Ethical Trading | Rag Sourcing

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How Turkey is Using Apparel Sourcing to Clothe the World

Check out any one item of clothing you’re wearing right now. Your shirt, your pants or anything else with a label will do. Now, without looking at the label, do you know if this item of clothing is made from cotton, polyester or something else? Don’t worry if you don’t know – most people don’t.

 

While you might not think a lot about fabric, you do come in contact with it every day, usually all day long, with different fabrics surrounding you at night. Fabric isn’t just keeping you warm and fashionable. It’s also the lifeblood of the entire fashion industry. It is, literally, the fabric that holds the entire industry together.

 


Let’s go back to that item of clothing you’re wearing. While you probably know what store your shirt came from, do you know where it was actually made? The answer usually depends on what the item is. Fashion has always been a particularly global enterprise. If you’re looking for stylish, modern women’s fashions, Paris, France, is the place to be. If you’re interested in classic men’s styles, you’ll be looking along Savile Row in London, England. Milan, Italy, is your home for casual elegance. And New York and Los Angeles are your source for America’s fashions. But what about the cotton, polyester and other textiles which make up these fashions? Would it surprise you to learn it might just be from… Turkey?

 

The country of Turkey isn’t just ready to roll, it’s ready to sew. This European country has quietly been working hard, and is now the number one apparel sourcing nation in the European Union. Turkey’s Apparel and Textile industry has been a powerful engine for Turkey’s economy, roughly 10% of the entire GDP, and now the country is looking to expand that success by expanding exports to as many countries as possible.

 

Turkey’s status as the reigning champ of cloth has been in the making for decades now. The entire country began industrialization efforts in the 60’s, when great effort was put towards revitalizing their entire textile industry. At first, the industry was limited to small workshops. But as the 1960’s turned into the 1970’s, production improved in leaps and bounds. Soon, Turkey was exporting their wares to other countries. Starting in 1980, Turkey stopped importing textile machinery, and started in-country production of low and mid- level machinery. Today, they produce a huge variety of quality textile machines, and they’re also one of the most important clothing exporters in the world.

 

Three key factors as to why Turkey has found such success as an apparel sourcing nation are its:

  • Low labor costs
  • Qualified workforce
  • Relatively cheap materials

With over four million people employed, the Turkey textile industry is worth $20 billion. Almost 60% of its textiles are exported, making the country one of the top ten producers of wool and polyester in the entire world. So even if your clothing item wasn’t made in Turkey, it’s very likely the polyester it’s made from was. Not made of polyester, you say? Your item of clothing is made of cotton, you say? (Oh, by the way, you can look at that label now.)

 

There’s a very good chance that cotton came from Turkey, too. Turkey is the seventh largest cotton producer around the globe. Not only do they export this cotton, they also increasingly use it themselves to produce clothing. Exporting ready-to-wear clothing is better for Turkey financially compared to exporting just the cotton.

 

The United States, Russia and Germany are some of the main recipients of all of these textile exports. But there are other major players with is comes to apparel sourcing, such as China.

 

In 2005, a decades old quote system on Chinese exports expired. This has led to an increase in China’s textile exports. With their massive population, and relatively loose laws related to production, China has a massive workforce able to work long hours in order to make a lot of textiles for export.

 

This has affected apparel sourcing across the globe, including in Turkey. They weren’t able to compete on a production level as they would have liked. All of their progress over the decades was threating to come undone.

 

Recently, however, Turkey’s textile industry has shown surprising new life. After all, Turkey once took what was basically a non-existent textile industry in the 60s and turned it into one of the greatest in the world in just four decades, so it’s never wise to count them out.

 

Since Turkey is a European country, it was able to easily adapt into European standards as they relate to product quality, environmental regulations and worker safety, issues which are sometimes an area of concern in Chinese textile plants. As China has started producing lots of lower quality textiles and apparel, Turkey has repositioned itself as makers of some of the world’s finest textiles. Apparel sourcing has shifted to emphasize a new focus on quality. People have made clothing in Turkey for several generations now, and they want the world to know how good they are at it. The “Made in Turkey” label is achieving recognition around the world as the sign of quality apparel.

