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London Fog scene impresses Polish businessmen Many in group want to sell textile materials in U.S.


ELDERSBURG -- Dressed in an azure suit and a tie that pictured old-time tennis players vying for points, Roman Janowski examined the raincoat on the warehouse rack.

He turned up a cuff, ran his fingers across a lapel and perused the label. He even studied the perforated corner of the plastic bag covering the garment.

Janowski, owner of a clothing manufacturing company in Poland, came to Londontown Corp. Monday morning with a group of about 15 colleagues to see how London Fog coats are made and sold.

Many of the visitors -- freed two years ago from the grip communism placed on their economy -- hope to sell cloth, yarn and thread to companies in the U.S.

Textiles are one of Poland's largest industries. The country, with a population of about 38 million, is slightly smaller in area than New Mexico and can't produce enough consumer goods -- including clothing -- to keep up with demand.

Through an interpreter, Janowski said he was impressed with the working environment and technology at the Londontown facility, where in July -- the company's peak inventory time -- 1 million coats and jackets are stored.

Janowski's company, Evex, in the city of Poznan, makes men's and women's suits, coats and shirts. He employs 1,500 workers.

The Londontown facility here employs 700 people, and the company employs a total of 3,500, said Edward L. Frey III, executive vice president of operations.

Janowski said he was taken with the fact that each Londontown worker seemed "useful."

Frey guided a group of seven visitors through the warehouse filled with racks of calf-length raincoats and shorter winter jackets with fur collars. The two-story warehouse has 10 acres of space on each floor, he said.

Frey took the group to the sewing room where women crafted sample coats from cardboard patterns as their machines hummed loudly. And they saw a testing lab where machines can simulate rain storms, hurricanes and the turbulence of the typical washing machine.

Later, the group toured Londontown's cutting and sewing plants in Baltimore.

The visitors were part of a group of about 80 Polish business people on a nine-day trip to Maryland that included other companies, training sessions and a trade show.

The trip is co-sponsored by the Maryland Sister Cities program and the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce. Baltimore is a sister city of Lodz, Poland.

This was Antonina Bienkowska's first visit to the United States. She is general manager of the export division of a textile and yarns company in Gdansk and was one of the few people on the tour who spoke English.

The quality of Poland's textile products is higher than similar products from Korea and Taiwan, but Poland's price is higher, she said. She hopes her country will become competitive soon.

Frey said Stan Mostwin, a native of Poland and Londontown retiree, went to Poland about three years ago to explore the possibility of setting up a manufacturing facility, but found materials costs twice as high as in the Far East.

London Fog garments are manufactured in the United States and around the world, Frey said. The company may reconsider working in Poland, especially after Monday's visit, he said.

"I'm sure something will come of this, but I'm not sure exactly what," Frey said.

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