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Turkey belongs to the top five world export champions in the textile sector. According to the figures published on Jan. 7, the industry recorded an export volume of $12.9 billion in 2021, increasing 33.2% compared to the previous year. With this volume, Turkey has broken a record, peaking at the highest point in its history. In 2022, this growth is to be exceeded with the target volume set at $15 billion. Although this sounds far-fetched at first glance, it is not when considering the potential of the Turkish textile market.
It is appropriate to start the article with the recent welcoming news from Ankara. Under the leadership of first lady Emine Erdoğan, a fashion show was organized to present a high-quality collection of dresses with motifs and sewing techniques of peoples and cultures that once inhabited Anatolia to the foreign ambassadors. The fashion show was breathtaking. This is part of the bigger project that aims to revive the cultural heritage of Anatolia in the textile industry and to create a native and original stance in the globalized world. However, it is even more regrettable that there is no internationally known Turkish fashion brand in the ready-to-wear sector. Today, such brands ultimately shape a country’s image as seen in France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. Textile brands from these countries stylize the national fashion, embody the lifestyle 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 renowned fashion designers in the haute couture field who dress celebrities from Hollywood. The country also has many well-known, ready-to-wear brands such as Les Benjamins, which creates a fascinating synthesis of Ottoman and modern style, Mavi Jeans, a highly 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, such brands are known to only a few people abroad. Foreign fashion bloggers and influencers hardly talk about them.
The next step should be to briefly address the status of fashion in Turkey to further elaborate on the causes of the deficit. New fashion academies are increasingly opening in the country, where young talented designers are encouraged and trained. Many young Turks are also increasingly interested in these courses and fashion in general, which is evident from the content of numerous TV programs.
Furthermore, with the opening of Galataport near the historic neighborhood of Galata beside the Istiklal Avenue on the European side, Istanbul gained a new fashion hub. Galataport deserves the attention of the world simply because of its location and diversity. It offers a noteworthy blend of cultures, good for promoting different labels and brands through different media channels. In addition, Tersane Istanbul, a project to feature science and culture centers, hotels, museums and marinas, is to be opened at Istanbul’s historic Haliç (Golden Horn) Shipyard.
In recent years, Turkish series and movies have created global hype and are in great demand worldwide. They are also popularly used to present Turkish fashion styles to the world, which are well appreciated by reviewers. 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 of European fashion brands, with more and more factories being opened here (e.g. Hugo Boss). Production locations in Far Asia are becoming increasingly unattractive due to logistics problems in connection with the coronavirus pandemic. Turkey has become a more popular choice for the industry because of its proximity to the European market and cost advantages in production.
It is also noteworthy that many European luxury brands source fabrics from Turkey and process them in their ateliers in Europe, often to produce garments for fashion shows. This is because the materials are of very high quality. Anyone who has been to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul must have heard from the vendors in some fabric stores that Chanel, Dior or Armani regularly buy from them. And it’s true. It’s not just a means of attracting customers. You will quickly notice the reason for this when you run your hand over the fabrics on offer. Such quality can not be found anywhere else in the world. In this respect, Turkey seems to have all the prerequisites to become the world’s export champion. So, what ingredients are needed to make Turkey number one in the global textile industry?
The occident and the orient
Considering Turkey’s history, it can be said that the occident was once fascinated by the myths surrounding the orient. Everything that came from the latter was in great demand. Fabrics used to come 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 are successful in doing so. Ironically, despite the fact that the orient was a pioneer in perfumes, no Turkish perfume brand has so far managed to make a global success.
The lack of success
There are two reasons holding Turkey back from achieving a resounding success globally. The first is the deficit in branding while the second is the lack of government control. The latter may sound absurd at first, but the global success of the domestically-produced automobile Togg is proof of it.
Although Turkey is one of the essential automobile production locations globally, it did not have its own automobile brand until recently. Togg, whose series production is to start at the end of this year, is the result of the policy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has encouraged and promoted 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 standing globally. The lack of self-confidence is a major factor in it. The deficit in companies is more likely to be due to a sociocultural reason than structural problems in the industry or the Turkish economy.
As the Togg example illustrates, this self-confidence often comes from political support. It is highly advisable for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to organize more fashion weeks abroad, promote the country as a fashion hub in the international arena, maintain dialogue with fashion companies, encourage the industry and market Galataport sufficiently. If more support is granted, it will only take a few years for Turkish fashion brands to conquer the world as Turkish movies and TV productions have, and Togg will hopefully do soon. It is obvious that this, in turn, will further increase foreign sales and make Turkey the world export champion in the textile sector.