 

When you go shopping for clothes, you have options from all around the world. The global textile and fashion economy means most clothes are likely to be more well-traveled then the average wearer. It can be confusing. While you want a good price on your clothes – and that’s the rationale behind textile globalization – you also want a quality product.

 

“Made in Turkey” might be just the perfect label for the American clothes shopper. They have the best equipment, easy access to cheap and high quality cottons and polyesters, and their citizens are some of the finest clothing artisans in the world. The next time you go shopping, you just might be surprised what you look for when you look at the label.

An Overview Of The World’s Top Regional Textile Producers

The world contains five primary textile production zones: China, Bangladesh/Pakistan, India, Italy and Turkey. While other countries also export garments, it is these five regions that dominate the industry. Here’s the thing, though — each region offers it own unique advantages and disadvantages.

 

To be successful in fashion (especially if you are interested in starting your own brand), you need to understand the benefits and drawbacks to each of these regions. The assumption, of course, is that you are going to outsource your manufacturing. By the way, we highly recommend you do outsource!

Why Should You Outsource?

 

Before we get into the precise advantages and disadvantages for each world region, we want to quickly review the many reasons why you should consider outsourcing your fashion manufacturing.

  • Reduced Labour Costs: British workers must be paid the federal minimum wage, which at the moment (April 2014) is £6.50. Unfortunately, these costs get funnelled directly to you when you work with a UK manufacturer. When you outsource instead, however, you get to deal with manufacturers that aren’t limited by such regulations. As a result, you incur lower costs.

  • Reduced Overhead Costs: Manufacturers must also contend with costs for electricity, gasoline, water, etc. And not surprisingly, the costs for these utilities are much higher in the UK than they are in countries/regions like China and India, to name a few.

  • Improved Quality: This may surprise you, but many offshore manufacturers offer even better quality products than their onshore counterparts. Why? They have been manufacturing for decades. Furthermore, because of the reduced costs in their respective countries, they have more money to dedicate to quality assurance.

  • Reduced Risk: Outsourcing can also result in reduced risks, assuming you do it right. The key lies in outsourcing your manufacturing to SEVERAL offshore suppliers and manufacturers. This case you have backup solutions available immediately in case something goes wrong, e.g., a manufacturer suddenly goes out of business.

 

What Are The Pros/Cons Of Working With China?

 

China represents the largest exporter of textile goods in the world. In fact, the Chinese manufacturer Esquel just happens to be the largest producer of standard cotton t-shirts, with yearly output levels exceeding 60 million.

 

Unfortunately, China is not as up to date on trends and fashion as it should be. Suffice it to say, it’s better at producing sportswear and technical garments than it is at producing genuinely fashionable items.

 

One great benefit to China, however, is that it offers incredible prices courtesy its incredibly low labour and overhead costs. Keep in mind that workers in China are starting to call for better working conditions and wages. As this movement continues (which it should), the prices will likely increase.

 

Other things to know about China include the fact that its manufacturing firms tend to be extraordinary large. Also, it’s lead times tend to be extraordinarily long. The average time is 90 days, excluding 30 days of freight. Plus, Chinese manufacturers demand high minimum order quantities (MOQs) in the 1000 to 10,000 range.

 

What Are The Pros/Cons Of Working With Bangladesh/Pakistan?

 

Bangladesh and Pakistan offer some of the lowest prices in the textile industry. This is because while 38% of the entire work force in this region is involved in textiles, a large majority of that workforce is compromised of unskilled labourers. Plus, these countries rely on poor material handling techniques and outdated equipment.

 

Because of these factors, the quality of goods from Bangladesh and Pakistan is that all that great. Suffice it to say, it’s not a good idea to use one of these two countries for more sophisticated designs.

 

Other things to know is that the lead time from this region is as bad as the lead time from China. Plus, the MOQs are just as high.

