Entrance to a Triumph store
|Founders||Johann Gottfried Spiesshofer and Michael Braun|
|Headquarters||Bad Zurzach, Switzerland|
|Number of locations||2,100 stores|
Markus Spiesshofer, Partner
|Products||Lingerie and underwear|
Triumph International is a multinational family-owned underwear and lingerie manufacturer founded in 1886 in Heubach, Germany. It expanded into the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, the Philippines and others in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Triumph experienced organized protests regarding working conditions in Burma, the Philippines and Thailand. It acquired the HOM brand in 1986 and the Valisère brand in 1990. It also operates the Bee Dees and sloggi brands. The company is one of the largest producers of bras and underwear, particularly in Japan and Germany.
Triumph International was founded in 1886 by a merchant, Michael Braun, and a corset-maker, Johann Gottfried Spiesshofer, in a barn in Heubach, Germany. It began with a staff of six people under the name Wirtschaftlicher Verein Spiesshofer & Braun, Familienverein reg. In 1902, the company took on its current name, Triumph, with the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as its namesake. The first Triumph bra was created in 1922.
The first Triumph location outside of Germany was established in 1933 in Bad Zurzach, Switzerland. By 1939, the company had 20 manufacturing facilities producing bras, corselets and girdles. When Germany was divided by the Berlin Wall in 1949, Triumph operated within the German Democratic Republic. Though the company's domestic business stalled, it continued to expand operations internationally into countries such as Great Britain and Australia. A Triumph factory was established in Bavaria in 1955 and more than forty locations were developed in the country over the next ten years. From 1954 to 1959, Triumph expanded into Sweden, Italy, Austria and other European countries. Market volatility in the late 1960s and early 1970s eventually led to consolidating many of the plants. The company's name was changed to "Triumph International" in 1953. It established an Asia-Pacific (APAC) headquarters in Hong Kong in 1960 and the first location in Japan in 1964. The first Triumph swimwear was introduced in 1962. By the late 1960s, Triumph International had a 50 percent share of the global corset market with revenues of $620 million. In 1972, it expanded in Brazil, Australia and South Africa. In 1974, the company created subsidiaries in the Philippines and Thailand. That same year a factory was established in the Philippines in Taguig, Metro Manila.
Triumph International began a pantyhose business in 1969, but discontinued it three years later in response to the 1973–75 recession. In the late 1970s, the company started using lighter fabrics such as nylon and lycra in the Triumph brand and introduced the sloggi brand, which sold undergarments made primarily of cotton. It also moved its headquarters from Germany to Switzerland in 1977. A production facility, offices and other operations were established in Groundwell, Swindon, in 1979. By 1986 Triumph International's revenues were 996 million Swiss francs and it had 19,000 employees.
Triumph International entered the market for men's underwear and high-end lingerie by acquiring the HOM brand in 1986 and Valisère in 1990. In 1995, Triumph consolidated its brands under a single "Triumph" umbrella and doubled its advertising budget for the Triumph brand. The following year it organized into five business groups, such as product design and marketing. Triumph International established manufacturing operations in India in 1998 in a joint venture with local manufacturing companies MAS and MAST Industries. It began selling undergarments in the same region in 2002.
Triumph International workers in the Philippines went on strike and organized protests in late 1999 to protest working conditions and demand pay increases. After negotiations between Triumph and union representatives failed, the country's Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) issued a return-to-work order in February 2000, citing disruption to the country's economic stability. All 1,130 union members had unanimously and preemptively agreed to ignore the order. An agreement was reached between Triumph and union officials in 2005. The company continued to have a confrontational relationship with workers in the Philippines and closed the factory in 2009, citing declining orders for the products being manufactured.
Triumph International began manufacturing operations in Burma in 1997. In late 2001, Burma Campaign UK campaigned for UK consumers to boycott Triumph products. They said Triumph factory workers in Burma were paid an "extreme poverty wage" as defined by the United Nations and that Triumph was supporting the military regime responsible for slavery in Burma by renting facilities from them. Triumph International said that worker conditions were protected by the Triumph Code of Conduct. The Berne Declaration and the Clean Clothes Campaign accused Triumph International of using forced labor, an allegation the company denied. As a result of the campaign, the Norwegian Olympic team cancelled its sponsorship agreement with Triumph in 2001 and the company closed its Burma location in 2002.
In 2008, the president of a local union for Triumph's Thai subsidiary, Body Fashion, was fired after making political statements on television in their spare time. Triumph felt the employee's actions negatively affected the brand's image and verified with the court that they were within their legal rights. Members of the Triumph International Labor Union went on strike and collected 2,500 signatures in a petition for re-appointment. Triumph refused. In 2009 Triumph laid off 3,600 workers in Thailand and the Philippines. Trade unions alleged the layoff was a way to eliminate unionized labor, whereas the company said it was due to economic conditions. As of 2006, the majority of Triumph International's manufacturing is done in its own factories in Austria.
Triumph International laid off 400 employees and made other downsizing efforts in 2001 and opened a production facility in Dunaújváros, Hungary, that same year. In 2003, advertisements for bikinis by the sloggi brand were criticized by French consumers, politicians, female rights groups and the Publicity Verification Office, who alleged the ads were degrading to women. A Triumph spokesperson said that the ads had mixed responses and not everyone was offended. From 2008 to 2012, the company hosted the Triumph Inspiration Awards, a competition for lingerie designers to create fashions that reflected annual themes.
Triumph International acquired the Swiss underwear retail chain Beldona in 2010, and other retailers were later purchased in Mexico and the United States. In 2012, the company acquired a majority interest in Journelle, which operated three luxury undergarment stores in New York City. It also acquired Vicky Form, a lingerie manufacturer and retailer in Mexico. Minority shareholders of Triumph International AG, which operates the company's German business group, were bought-out in 2011. The company's shares have stopped trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and is now owned by the Braun and Spiesshofer families.
In 2012, all of Triumph's brands were certified as meeting the Oeko-Tex Standard, which evaluates production, supply and product components for harmful substances and environmental impact. The first Triumph location in the US was opened in 2013.
Brands and products
Triumph International manufactures and markets lingerie and other apparel primarily under four brands:
- Triumph: Lingerie
- HOM: Men's underwear
- Valisère: Bridal and special lingerie
- sloggi: Men's and women's underwear
It also operates Bee Dees, which is intended to appeal to a younger audience, and Triumph Sport. As of 1990, one in six women in the world owned a bra from a Triumph International brand and 45 percent of women in Germany owned a Triumph product. It is the largest supplier of briefs in Europe. The company also sells swimwear, sports apparel, nightwear and other products. Its largest markets are in Japan, followed by Germany, then the United Kingdom, France and Italy. As of 2007, 50 percent of Triumph sales were in Asia. The company categorizes its products under fashion, shaping or everyday.:6
Triumph International has also produced "Warm Biz" thermal bras to promote energy management, "Frequent Flier" bras with metal-free fasteners in response to heightened security at airports after the September 11 attacks, and a prototype "Anti-Smoking Manifesto" bra with fragrances in the cleavage area intended to make cigarettes taste bad. It created an "EcoChic by Triumph" line of undergarments in 2009 that uses sustainable materials.
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