Denim World Tour Episode #5: Turkey

A long textile tradition

Turkey has been one of the largest textile producers for centuries. The prominence of the country’s textile industry dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Throughout that period, from 1299 to 1922, it was a central part of the economy. Each textile sold contributed to the empire’s treasury, which belonged to the sultan and his family. At that time, the fabrics were high-quality luxury goods made primarily of silk and richly adorned. Cotton, on the other hand, was cultivated very early in Cukurova, and used to satisfy local needs until the 1820s.

Cotton in Turkey

Cotton grows on the cotton plant, or Malvacae Gossypium. There are about 50 species of the plant, four of which are cultivated for cotton production: G. hirsutum and G. arboretum (which together account for 90% of the world’s cotton growing area), G. barbadense and G. herbaceum.

Growing cotton requires the right weather conditions, in particular plenty of heat and water. These requirements are why just seven countries produce more than 80% of the world’s cotton: China, India, the US, Brazil, Australia, Pakistan and Turkey. In the 2021-2022 season, Turkey produced 827,000 tons of cotton, according to the USDA and the WWF. The cotton industry employs 250 million people worldwide, including nearly 7% of the working populations in developing countries.

In addition to cotton fiber, which is long enough to be spun, a shorter fiber, known as linter, is also utilized. In Turkey, an average of 40,000 to 50,000 tons of linter are produced each year, mainly for the paper industry. Linter undergoes a chemical treatment to turn it into cellulose pulp.

Turkey enjoys a unique geographic location, at the junction of East and West. This location helped the country develop rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2006, Turkey exported 44.5% of its textile products to EU countries, especially Italy, Germany and Romania.
Some 62% of Turkey’s total textile exports of fibers, yarns and fabrics are cotton textile products.

Turkey’s textile industry enjoys many competitive advantages: a wealth of raw materials, geographic proximity to European and Russian markets, a well-developed textile-finishing industry, access to skilled labor, and international recognition with regard to both quality and respect for human health and the environment.

These advantages have made Turkey a model for developing countries that produce textiles. The emphasis on responsible production is notably reflected in the strong development of organic cotton farming, which started in the 1980s and has been steadily expanding ever since.

The demand for eco-responsible alternatives to consumer products continues to grow. According to a study by Simon-Kutcher & Partners, 89% of consumers pay more attention to the environmental impact of the products they buy.
Given this, and with cotton ranking second in the list of most used textile fibers, the demand for alternatives to conventional cotton is becoming more and more prevalent.

Turkey has become a leader in the production of GMO-free cotton, together with Greece and Spain. Standards have been implemented to certify fibers, yarns, and garments that meet these criteria as “Turkish GMO-free cotton”. This program allows brands to trace cotton, which is crucial to communicating transparently to the end consumer about the origins of the material.

The last decade confirmed the importance of Turkey in the European ready-to-wear market. Thanks to its geographical proximity and verticalized industry, some 12% of ready-to-wear products sold in Europe today come from Turkey. 

On the American side, interest in Turkish production is growing, with 20% of brands planning to increase the role Turkey plays in their sourcing between 2022 and 2024, according to a study by the United States Fashion Industry.

Denim within Turkey

Turkey’s cotton production experienced steady growth during the 20th century. As the most widely used fiber in the textile industry at that time, it contributed to the development of the sector inside the country.

The denim sector, in particular, is unique to Turkey: the country is the world’s fourth largest denim exporter (for both fabrics and garments). Quality and design make Turkey a reference in the denim industry, and its share of the ready-to-wear market continues to grow.

The Turkish denim industry experienced significant expansion right till the early 2000s.
Numerous industries grew up around the production of denim, including the textile industry, garment manufacturing, laundries and accessory makers.

In the first quarter of 2021, over 25% of Turkey’s clothing exports were made of denim.
In 2020, the top Turkish denim importing country was Germany (US$ 248.6 million), closely followed by Spain (US$ 236.3 million) and the Netherlands (US$ 217.4 million). Among the top 20 countries, Sweden saw the largest increase (+13.8% to US$ 37.2 million). 
In total, in the first quarter of 2021, Turkey exported denim garments with a total value of US$ 431.4 million, an increase of 5.4% over the same period in 2020.

Some of the leading Turkish denim factories include Orta Anadolu, Isko, Calik Denim, Bossa, Kilim Denim, Sharabati, and Maritas Denim.

The February 6 earthquakes 

The two earthquakes that struck on February 6, 2023 were a massive catastrophe for Turkey and Syria. To date, there are 46,000 dead and one million homeless.

After the national shock and trauma, the Turkish textile industry asks not to be forgotten.
In just a few hours, Turkish companies experienced the deaths of employees and their families, and the collapse of homes and infrastructure. Some 1,600 companies and 1,300 textile factories are located the 11 cities surrounding the epicenter of the earthquakes, representing 15% of the Turkish textile and fashion industry. 

Humanitarian aid is essential but only solves the problem in the short term, says Cem Altan, president of the International Apparel Federation. To rebuild, the Turkish industry needs “business from our partners.” 

Turkish denim at Première Vision

Find here the Turkish denim offer  at Premiere Vision.

The Première Vision selection:


Cotton Agriculture in Turkey and Worldwide Economic Impacts of Turkish Cotton Article in  Journal of Natural Fibers · February 2022

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