 

What Are The Pros/Cons Of Working With India?

 

Let’s start with some basics. India offers mid-level MOQs and long production lead times. Furthermore, its prices are lower than that of China, but not as low as that of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

 

India also lacks when it comes to sophisticated fashion items, though it does perform well with hand-based items (think beads).

 

Keep in mind that India contains a rich base of raw materials. Plus, its workers are able to handle a variety of materials, from cotton to wol, silk and jute.

 

What Are The Pros/Cons Of Working With Italy?

 

Italy has really nice MOQs and a decent freight time of 60 days, including 10 days freight. Also, Italy is equipped to produce high-quality fashion items, from blouses to dresses, suits and more. Plus, the Italian people themselves are very appreciative of aesthetics. It shows in their work!

 

Italy also happens to be a first world country. As a result, it makes sure to enforce fair working practices. This means that its manufacturers must contend with much higher labour and overhead costs, which in turn means that the prices for goods are significantly higher in Italy than they are in its Far East and Southeast peers.

 

What Are The Pros/Cons Of Working With Turkey?

 

Turkey represents the best of the best, and for many good reasons:

  • It hosts a quick and powerful production capacity courtesy.
  • It offers relatively cheap labour (workers earn £1.47 per hour).
  • It’s lead time is only 60 days, including 10 days freight.
  • It follows all international environmental standards.
  • It’s known for fairly low MOQs around 100 to 300.
  • It utilizes a unified monetary policy.

Plus, Turkish manufacturers can make anything, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, jeans, knitwear and more. All of these can be had at prices that aren’t as low as China, but that surely aren’t as high as Italy either! This makes Turkey the perfect middle-of-the-ground region for textile manufacturers.

 

Is There Anything Else To Know?

 

There is a lot more to know. If you are serious about outsourcing, make sure you take the time to learn a lot more about the region that most interests you. Do not just trust our summary. You need to be equipped with as much knowledge as possible if you want a chance in hell of succeeding in this very tough industry!

The Ethics of the Garment Factory: A Primer

One of the biggest stigmas that has dogged the clothing industry – and continues to do so – is the plight of the international garment worker. Indeed, there have been scores of reports and documentaries conducted from news outlets the world over that highlights how rough the conditions at a garment factory can get. These conditions are succinctly summarized by the catch-all phrase “sweat shop,” and it has given rise to the notion that the world of the garment factory is somewhat lawless and immune to various practices and procedures that would otherwise keep them in order.

 

However, such mindset ignores the fact more and more garment factories around the world are moving forward to implementing ethical trading practices at a perpetually growing rate, complete with granting worker’s rights which include legal benefits.

A Look at Ethical Trading

 

Ethical trading as it exists in the garment factory worker environment is dictated by what is known as the Ethical Trading Initiative, also known as ETI. This particular initiative is a critical alliance of companies, trade unions, and voluntary organizations armed with the singular goal of improving the lives of poor and vulnerable workers from around the world, including those who toil within the garment factory business.

 

The term ethical trade means that the retailers, brands, and their suppliers of goods such as garments work together and take responsibility for improving the working conditions of the very people that create the products that are sold worldwide. Most of the workers that this mindset touches are employed by supplier companies all throughout the globe, but with a special concentration in poor countries where the employee protection laws that would otherwise be in place in other parts of the globe are either inadequate or outright ignored.

 

The companies that adhere to the precepts of ethical trade adopt a code of labor practice. This particular code comes with the expectations that the garment factory that they do business with also adhere to this code. The code itself addresses several major issues that have been known to infamously plague these workers, such as:

  • Work hours
  • Health concerns
  • Safety concerns
  • Wages
  • The right to join free trade unions

The benefit of working with garment factories in Turkey is that they fall under and abide by EU law. What this means is that, unlike places such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, you won’t find any child labour. Furthermore, Turkish garment factories boast some of the best working conditions in the world. It is one of Fashion Design Solutions’s top priorities to ensure any factory or distributor we work with follows ethical trading rules and is audited regularly… we do not support unethical practices!

