By  on November 18, 2009

ISTANBUL — Challenging the global economic recession, Turkey’s fashion industry launched two glittering industry events this year — Istanbul Fashion Days and Fashionable Istanbul — designed to bolster the presence of Turkish brands internationally as well as showcase local industry, including couture.

Next year will see these continue, according to ITKIB, a government-sponsored association of more than 17,000 members in the textile and apparel trades, in addition to two established trade fairs.

Long known as a sourcing destination in quality cotton and denim for international brands, Turkey has been forced to adopt a strategy of brand building, developing higher-end fabrics and more added-value goods to counter the pressure of cheaper competition from China, India and Vietnam.

“People didn’t think Turkey could hold a fashion week and be on time,” said Ismail Kutlu, an ITKIB board member and an organizer of Istanbul Fashion Days in August. “But we were first in the world to show spring 2010 collections.”

Those collections were by local designers, including Gamze Saraçoglu, Bahar Korcan and Arzu Kaprol, and included a preview of Pierre Cardin Weekend, a debut leisure line designed and produced in Turkey by a company called Aydinli.

The next IFD is set for February, for fall collections, although neither dates nor venue are firm. “Continuity is key in these kinds of events,” said Kutlu. “All I can say is that IFD 2010 will have more of an international presence.” He declined to name specific participating brands.

It has been a rougher year for Turkey, which posted a 7 percent economic contraction in the second quarter of this year compared with the same period last year. The IMF predicts a total 6.5 percent fall this year.

Exports shrank by 32.7 percent to $68.9 billion in the January-to-September period, according to the Turkish Exporters Assembly.

Ready-to-wear exports — the second-most important industry in Turkey after automotives — dropped 23.2 percent to $9.6 billion, mostly due to a fall in demand from European markets, which account for around 75 percent of exports. Capacity usage in the rtw sector stood at 75 percent in September, the lowest level since 2000.

One bright spot for the battered sector is that exports to the Middle East rose by 12 percent, to $357.4 million in the January-to-September period. That increase is a reflection of the government’s policy to improve trade ties with the Islamic world, but fashion buyers also say Istanbul is well poised to become a regional industry center.

“Istanbul could be a fashion hub for Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East markets,” said Carlo D’Amario, managing director of Vivienne Westwood, after showing at Fashionable Istanbul in October.

Already, next year is looking a little better. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says it expects the Turkish economy to grow by 2.6 percent.

“We have entered a period where the effects of the global economic crisis are starting to recede,” said ITKIB’s Kutlu. “But the real recovery for Turkey’s textiles sector will come in the second half of 2010, when I predict we will start to surpass pre-crisis levels.”

The IF International Fashion Fair in Istanbul will run Jan. 24 to 26, and its organizer, CNR, anticipates being able to fill the same amount of space as this year, when 300 exhibitors attended.

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