Apparel finishing includes the last stages of garment processing before they are made retail-ready and shipped to distribution centers or client stores. During this process, the garments are inspected for quality, ironed and packaged. Some accessories such as buttons and buckles are attached at this stage too. These finishing steps ensure that the product meets customer specifications and is ready for shipping. This is also the time when any issues are corrected and re-worked.
Apparel production is typically broken down into pattern-making, cutting, sewing and finishing. Pattern-making involves converting a design into patterns for the different parts of the garment, which are then graded by size. Traditionally, these patterns were hand-drawn or cut out of cardboard. More recently, computer-controlled cutting machines have replaced the need for paper patterns.
The fabric is then inspected for seams and stitching defects. The fabric is also tested for color fastness and odor-control properties, which are critical to the garment’s lifespan. In addition, fabric treatments may be used to produce a variety of effects. For example, a crepe effect can be achieved by passing the cloth through hot rollers filled with indentations. A more permanent caustic soda method produces a blistered effect.
Once the garments are deemed suitable for shipment, they are pressed and folded to reduce bulk. Garments may be sized and tagged at this point as well. Generally, the garments are then placed in plastic bags and shipped to client distribution centers to be sold in retail stores.
Garment finishing is a complex process that can cause a wide variety of health and safety hazards. For example, workers who perform quality control can become exposed to the chemical formaldehyde, which is released during fabric treatment. This chemical can irritate the skin and eyes and contribute to headaches and nose and throat irritation. In addition, crowded and squalid conditions in factories can create ideal conditions for transmission of infectious diseases.
Some finishing processes can expose workers to dangerous chemicals and metals as well. For instance, buttons and buckles are often manufactured at separate facilities from the plants that make clothing. The moulding process can expose workers to toxic chemicals and metals, including lead. And if the buttons are coated in a finishing material such as gold or silver, workers can be exposed to harmful metallic fumes when the products are brushed and polished.
Other dangers include exposure to organic solvents such as perchlorethylene, trichlorethylene and 1,1,1-trichloroethane, which can cause central nervous system depression and peripheral neuropathy in addition to dermatitis and liver toxicity. Finally, the use of dimethyl formamide (DMF) to waterproof fabrics can expose workers to hepatotoxicity and testicular cancer.
The crowded and squalid conditions in garment factories can also create an environment that is ideal for the spread of disease. Infections such as tuberculosis are common in this industry. These risks can be reduced by implementing better management systems in the factories and encouraging a workplace culture that prioritizes quality, productivity and efficiency. apparel finishing