 

The Purpose of Ethical Trade

 

In essence, the inherent purpose ethical trade is to provide a streamlined way in which companies that want to do business with supply chains can tackle uneasy issues in a unified way. This sort of unionized alliance will provide multiple resources that will allow for an easier means to deal with a supplier who, for example, ignores the notion of a living wage or routinely deploys children in the workplace.

 

Ultimately, the purpose of ethical trade is to bring about positive change for the workers whose rights have routinely been ignored. These rights, ranging from improvements in health and safety to the reduction of child labor and excessive overtime, are in place to create a fairer labor environment. On a larger scale, these rights seek to allow companies that use these garment factories as a means of supply the ability to conduct business with these entities without fear of unearthing unpleasant working conditions that may otherwise run counter to their own company ethics.

 

Ethical Trade and Ethical Consumerism

 

Perhaps the biggest impetus behind ethical trade from a business standpoint is to lessen the impact of ethical consumerism that may be brought about in the wake of a company unwittingly working with an unscrupulous supplier that does not promote ethical work environments.

 

In essence, the term ethical consumerism (also known as ethical consumption, moral purchasing, or green consumerism) is a type of consumer-based activism that is primarily based on a concept known as pound voting. This term is defined more or less as the process in which consumers give approval to a company through their own purchasing power. If a consumer does not like the practices of a particular company, they will not buy a product associated with that company. This act of indirect activism extends peripherally in the garment world; if a company does business with a supplier that is shown to conduct unethical business practices, the consumer may cease to do business with the company until the association with the company that is deemed to be unethical is severed. While this concept of activism may not be widespread enough to cause the downfall of a major corporation, it can have a negative impact on a smaller company’s bottom line. As a result of this, it is essential that any smaller sized company take a good, long look at a supply company and see what their actual policies are, lest they potentially pay a hefty price.

 

A Long Way to Go

 

Despite the inroads that ethical trade organizations have made in getting garment factories to conform to more morally favorable conditions in the workplace, it must be noted that conditions for many workers in this industry the world over remain startlingly poor. Researchers have determined that some principles that are fundamental to the rest of globe, such as a worker’s rights to join a trade union and negotiate as a cohesive collective, are still not addressed sufficiently. The research has also derived that several areas that can be linked to a worker’s rights, such as the right to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination, are not being met. Furthermore, there are still reports of workers not receiving wages that are sufficient enough to keep up with the increased price points of essentials for modern living, such as food and fuel.

 

As such, it is clear that the ethical trade movement still has plenty of steps that must be taken in order to eradicate the scourge of an unfair and unscrupulous work environment. That said, there have been plenty of signs that the initiatives that have been put forth by organizations that seek to remove unethical conditions in the workplace have been making a significant impact in the garment factory industry; so much so, one could remain hopeful in their goal of eradicating these unethical practices for good.

What to look out for when looking for a clothing factory

The act of finding a good clothing factory to assemble your clothes is one of the more critical steps that you can take. The ability to make a quality product is an important metric to measure a clothing factory, of course, but there is so much more to the process of finding the right one than merely discovering that they make a pretty good shirt or dress. They have to be efficient with their production. They have to have the reputation as being a trusted business partner. And above all else, they must operate under the guise of being an ethical company with a reputation for treating their employees fairly and equitably.

 

Because of this, finding a clothing factory that will fit your needs can be a tough challenge if you want to find one that matches your needs ideally. And while there are not any real shortcuts as to how this can be accomplished, there are a few guidelines that are in place that should be able to make the process of finding a factory to fit your needs much more streamlined.

 

Getting to Know Them

 

The most important thing that you can do when researching for a proper factory is to dive as deep as you possibly can into the company’s reputation and practices. In order to do this, you cannot merely take whatever is stated on their website at face value. Obviously, whatever is on their home page or the “About Us” section of the page is going to sound great and flowery, and there could very well be some truth to whatever they are saying. However, it would be a grave mistake to just base your search on that metric alone.

