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Can Istanbul produce its own Armani or Versace? Made in Turkey 2 octobre 2012

Posted by Acturca in Economy / Economie, Turkey / Turquie.
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Financial Times (UK) Tuesday, October 2, 2012, p. 10

Daniel Dombey

Fifteen hundred years ago the Byzantine empire stole the secret of making silk from China. The capture of the mulberry silkworm may have seemed a frivolous breakthrough for some – the great historian Edward Gibbon lamented that instead the Byzantines should have learnt from the Chinese how to operate a printing press, writes Daniel Dombey.

But the consequences of the theft have cascaded through history. A millennium and a half later, textiles and clothing remain one of the principal exports of the land that is now Turkey. And developments in China overshadow the Turkish industry even more than in late antiquity.

Turkey today is a country seeking new customers and new prestige for its products, even as it tries to defend lower-end goods from cheaper Asian imports.

It’s in what some industrialists characterise as a three to four-year dash to protect and reshore its industry in the face of cheap imports from China, and to a lesser extent India and Bangladesh. Hefty tariff increases last year on textiles and clothing bought time for some manufacturers while dismaying other companies that look abroad for materials.

The short-term impact of the tariffs, which could yet be thrown out by the World Trade Organisation, is clear. For the first six months of this year, Turkey’s apparel imports from China were down more than one-third on the same period of 2011 at $311m. Bangladesh imports fell by one-quarter; Indian by almost half.

Factories have opened up to take up the slack. But what remains to be seen is whether the country can carve out a more prestigious slice of the market, find customers in new parts of the world and add Turkish companies to the top rank of global brands.

The push to move upmarket is clear: the second week of October sees the seventh Istanbul Fashion Week, a twice yearly attempt to put Turkey in the limelight and to increase exports.

Mavi, the jeans manufacturer and retailer, and one of the best-known names in Turkish fashion, has a similar aim. It has a new collection by Hussein Chalayan and has ended a distribution arrangement with Macy’s in order to « move up the price ladder », says Cuneyt Yavuz, Mavi’s general manager.

« Hussein Chalayan is an effort to make a splash in the US market, » he says. « We’ve exited Macy’s and we want to get in on the Bloomingdale’s level. »

When it comes to international brands looking for suppliers, the country’s principal advantage is also close to home. Zegna has gone to the Tuzla district of Istanbul to make shirts; and Hugo Boss has set up a manufacturing operation in Izmir with 3,500 workers turning out suits, shirts and other core products. « Geographically it is good for us because it’s not far to our logistics centre in Germany, but what really matters is the high quality we get from Turkey, » says a spokesperson for the company about the site.

Exports are holding up. Despite the economic difficulties in Europe, Turkey’s apparel exports for the first six months of the year reached $7.7bn, only about $150m less than the same period in 2011.

Cem Negrin, chairman of the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers Association, argues that the psychology of uncertain economic times helps Turkey because many European customers prefer not to buy a large amount of stock but to make smaller orders, then repeat when they are sold out. It is not a formula that meshes well with longer delivery times from China or elsewhere in Asia.

But he is philosophical about how high up the market Turkey can ascend. « I think a lot will be mid-prestige brands – it’s not so easy to create an Armani or a Versace. »


1. Mike - 4 septembre 2014

No not possible. Only Italy and Italians can produce such beatiful handmade items.

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