ISTANBUL — Turkey’s last fashion week, held in August, showed how much hope the country is investing in its fashion industry.
Apparel exports rose 10.7 percent to $12 billion in the first 10 months of 2010 from a year earlier, and made up 13 percent of all of Turkey’s exports, the largest category after automobiles. The pace of export growth in general was strong: an 11.4 percent increase in the same period, according to the Turkish Assembly of Exporters.
Even more impressive is the overall economic expansion, at a time when many of Turkey’s peers are still barely out of recession. Gross domestic product grew at a pace of about 11 percent in the first half of 2010 from a year earlier, rivaling China and exceeding all other countries in the G-20 group of developed countries.
That is likely to slow in the second half of the year owing to base-year effects, the government said, but it is still forecasting growth of close to 7 percent this year and 4.5 percent next year.
That doesn’t mean that Turkey is immune from global economic problems, and that’s particularly true in the textile industry, where the troubled European Union is the country’s largest export market. Exports to the EU rose 15 percent from a year earlier in the first nine months of 2010, according to the Turkish Statistics Authority, yet there are doubts about whether that kind of growth can be maintained, given the scale of Europe’s problems.
There’s some relief, though, since Germany — one of Europe’s healthier economies — is the leading market for Turkish ready-to-wear, with sales exceeding $3 billion in the first 10 months of 2010, according to the assembly of exporters.
Still, while Europe takes the lion’s share of Turkish textiles and other goods, as fashion week organizer Cem Kaprol pointed out, it is no longer exclusively in the West that countries like Turkey can find customers with money. The 1,000 buyers invited to fashion week this year were mostly from outside the EU countries. Turkey has consolidated relations with Russia, an important clothing market, in recent years and is also fast building better relationships in the oil-rich Middle East.
Kaprol argued that with Europe’s recession entrenched in the south, and Greece and Spain in turmoil, it is more realistic for Turkey to invest in becoming a regional hub.
“It is best to keep Europe — still in an economic recession and full of entrance barriers for branded fashion — as a longterm plan,” he said.