 

Instead, you can use the Internet to dig into some research regarding the company’s true reputation, and not just the reputation that they try and paint on their website. Some of the ways in which you can do this include:

 

  • Visit product review sites – There are a host of professional websites that are devoted to breaking down the pluses and minuses of a company or a product in a manner that is factual and objective. These reviews will give you a general understanding on the factory’s strengths and weaknesses as a whole.
  • Visit customer-driven review sites – It is true that everyone has an opinion, and no more is this evident than the various review sites that are solely driven by consumer opinion. These sites will feature the occasional review that has to be looked at as over-the-top or exaggerated – remember, everyone has an opinion, even the ones that aren’t the best informed – but taken together, you should have a general idea as to how the clothing factory operates from the perspective of customers that have actually used their services, including ones that have used them extensively.
  • Ask around – If you are in the clothing business, chances are you know other people that are in the clothing business. As such, it would behoove you to talk to them to see if they have any record of working with a particular company, and if so, what their experience was like. If they did, they will be able to give you an honest opinion that can be broken down on a level that you may be able to understand implicitly.
  • Follow up on testimonies – When you do visit the company’s website, and if they have various testimonies plastered on the page lauding the company for their services, don’t just take their printed comments at face value. Follow up with them to see what compelled them to make the statements, and how their experience truly compared to the experience that is implied through the website’s verbiage. If there is a major discrepancy between what is written and what is said, that should give you an idea on how forthright the company actually is.

Dropping By

 

In addition to surfing the web and talking with fellow people in the industry, you can take your research to the ultimate level by taking a visit to the actual clothing factory. This can prove to be the most difficult step in the research process – if you are an upstart or small business, you may not have the financial means needed in order to pay a visit to a company if it happens to be halfway across the globe. However, if you can swing it, there is truly no better way to get a feel for how a company truly operates, from their overall business practices to the way in which they treat their employees. Seeing operational tactics and working conditions up close and personal may make the difference between you going with a company and looking elsewhere.

 

Fashion Design Solutions

 

You may be able to forge a key partnership with a local supplier such as Fashion Design Solutions; one that not only has access to quality clothes, but understands the market that you are in on a more intimate level than a company that is thousands of miles away. It is critical that you make sure that you do plenty of research before you pull the trigger on finding the company that is right for you. It will take a good chunk of time if you do things properly; however, the time that it takes at the beginning of the stage has the potential to save you a lot of business-related grief down the road.

8 Reasons Why You Should Choose a Turkish Clothing Manufacturer For Your Business

The world is brimming with clothing manufacturers from the likes of China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Italy, Turkey and numerous other countries. So which country should you choose to do business with? If you’re an amateur, you might be tempted to spin a pinwheel and hope for the best. However, we have another idea. We recommend you choose a Turkish clothing manufacturer. Why? Read on to understand!

 

Background: Turkish Clothing History

 

Textile production started in Turkey back during the Ottoman period between the late 1200s and early 1600s. It wasn’t until the mid 1920s that Turkey elevated itself into a major player in the textile industry. These days, Turkey exports over £6 billion in textile goods every year. These good are produced by a variety of manufacturers — some small, some large. There are in fact over 11,000 individual manufacturers producing clothing goods in Turkey alone.

 

Reason 1: Powerful Production Capacity

 

Turkey excels in the production of yarn and woven fabric. This production is due in large part to huge investments that were made in the mid 1900s. Between the early and late 1900s, production of just yarn grew from 670,000 tonnes to a whopping 1.92 million tonnes. Similar growth spurts occurred with wool, cotton yawn and synthetic yawn (polyester, acrylics, viscose, etc.)

 

Turkey also keeps a very abundant supply of raw materials handy. For instance, it’s the sixth largest producer of common. It falls behind only the U.S., China, India, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.

 

The point is that a Turkish clothing manufacturer is not apt to ever run out of raw materials and fabrics!

