The easiest thing to miss in a garment is the zipper. Yet, a garment might never be worn, or worse, even be discarded, if the zipper didn't work well enough. Subir Ghosh writes about trends, disruptions and standards in the zipper-fastener sector.

There are some ideas that never click with the public at first. An American machine salesman and engineer by the name of Whitcomb Judson learnt it the hard way in 1893. He worked on-what was described as-a "clasp locker" and launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture his new device. The clasp locker made its debut at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, but saw little success.

Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-American electrical engineer, was hired to work for the Universal Fastener Company in 1906. He took the idea forward and increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten, "introduced two facing rows of teeth that pulled into a single piece by the slider, and increased the opening for the teeth guided by the slider." The patent for Sundback's "Separable Fastener" came in 1917, and the name still later. 

Pic: Lampo 

BF Goodrich Company used Sundback's device as a fastener on a new type of rubber boots and called the device a "zipper". The name remains.Yet, it took the fashion industry two decades to take to the zipper. Sometime in the 1930s, a sales campaign began for children's self-help clothing featuring zippers. In 1937, French designers started using zippers in men's trousers. The device was called the "newest tailoring idea for men" and one of the plus points was that it would exclude "the possibility of unintentional and embarrassing disarray."

There have been innovations galore since then, but the basic idea behind the zipper, as also fasteners, remains the same-you zip it up right, or you fasten it around just as tight.

Challenging Trends

At first blush-to the lay person, at least-it might appear as though there is little scope for trends and challenges in the zipper-fastener sector. Yet, there are those unmistakable trends that are driving the segment-albeit few-but mostly revolving around material, functionality and consumer taste.

For Gaetano Lanfranchi, chief executive of Ditta Giovanni Lanfranchi SpA, the main challenge is and will remain the capability to compromise with the growing need of personalisation and quality, with strict deliveries (the make or break deals). Lanfranchi underlines, "Sampling and production are indeed overlapping more and more due to capsule and special collections. Technology will become fundamental in adapting our process for a faster service on smaller orders." As for what will decide the course of the future, he quips, "Service 360o sustainability technology." But then, Lanfranchi's company-known for the Lampo zippers-is steeped in history and heritage and known to move with the times. It was established in 1887 by Giovanni Lanfranchi-Gaetano's greatgrandfather-starting off as a button producer in Palazzolo, also known as the Italian Manchester. Today, Lanfranchi is a group of six manufacturing companies, all located in Italy, and employs over 400 people.