By  on January 25, 2005

NEW YORK — There is a theme to Turkish textile companies’ strategies for the post-quota era — avoid going head-to-head with China.

Exhibitors at the Turkish Fashion Fabric Exhibition here last week said they haven’t seen a shift in their business as a result of the end of worldwide quotas on Jan. 1. But they attributed that mainly to the small period of time that has passed.

“It hasn’t been a month yet,” said Nilsu Denktas, a marketing executive with Yünsa, a textile division of the Istanbul-based Sanabci Group.

From one perspective, Denktas said, lifting quotas may improve her business. “It makes things easier for the buyer and the seller,” she said. “It’s one less thing to worry about.”

Other executives said that, while it removes a paperwork hurdle, the end of the system means that Turkish mills will face unrestrained competition with competitors in China and the Far East.

Recott, an Istanbul-based fabric and garment maker, joined the 49 firms exhibiting at the show for the first time as part of a bid to do more direct business with U.S. customers, said sales manager M. Sair Kakirli. The mill’s primary customer base is in Europe, though Kakirli said with quotas lifted, he wanted to diversify.

“A lot of the European business is shifting to China,” Kakirli said. He acknowledged that phenomenon also is taking place in the U.S., but said the $160 million company believes the size of the U.S. market means “there is still business to go around.”

“The U.S. is a consumption market,” he said. “In Germany, people aren’t spending. They’re saving their money. In the U.S., people are still buying.”

For the year ended Nov. 30, Turkish apparel and textile makers shipped $1.75 billion worth of their wares to the U.S., a 0.9 percent increase, giving the nation 2.1 percent share of the import sector. That compares with $14.43 billion in Chinese shipments, a 25.8 percent rise.

Several exhibitors said they were adopting a strategy developed by Far Eastern companies and offering full-package garment production services, either manufacturing garments in company-owned plants or contracting the work out to other suppliers.“Now, most of the customers are interested in full package,” Kakirli said. “They don’t want to have to deal with all the details.”

Similarly, Joe Cafferelli, director of sales at the New York office of Çalik Denim, said his firm produces 75 million yards of denim and twill a year, but “most of our business is full package.”

To keep up with competition in lower-cost nations, Çalik produces its high-end jeans in Turkey, with lower-value product made in Turkmenistan, a country of 4.9 million people east of Turkey, but separated from it by Iran.

Cafferelli said his firm plans to continue with its “two-tiered” approach, and is looking to expand its apparel-making presence into Morocco and Tunisia.

In terms of fashion, trends at the show included fine cottons in gauze and other transparent constructions; tweeds, which were more subtle than in the past, and stripes, both alone and layered with prints or embroidery. Vendors showed ethnic prints in spice shades that included marigold, red and yellow. Overall, the color palette was bright and saturated with deep oranges and reds and richly toned blues and greens, though many firms also showed more neutrals, including brown, biscuit, wheat and softer blues, especially on cotton.

At cotton specialist Serdo, sales and marketing director Serhan Sert said, “Cottons are definitely getting finer.” Highlights there included superfine gauge sateens that were shown with and without spandex.

“No one really wants a heavy product anymore,” he added. “It’s all about hand and it must be superlight and soft.”

Soft was a buzzword among many of the vendors at the fair. Even tweed constructions, which last spring were heavy and chunky, got the soft touch this season. At Altinyildiz, a cotton, wool and nylon double-faced cloth featured a more subdued tweed construction on the front, and a soft, flatter construction on the inside. Sucuka Jersey showed knits with peach-skin hands in mesh constructions, some layered with metallic foil prints.

Elyaf showed other layered effects, such as scribbly embroidery on striped grounds in cotton and nylon blends. Prints, meanwhile, featured ethnic touches from a variety of places, most notably Africa. Confetti offered batik, floral and animal-skin prints.— With contributions from Daniela Gilbert

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