 

Reason 2: Cheap Labor

 

According to Werner International, average wage rates in the Turkish clothing industry hover around £1.47 per hour. This is admittedly significantly higher than rates in China (£0.26), India (£0.29) and elsewhere. However, it is still much cheaper than hiring UK employees.

 

The point is that you would save bundles of money by outsourcing your manufacturing to a manufacturer in Turkey.

 

Reason 3: Fast Transportation

 

Turkey’s geographic location lends itself toward relatively fast transportation times. This means you wind up spending less to get your goods transported all the way from Turkey to your office or retail outlet in the United Kingdom. In fact, Turkey’s lead times are significantly shorter than those for its competitors from other countries. Based on our own experiences, the average lead time is 60 days, including 10 days of freight travel.

 

The point is that you’ll save time and money on transportation costs if you rely on a Turkish clothing manufacturer.

 

Reason 4: National Focus (Passion)

 

In Turkey, the textile industry makes up a very large chuck of its economy. In fact, the country employers almost 1 million workers throughout tens and thousands of textile companies. Furthermore, textiles make up almost a quarter of all its exports.

 

The point is that the Turkish people are very passionate about textiles, and passion should count when looking for a manufacturer.

 

Reason 5: Environmental Safety

 

Turkey is one of a select few countries that mandates that all its textile manufacturers comply with internationally accepted environmental standards. As an example, unlike many Far East and Asian countries, Turkey bans the use of carcinogenic dyes. This results in more environmentally safe products.

 

The point is that Turkey is serious about protecting the environment, and this is a definite talking point that you can use in your sales copy.

 

Reason 6: Low MOQ’s

 

When you’re first starting out in the business, you’re not really interested in buying in bulk quantities of 1000, 10,000 or even 100,000. Not only is it not feasible on your budget, but it’s also full of risk. It’s much better to take the time to slowly build your way up to those levels. Along the way, you’ll find out if the manufacturer is able to maintain quality with the quantity.

 

It just so happens that Turkish clothing manufacturers offer some of the lowest ‘minimum order quantity’ (MOQ) rates in the world. We’re talking MOQ’s as low as 100 to 300, which is pretty amazing for this industry!

 

The point is that Turkey is much better suited for fashion designers and artists who are just starting out and thus not interested in bulk orders.

 

Reason 7: Plenty Of Options

 

Turkey manufacturers rank higher than many of its admittedly cheaper Far East competitors because they offer a wider selection of goods. In particular, Turkish clothing manufacturers can make t-shirts, sweaters, dress shirts, jackets, jeans, knitwear and more. Furthermore, these goods are offered at very reasonable rates.

 

The point is that Turkey is equipped to handle the type of ‘fancy’ gear people are accustomed to in first world countries.

 

Reason 8: Unified Monetary Policies

 

Some countries suffer from a severe case of divided government. Take Australia for instance. Each of its individual states and territories abide by a plethora of different rules and regulations. This makes conducting business with Australia a genuine pain in the you know what.

 

Turkey, on the other hand, utilizes monetary policies and banking systems that are uniform throughout the whole nation. This means that it doesn’t matter where in Turkey a manufacturer is located, because the rules will still remain the exact same.

 

The point is that dealing with Turkey is much easier than dealing with countries where each province, state or territory hosts its own rules.

 

Final Thoughts: Choose Turkey

 

We realize that some of you might still be stuck on the wages. They are admittedly higher than the wages in many Far East countries. However, please keep all the other benefits in mind:

  • An exemplary production capacity.
  • Short lead times.
  • Environmental standards.
  • Low minimum order quantities.
  • Diverse options.
  • Unified financial policies.

Overall, you are going to be much better off if you choose Turkey. If you’re outsourcing, you’re already taking a big risk by putting your trust in entities that exist outside of your border and thus outside of your government’s jurisdiction. So if you are going to take a risk, why not minimize your risk by going with a country that ranks miles ahead of its competitors?