong focus on originality in style, exact cut and fit, and quality, our leotards are available in specialized athletic apparel shops in 12 countries, and for online purchase and shipping worldwide from our factory near Lyon, France.
Sophisticated patterns, original designs, thousands of small production series and unique patterns are primary to the company's success. Each year, we produce and sell 80,000 leotards worldwide, usually on demand. Keeping very little stock on hand, we often work with gymnastics teams and associations, including top-level teams, to develop custom leotards with original designs.
Difficult fabrics, very small runs, intricate designs pose challenges
Uniqueness of design is a crucial competitive factor for Christian Moreau. Gymnastics is a sport of demonstration and therefore about appearance; it is our perpetual goal to live up to the expectations of our customers to enhance their skills on the competition floor with garments that add grace and style to their performances.
As we pushed the complexity of our products over the past few years, new development and production challenges arose. Converting an imaginative sketch into a usable, practical pattern in a wide range of sizes required not only a talented patternmaker but also a powerful technology solution. Multiplying the number of smaller, decorative pieces also produced a need for optimized marker making. We needed a solution that would not only make the patterns feasible but ensure the profitability of that development by guaranteeing efficiency and accuracy.
Fabric consumption was also an issue. At Christian Moreau, we use the highest quality decorative Lycra and multi-stretch fabrics, often pre-printed with holograms and glitter. Because these fabrics are expensive, we needed a solution that would guarantee efficiency and a high quality cut to reduce wasted fabric and lost time.
Yet with thousands of small runs, maximizing marker-making and cutting was a challenge. Series of 12 leotards in four different sizes are common orders around here. As a result, we were constantly running behind on marker-making and cutting, particularly during the "high season" in the fall, when clubs and teams send in orders for the new competition year.
Cutting requirements were also further complicated by the need for highly intricate cuts. All decorative fabric pieces (4-mm bias ribbons, cut-outs, appliques) are produced in-house using the same fabric to ensure consistency of color and quality.
Converting design ideas into reality
To deal with this multitude of exacting needs, we chose Lectra's Vector cutting solution, its Modaris ExpertPro pattern design solution and the DiaminoFashion Expert marker making solution.
Modaris ExpertPro has helped our evolution and improved efficiency remarkably. Its "dependencies" feature creates dependency between all pattern pieces, while at the same time automatically updating the pattern and grading corrections to all related pattern pieces.
The ability to line up each piece with the next appropriate piece is crucial for the types of garments we make, where everything must line up perfectly, particularly at the side seams and shoulder seams. The automatic updates to related pieces have eliminated "surprises:" we no longer suddenly find that we have forgotten to grade this or that piece, which now does not line up to its counterpart connecting piece that has been graded.
These same tiny but complex pieces pose extreme challenges when it comes to creating markers quickly and with as little waste as possible. We have significantly improved in both of these areas: Using DiaminoFashion Expert, we are able to optimize this process with fast and easy interactive nesting, as well as fully automated nesting, while still respecting garment and fabric constraints, such as those presented by multidirectional stretch velours. Even with these unusual shapes and our small runs, we're still managing to get up to 78 percent efficiency in the use of fabric, which is really fantastic.
Since implementing this solution, our materials costs have been dropping every year, and our profits have increased. We no longer run behind on the cutting schedule because we can now set up DiaminoFashion Expert to run automatically. This also frees up our employees to do other work, which has not only eliminated many expenses, but a lot of stress as well.
For the fine cutting of our 4-mm bias ribbons we use the Vector automated cutter, which handles the material easily and performs well. The Vector has allowed us to make very intricate creations, such as a decorative Chinese "button" for the Chinese Olympic team that involved a very sophisticated design requiring internal cuts.
Additionally, we continue to improve the way we use our software through regular training with Lectra's solutions experts and expect that new technologies coming down the pike will enable even more advancements going forward.
All in all, these implementations have made our sophisticated patterns realistically producible, and also helped us be more efficient and creative.
Sabastien Morel is CEO and Marie-France d'Autryve is production manager of France-based Christian Moreau.