Turkey: the awakening of a big Euro-Mediterranean hub?
At a five-day interval, Turkey hosted the inaugural edition of two textile trade fairs put on by major international organisers, Première Vision and Messe Frankfurt (Texworld). A first for an industry that until now operated via its many local federations. And a win for this stronghold in the Euro-Mediterranean zone, which is more than ever seeing itself as an alternative to Asian productions for customers from Europe and the Middle East.
Backed by its preferential customs laws at the gateway to Europe, Turkey does indeed have a definite advantage over other countries in the zone which supply Europe, like Tunisia and Morocco. In addition, its proximity to the continent offers a logic alternative to distant productions, even being able to answer to the recent challenges of fast fashion.
"Our country can count on several assets," thus acknowledges Ibrahim Burkay. President of the Bursa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the biggest with 33,000 members, he is counting on the Première Vision Istanbul trade fair to see what these foreign partners will bring in.
The country's goal is to achieve 60 billion euros in textile exports in 2023. A pillar of the national economy, textiles are the main focus of activity for 16,000 companies and employ 1.5 million people. But, like China and its neighbours, the country has to make concessions with these. After a series of strikes in 2013, workers received a salary increase, established over a few quarters.
"I prefer to see it as proof of our success, even if my colleagues don't see it that way," the production manager of a Turkish textile manufacturer said smiling. "If there weren't a lot of activity, our teams would not be asking for these improvements. Which are, moreover, going in the right direction: in any case, right now we need to conserve and reinforce the know-how of our teams."
Turkey is the third largest clothing supplier for the European Union, after China and Bangladesh, and before India and the Maghreb. In 2013, the country sent some 8.6 billion euros in clothing to Europe, posting a 2% increase.
In addition, the country is the EU's second biggest textile supplier, with 4.1 billion euros of materials sent out in 2013. A 10% increase that allows the country to follow close behind China (7.7 billion) and far ahead of India (2.3 billion), Pakistan (1.7) and the United States (1.02).
But Turkey isn't just a country that manufactures, it is also, like China, a quickly growing consumer market owing to the growing number of the middle class. Why not then also invite some significant fashion trade fair organisers? "I would be delighted to see Who's Next come to Turkey," stated Hikmet Tanriverdi, President of the Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporter Association. The call has thus been launched.
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