Turkish textile industry and responsible fashion
This week Istanbul hosted a fashion conference organized by the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers’ Association (TGSD). The Istanbul Fashion Conference, organized for the 11th year, has become an important platform helping the Turkish ready-to-wear sector’s transformation into a global brand.
This year’s theme is responsible fashion. It’s a timely and well-chosen theme, as responsible fashion has been on the global agenda for some time. Let me just remind you that the fashion industry and especially “fast fashion,” defined as cheap clothing that is worn a few times and then thrown away, is the world’s second most polluting industry, after the oil industry.
Some 2,700 liters of water is estimated to be wasted for the production of one t-shirt. Polyester, one of the materials most used in the fashion industry, is insoluble in nature. That contributes to the rise in plastic waste in the oceans.
From our washing machines they go to the seas, and from there reach the fish we eat.
Cotton, which appears to be very innocent compared to polyester, is a raw material with the highest usage of water and pesticide.
For those interested in what happens to cotton growers and their children can watch the documentary called “The True Cost.”
Hadi Karasu, the president of TGSD, recalled that Turkey is Europe’s third and the world’s fifth ready-to-wear exporter. “Sustainability is as important as branding for our sector,” he told me. That’s why half of the conference’s first day was dedicated to sustainability.
“We know that 87 percent of the world’s ready-to-wear production is not recyclable. The number of consumers of the fast fashion is growing faster than the population because awareness levels are low,” he added.
Textile is one of the sectors that can be part of a circular economy.
Textile sector’s growth strategy
Karasu also talked about the growth strategy of the sector. As TGSD, they defined three pillars for a five-year growth strategy: “Hot pursuit, branding, sustainability.”
Sustainability, according to Karasu, is not a choice but necessity.
As to hot pursuit, this is how he explained it to me: “The European market is important for us. It is our biggest market. We started from Germany to develop cooperation with similar civil society organizations. As the executive board, we visited Germany. This will be followed by visits to the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and France,” he said.
As to branding, he said: “Is there any other country that speaks so much of fashion, so much of branding, yet has produced very few brands? Some 36,000 enterprises in the sector talk about branding day and night.”
TGSD is preparing to give advice on branding to all ready-to-wear companies via a mentorship project.
Responsible fashion needs to involve the human factor in addition to the environmental dimension.
Informal labor, child labor, and work safety should be part of this understanding.
Turkey is third in the world in denim exports, but 17 people died of silicosis from denim sandblasting and more than 100 are being treated.