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How to make Turkey the world champion in textile exports


Turkey is among the top five global export champions in the textile sector. According to figures released on Jan. 7, the industry recorded an export volume of $12.9 billion in 2021, up 33.2 percent from a year earlier. With this volume, Turkey broke a record, reaching the highest point in its history. In 2022, this growth should be exceeded with a volume target set at 15 billion dollars. Although it seems far-fetched at first glance, it is not so when considering the potential of the Turkish textile market.

It is worth starting the article with the recent welcoming news from Ankara. Under the leadership of First Lady Emine Erdoğan, a fashion show was held to present foreign ambassadors with a collection of high-quality dresses with patterns and sewing techniques of the peoples and cultures that once inhabited Anatolia. The fashion show was breathtaking. This is part of the larger project that aims to revive the cultural heritage of Anatolia in the textile industry and create a native and original position in the globalized world. However, it is even more unfortunate that there is no internationally renowned Turkish fashion brand in the ready-to-wear sector. Today, these brands ultimately shape the image of a country as seen in France, UK, Italy and Spain. The textile brands of these countries stylize the national fashion, embody the art of living and the cultural heritage.

Projects, series, hubs

Here the question is why Turkey lacks such global fashion brands which will further increase its textile export volume. After all, the country has many well-known fashion designers in the field of haute couture who dress Hollywood celebrities. The country also has many recognized ready-to-wear brands such as Les Benjamins, which creates a fascinating synthesis of Ottoman and modern style, Mavi Jeans, a very competitive denim brand like Levi’s, or the luxury brand Vakko, which can easily compete with Italian or French luxury brands in terms of the quality of its products. Unfortunately, these brands are only known to a few people abroad. Foreign fashion bloggers and influencers hardly talk about it.

The next step should be to briefly address the state of fashion in Turkey to dig deeper into the causes of the deficit. New fashion academies are increasingly opening up in the country, where talented young designers are nurtured and trained. Many young Turks are also increasingly interested in these courses and in fashion in general, as evidenced by the content of many television programs.

Moreover, with the opening of Galataport near the historic district of Galata next to Istiklal Avenue on the European side, Istanbul has gained a new fashion hub. Galataport deserves the world’s attention simply because of its location and diversity. It offers a remarkable mix of cultures, good for promoting different labels and brands through different media channels. In addition, Tersane Istanbul, a project of science and cultural centers, hotels, museums and marinas, is to be inaugurated at Istanbul’s historic Haliç (Golden Horn) shipyard.

In recent years, Turkish series and films have created global hype and are in high demand around the world. They are also commonly used to introduce the world to Turkish fashion styles, which are well-regarded by critics. The fashion embodied in the series is regularly described as majestic, oriental, equally stylish and charming.

The industrial potential

Turkey is home to many production facilities for European fashion brands, with more and more factories opening here (eg Hugo Boss). Production sites in faraway Asia are becoming less and less attractive due to logistical problems related to the coronavirus pandemic. Turkey has become a more popular choice for the industry due to its proximity to the European market and advantages in production costs.

It should also be noted that many European luxury brands source fabrics from Turkey and process them in their workshops in Europe, often to produce garments for fashion shows. This is because the materials are of very high quality. Anyone who has been to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar must have heard of the vendors at certain fabric stores that Chanel, Dior or Armani regularly buy from them. And that’s true. It’s not just a way to attract customers. You will quickly notice the reason for this by passing your hand over the fabrics offered. Such quality cannot be found anywhere else in the world. In this regard, Turkey seems to have all the prerequisites to become the world champion of exports. So what are the ingredients needed to make Turkey the number one textile industry in the world?

West and East

Considering the history of Turkey, it can be said that the West was once fascinated by the myths surrounding the East. Anything from the latter was in high demand. Fabrics came first. By examining the European market, one quickly realizes that the admiration and enthusiasm for the Orient is still alive. Some well-known fashion brands like to use caftans in their collections or oriental spices in their perfume creations. They also name their products accordingly and try to convince customers. And they manage to do it. Ironically, despite the fact that the orient was a pioneer when it came to perfumes, no Turkish perfume brand has so far achieved global success.

The lack of success

There are two reasons that prevent Turkey from achieving resounding success globally. The first is the brand image deficit while the second is the lack of government control. The latter may seem absurd at first glance, but the worldwide success of the locally produced Togg automobile is proof of that.

Although Turkey is one of the major automobile production locations in the world, it did not have its own automobile brand until recently. Togg, whose mass production is due to start at the end of this year, is the result of the policy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who encouraged and encouraged Turkish companies to pursue this goal for many years.

Turkish textile companies and brands do high quality work (for foreign brands), but are afraid to create their own reputation globally. Lack of self-confidence is a major factor. The business deficit is more likely to be due to a socio-cultural reason than to structural problems in Turkish industry or economy.

As the example of Togg illustrates, this self-confidence often comes from political support. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is strongly advised to organize more overseas fashion weeks, promote the country as a fashion hub in the international arena, maintain dialogue with business of fashion, to encourage the industry and to sufficiently market Galataport. If more support is given, it will only take a few years for Turkish fashion brands to conquer the world like Turkish films and TV productions have done, and Togg hopefully will soon. It is obvious that this, in turn, will further increase overseas sales and make Turkey the global export champion in the textile sector.

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