Focus: Turkish Apparel Overseas

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Sep. 4, 2013

As the textiles industry moves away from Chinese competition in the ready-to-wear market, Turkish exporters are looking to add value every way that they can.

According to figures from the Ministry of Economy, the apparel industry grew 0.8% in 2012, up from a value of $15.6 billion in 2011. Meanwhile, Turkey imported 21% less apparel in 2012, down from $3.2 billion in 2011 to $2.5 billion in 2012.

Textiles, raw materials, and leather are also key elements of the apparel sector at large, and all saw growth during the 2011-2012 period. The value of raw materials and textiles exported abroad grew 0.6% in 2012 to reach $7.8 billion, while leather exports grew 10.4% to $1.4 billion in the same year. Over the same period, imports of both raw materials and leather sharply decreased by 16.4% and 17%, respectively.

Turkish apparel has long been present in Europe, where it often occupies a large presence in local markets. In Germany, Turkish apparel occupies a 21.6% share of the total, worth $3.4 billion in 2012. In the UK, apparel shipped from Turkey comprises 13.9% of the local market, valued at $2.2 billion. Turkey's third-largest apparel export market is Spain, which imported $1.4 billion of Turkish-made clothing in 2012, making up a 9% share of all apparels sold in that market.

However, rapid growth in countries such as Poland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia has boosted Turkey's earnings in terms of apparel exports. In 2012, exports to Poland grew from $164 million to $275 million, at a rate of 67% growth, while the amount of clothing shipped to Kazakhstan grew 63% to $147 million. Ukraine received 53% more apparel exports from Turkey, representing $179 million. In terms of apparel exports destined for the Middle East, Saudi Arabia took the spotlight with 40% growth, a figure that amounted to $225 million in 2012.

In parallel, retailers have seen great success in Turkey and looked to export their models to the international markets. Previously owned by a French company, LC Waikiki is now headquartered in Istanbul. Once it was purchased by Turkish business interests, the enterprise began in manufacturing and fluidly evolved to become one of the most recognized retail brands in the country. Today, Vahap Küçük, Chairman of LC Waikiki, is working to capitalize on the company's reputation to “become one of the three most successful companies in Europe by 2023," he explained to TBY. In order to ensure that the brand is well received abroad, LC Waikiki uses the varying climates of Turkey to design suitable collections tailored to different weather. “We use the same system in different countries," Küçük added.

Meanwhile, designer Roman carefully analyzes the trends of consumers from abroad who come to shop in Turkey in order to perfect its international expansion strategy. “We track the countries that our customers are from and we have begun to open shops there," Turgut Toplusoy, Founder of Roman, told TBY. “For example, we have opened stores in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, and Kazakhstan. We evaluate political situations, GDP, and other factors." Roman's target is to open 50 stores internationally, beyond the company's branches in Turkey.

Silk & Cashmere, on the other hand, is a brand conceptualized in Turkey that got its start in some of the world's toughest retail and apparel markets. Prior to opening stores in Turkey, Ayşen Zamanpur, CEO of Silk & Cashmere, went global with her concept. To test the potential of the company's product, Silk & Cashmere opened a store in Zurich, a market that “is associated with quality and prestige," she said. Once the brand was established abroad, the company later opened stores in New York and Berlin. Today, 50% of the company's branches are located in Turkey.