What you need to know this instant.

FOR:
fashion

How It's Made: Hanky Panky

During college, I worked at a small SoHo boutique filled with beautiful clothes I couldn't afford—with or without my employee discount. So whenever I saved up to buy something, it was a really big deal. Even if it was just a neatly rolled thong from the fishbowl of Hanky Pankys sitting on the cash wrap.

Those lacy underpinnings soon became my most frequent purchase. Not only were they only things I could regularly indulge in without having Cheerios for lunch all week, but even the skimpiest versions were comfortable. Which a lot of similar, more expensive underwear really is not. And honestly, aside from, like, root canals and food poisoning, what's less pleasant than itchy, wedgie-inducing panties in the middle of your workday?

Although I was my own biggest customer, I sold a ton of Hanky Pankys to other people, too. Not that I really had to try that hard: Beyond my basic "these are all I wear now!" sales pitch, they looked irresistible—like fat delicious candies all toppled together in a clear container. And at only $20 a pop, they were a steal compared to the rest of the store's pricey wares. As you can probably guess, most of the commission from those sales directly benefited my own lingerie drawer.

Yet, despite all those years I spent spouting the Hanky Panky gospel in lower Manhattan, I never realized that the entire underwear enterprise was simply a train ride away. The brand's Queens-based factory is the nerve-center for all its operations and where the majority of garment production happens. Last week, company CEO Lida Orzeck, select members of her team and her dog Henree—who is also Chairman of the Hanky Panky board—were kind enough to give me a full-on Willy Wonka-style tour of the building and step-by-step breakdown of how those delicate camis, underwear and sleep get made.

Click through the slideshow below to see for a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Hanky Panky and visit Hankypanky.com to shop its full line.

all photography by Dana Davenport

file

Pick the Styles and Print the Patterns

Here I am (in the peach) with Lida. Through careful data analysis, experts choose which styles they think underwear aficionados would like to buy next. Each one is then printed as a pattern on huge pieces of paper and sent to the cutting room.

"The 48-11 and the 49-11 thong is our most popular style," Lida told me. "It's the world's most comfortable thong!"


file

"The Hanky Panky Handshake"

"I'm wearing one right now!"

"ME TOO!"


file

Prepare and Cut the Fabric

Multiple layers of fabric—usually the brand's stretch lace ("That's what 90 percent of our products are made from," Lida said.)—are stacked beneath each pattern and cut.


file

"First we have to check that our fabric is good," Lida told me. "And our stretch fabrics have to relax so when they are cut, they don't jump back to create a different size from what was intended."


file

Factory workers pre-cut the fabric.


file

Undie Assembly

Although many of actual garments are constructed off-site (But still domestically: "We've been a 'Made in USA' company since we started in 1977," Lida proudly told me.), there is one workshop within the actual factory.


file

And it's better than Santa's.


file

Inspection and Labeling

Fully constructed pieces are sent back to Queens and carefully inspected for defects before getting labeled and distributed to various retailers. All I could think of though is that scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the "bad eggs"...


file

Sorting and Storage

Items that aren't shipped right away are meticulously organized by color and style.


file

Shipping

Online orders are processed and sent straight from the factory and look—they just got a brand new shipping box! So pretty!


file

Custom Crystalization

Hankypanky.com customers have the option of "custom crystalizing" their purchases, a process that is carefully done by hand. The team shows me how by creating a one-of-kind thong for my wedding next week. It's blue, obviously.


file

Good thing my fiancé doesn't have his brother Kevin's name. That would make for some really weird underwear.


file

Group shot!

pictured from left to right: Richard Space (Executive Operations Consultant), Stephanie Sachs (handles Hankly Panky's PR),   JD Breen (Visual Manager & Glam Guru), Me, Henree, (Chairman of the Board and Lida’s dog), Lida Orzeck (CEO), Kristina Dashuk (Visual Assistant)


FILED UNDER
fashion
KEYWORDS
fashion