ISTANBUL — With the spectre of cheap Chinese goods flooding into Europe and the United States, Turkish fashion and textile firms are using trade fairs to showcase their push for quality.
Turkey’s recent evolution from a nation of low-cost suppliers to a country where skilled manufacturing and design have given direction to the industry has been steady, but January’s lifting of export quotas has added further urgency to the metamorphosis.
“Trade fairs are seen as a show of strength against China; we are putting on our own show here,” said Aynur Keskinturk, spokesperson for the trade fairs group CNR, which organizes the twice-yearly ITS Istanbul fashion textiles fair, showcasing local brands such as Altinyildiz, Isko-Sanko and a growing array of foreign exhibitors. The next fair will be held in October (dates TBA) at Istanbul’s CNR Expo.
“Firms are aware that they come to the shows to preserve their market share,” said Keskinturk. “And when people see the quality of the product and the skills of the sector’s workers, they realize that they should not be comparing us to China. With these fairs, we can strengthen the image of ‘Made in Turkey.'”
As can be seen from the exhibitors at contemporary trade shows, including the CNR shows and Tuyap’s IF Istanbul Ready-to-Wear Fair — to be held Aug. 25-27 at the Tuyap Fair, Convention and Congress Center — textile and apparel firms have been hiring designers to help bring added value to their product, as well as upgrading their factories and improving the skills of their workers.
Responding to the call for “fast fashion” from the likes of H&M and Zara, Turkish firms have begun to make goods for the leading names in Europe and the U.S. However, recent studies show that Turkey stands to lose as much as 30 percent of its market share of ready-to-wear exports to the European Union because of the ending of quotas. Although it is too early to have been directly affected yet, textile exports fell by an ominous 9.6 percent in January.
Suleyman Orakcioglu, chairman of the leading export group ITKIB, stresses that Turkey is nevertheless well placed, having performed a successful shift in concept. At ITKIB’s biannual textile fairs in New York (July 12-13) and London (Aug. 16-17), exhibitors such as Aksu and Bossa demonstrate this with an emphasis on creativity and design flair.
ITKIB, which is currently working on a project with the E.U. to revamp the industry in terms of branding, design and research, also sponsors young Turkish designers abroad and holds a young designers’ competition each summer. Last year, it helped former winner Bahar Korcan take her place on the calender at the New York fashion shows.
Orakcioglu, whose own Damat-Tween brands are among the few Turkish names to gain an international foothold, recognizes that the climb is steep. “This is a young, 20-year-old sector, and it has already moved from mass production into making collections for world brands. What’s important is being trusted and doing a good job.”