Wool Round Table 2015

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Returning to Turkey for the first time in more than a decade, IWTO brought together 75 representatives of the global wool textile industry for its annual Wool Round Table in Istanbul on 23-24 November 2015. 

Graciously hosted by Yünsa at their headquarters in the Sabanci Center, attendees came from Argentina, Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay as well as Turkey for the two-day event.

The Wool Round Table is traditionally an occasion for attendees to share ideas and dig deeper into industry issues. Organised with the support of IWTO member the Turkish Textile Employers’ Association, this year’s edition drew inspiration from presentations by members of the Turkish wool profession before turning its attention to a workshop focused on developing an industry vision for the next ten years.

Turkey is the world’s sixth largest exporter of textile and ready-to-wear, whose importance in the global supply chain has been growing exponentially, IWTO President Peter Ackroyd said in his opening remarks.

Benefitting from the upturn in the general global economy, especially in North America, Mr Ackroyd was pleased to note that Turkey’s wool production is expanding, with the country keen to maximize its adjacent position relative to the EU, as retailers for environmental reasons increasingly seek proximity in the supply chain.

The European market is one of the most important for Turkish wool fabric and apparel. 

Opportunities for Wool in the Turkish Domestic Market

Having the largest share in Turkish industrial production, Turkey's textile and clothing industry was one of the first established industries in the country. Today the industry is a vital sector in terms of production, employment and export, comprising 52,000 manufacturing companies and employing more than 900,000 employees. The industry exports 29.3 billion dollars amounting to 18,6% of the total earnings of the country.

The strengths of Turkey’s textile trade include a young population, young machinery layout, speed and flexibility and EU market proximity, said speaker Professor Bülent Özipek of Istanbul Technical University. Additionally, Turkey’s textile industry has evolved to meet changing demands, so that today it includes marketing, research and design as well as production and manufacturing.

Turkey’s capacity for innovation was reiterated by the other speakers, among them Bora Birgin, CSO at Yünsa, Nilufer Aykar, Assistant Director – Strategy and Business Development at Altinyildiz Tekstil, Ronnie Danon, wool trader at G. Modiano, and Dogan Filiz, Marketing Coordinator at Bahariye Mensucat, who also urged the industry to more publicly promote wool.

With Turkey’s growing economy creating increased consumer spending power, the country is ripe for a move towards increased demand for wool products, more than one speaker observed.

Ms Aykar drew attention to Turkey’s stable inflation and interest rates, increased consumer spending on apparel and increasing spending by women on luxury and affordable luxury items, especially branded clothing. Her data showed that a significant portion of Turkish consumers look at label content “at least some of the time” when purchasing apparel, and that wool is widely perceived to be safe for the environment.

Agreeing with this positive macroeconomic outlook, and citing to support from the Turkish wool industry, Mr Danon appealed to IWTO President and Campaign for Wool COO Peter Ackroyd to bring the Campaign for Wool to Turkey.

Although wool remains unaffordable to a large segment of Turkish consumers, “consumers who can afford it don’t know how wonderful wool is,” Mr Danon said. Mr Ackroyd agreed the Campaign would benefit from including Turkey, particularly given Turkey’s importance in Germany and the United States where the Campaign is already expanding.

Envisioning the Future of the Wool Industry

Taking inspiration from the opportunities for the Turkish textile and clothing sector, the focus of the remainder of the Wool Round Table turned to a collective examination of a longer term vision for wool.

Part of an IWTO-led development of a wool textile industry roadmap to 2025, the workshop format IWTO generated lively discussions among industry members as they formulated recommendations and challenged assumptions.

Initial outcomes highlighted the need for consumer education, further work to bolster environmental ratings of wool and stronger collaborations within the industry as key areas for future emphasis.

These outcomes will be further developed and reported in the coming months and will include the results of IWTO’s Wool Vision Survey, conducted earlier this year as part of the 2025 project.

The Turkish Textile Employers’ Association (TTEA), an active organisation since 1961, was the first employers’ association in Turkey to negotiate labour and employment terms with workers’ unions in concluding unprejudiced collective labour agreements.The first association to receive the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Outstanding Service Award, TTEA has also sponsored major projects of social responsibility within the framework of legislation and contributed to national education in Turkey.

Active both within and outside of Turkey, TTEA protects and improves its members’ common economic and social rights and interests regarding labour relations, facilitating cooperation, providing funding support, initiating investment and joint ventures, assisting in achieving a productive and compatible working environment as well as representing members, concluding collective labour agreements, and establishing and sustaining labour peace.

As an employers association, TTEA has been active in the textile industry through its member companies. In addition to IWTO, TTEA is active in the global textile industry as a member of several international organisations including EURATEX, ITMF and The Textile Institute.