Interview with Hadi Karasu

Hadi Karasu
Hadi Karasu
Turkish Clothing Manufacturers’ Association (TGSD)
Turkish Clothing Manufacturers’ Association (TGSD)

China's 'One Belt, One Road' project threat to Turkish apparel sector
Founded in 1976, TGSD has over 400 members, all of which are leaders in the Turkish apparel industry. It conducts activities for the development of apparel and textile sectors, lobbying internationally for the industry and developing solutions to all related problems. Chairman Hadi Karasu talks about the Turkish apparel sector's recovery from the political crisis and future opportunities for the industry.

What is the size of clothing industry in Turkey? At what rate is the industry growing year-on-year? What is the amount of clothing exported from Turkey in the last two fiscals? What is the percentage of knitwear and woven apparel exported in 2017?

In the last couple of years, clothing industry in Turkey has been under a stable period in terms of export due to geopolitical conditions in the neighbouring countries and diplomatic tension between Turkey and leading European Union (EU) countries. In 2016 and 2017, exports were worth $17 billion. In 2017, the local market size of ready -to-wear industry was $35 billion, the amount of knitwear exported was worth $8.90 billion and woven export was $ 5.95 billion.

Turkey's apparel industry has had sluggish performance in the last few years. What factors are responsible for it? How will the industry bounce back?

With our efforts, leading exporters of the sector today are overcoming this stability and the initial days of 2018 show the ready-to-wear sector is at a breaking point. Fifty per cent growth in exports in 2018 and reaching $25 billion in export income in the next five years is our target now. Visiting and strengthening liaison with target and potential markets is what we do today.

What is the average size of apparel manufacturing companies in Turkey? What is their production capacity?

In the last decade, Turkish apparel manufacturers have undergone a big transition. Products with high added value, production facilities with flexible and fast manufacturing capabilities have replaced basic product manufacturing. This resulted in less big-scale factories and integrated facilities. Today nearly 1,000 firms of small and medium size realise the major part of the production and exports. These firms have annual production capacities ranging  from one to 15 million units.

Which are the major markets for Turkey in the EU? Which new markets are Turkish manufacturers exploring?

Germany is our primary market. Spain, the United Kingdom, Holland and France follow. Iraq is a growing market for us and it grows nearly 25 per cent every year. And a significant growth may come from the United States, where we still have a long way to go.

How is the domestic market for clothing in Turkey? At what rate is that growing?

Domestic market has been growing at a stable rate parallel to exports in the last couple of years, but the first months of 2018 came in with signs of growth.

Which are the key consumer trends influencing the Turkish clothing industry?

Fast fashion and sportswear is growing. Turkey has a young generation. Comfort accompanied with post-modern lines is primary preference of youngsters.

Has Brexit had an impact on the export of apparels from Turkey?

Our trade and business with the United Kingdom is not affected due to Brexit.

What are the challenges that the Turkish apparel manufacturing industry faces? What would be your suggestions to overcome them?

Geopolitical conditions are important. But all businessmen around the world know quite well that business has nothing to do with politics. We will be overcoming stability in numbers with much more contact and exchange of ideas with our target buyers and countries.

How are Turkish apparel manufacturers' placed when it comes to following sustainable and ethical trading practices, especially with Syrian refugees being employed at textile and ready-to-wear factories?

TGSD members are committed to sustainability, ethical business practices and corporate citizenship in global terms. In case of recruitment of potential Syrian workers, we apply all measures that we apply to a Turkish worker. Of course there might be some exceptions looking at Turkey in general but our government works very hard to adopt each and every Syrian refugee into the labour force, educational system and citizenship in a legal and legitimate way.

How has China's 'One Belt One Road' initiative affected the apparel industry in Turkey?

China's 'One Belt, One Road' project is a threat for the Turkish apparel industry. Primarily, China carries its apparel industry to Western China where cheap labour is intense. Therefore, China will be threatening Turkey by its easier access to EU and the project will be pressurising this very important competitive advantage of Turkey.

Which top three issues will be on TGSD's agenda in 2018?

Visiting target markets, making more efforts to make the Turkish ready-to-wear industry an international brand and supporting our industry to meet global criteria of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability will be the top three issues.  We will make the start of our mentoring project by Q2, which promises to give consultancy service about market access, sustainability and brand management at the field level to our 400 members and more manufacturers. Our consultation council is comprises experienced business leaders from the apparel industry. 

We believe India should be on TGSD's agenda. India is a very strong country in the apparel sector with its strength in cotton production and end-product manufacturing. And it is complimentary in the hub with Bangladesh and Pakistan. We are competitors, but if we manage to reinforce our trade in between in terms of fashion, design and branded production, this may bring fruitful opportunities for both the countries. (HO)

Published on: 21/04/2018

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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