These days, the relationship between subcontractors and order writers has to be as seamless as possible. And in this area, garment manufacturers in the Euro-Mediterranean basin and the Indian Ocean are well aware of their strengths. Their proximity is their leading advantage. “For restocking, it’s ideal,” says Anabela Ferreira, in charge of planning for Portugal’s Unilopes. The same message is heard from Tunisia, whose proximity “favours business with Europe”, says Mayssoun Bouzidi, development manager at Texpro, which specializes in particular in denim. Another country winning on this front is Romania, especially its companies offering a high-performance technical service such as ConfLux, a jacket and coat specialist whose customers include Christophe Lemaire and Dries van Noten.
Alongside proximity, the main requirement at this edition was eco-responsibility. “I have a lot of visitors because the word “sustainable” is broadly displayed on my stand. We feel like that’s really the main concern at the moment. And in that domain, my company has 25 years of expertise,” says Alexandra Paredes, head of sales at Portugal’s Tetribérica.
“Everyone talks a lot about it, but nobody is exactly sure what should go into it,” observes Anabela Ferreira from Unilopes. She notes full sustainability is not yet a reality “because it involves the use of more expensive raw materials and not all brands are ready right now to take that step.”
Nonetheless, French fashion manufacturers want them to go for it. “We are here to say that ‘made in France’ is not just a matter of luxury. Twelve manufacturers are demonstrations of this at our stand. A French company that complies with the regulations and labour law is essentially ‘smart’. It’s important to keep that in mind,” says Karine Leclercq Margraff, the development director of the Maison du savoir-faire et de la création.
Finally, the demand for small quantities is also more prevalent due to the industry’s slowdown. “The market is shaky and budgets are blocked for next autumn/winter. We’re still on the right track,” says Sophie Lesieur, the manager of See by U, who works with fashion manufacturers in the Euro-Med zone. However, for Portugal’s LaGofra, based in Portugal, there’s an opportunity to be seized, especially as La Gofra is GOTS certified. The result? “On the first day of the show,” says director Filipe Prata, “I didn’t have time to sit down.”
Yet other subcontractors report being adversely affected by the trend to smaller quantities. “The way we are set up, we can’t make a profit on orders for fewer than 500 pieces. We’re one of the largest Romanian factories with nearly 700 employees and, in Romania, salaries have increased considerably,” says Daniela Popa, Catex’s technical director. Version Textile, based in Turkey, is facing the same problem. “The tendency now is for orders of 200 pieces. But for a structure like ours, that’s not viable,” says Bahar Kiran, head of marketing.