The textile technology giant
Fira de Barcelona was hosted the international textile machinery exhibition ITMA 2011, a major event which was held in Spain for the first time and which was occupied all the buildings in the Gran Via area, also for the first time. Was visited by over 100,000 professional from all over the world.
ITMA, which is organised by the European Committee of Textile Machinery Builders, has been held every four years since 1951. The last event was held in Munich in 2007. This show highlights the trends in the machinery and technology sector, and mainly covers the textiles field. It is an influential forum, with highly prestigious talks and lectures, such as the World Textiles Summit, which is held at the same time, and which this year featured the former General Secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, as one of the keynote speakers.
Barcelona became ideal for an event of this kind. In addition to the importance of the city and the characteristics of a trade fair area like Gran Via, textiles have been the cornerstone for Catalonia’s industrial growth, its modernisation and urban and even cultural expansion. Design and creativity in the fashion field remain a major asset today.
From home to China…
The ITMA came at an unusual time for the Catalan, Spanish and European textile industry, which in many cases is “returning home” after a long period of outsourcing. Many European textile companies that have been manufacturing in China and other Asian countries are seeking alternative suppliers. The reason is purely economic: China has become more expensive in recent years, meaning that the country no longer offers the large profit margins that it once did.
Victor Fabregat, director of Cityc (the Textiles and Clothing Information Centre), explains that the main reason lies in the increase in labour costs as a result of demands by employees. However, there have also been other factors, such as “the attraction from textiles by other industries, such as electronics, and the revaluation of the yuan against the euro in 2010,” which have all had an impact on this rise in prices, according to Fabregat.
Taken as a whole, this situation has made the world’s leading producer and exporter of apparel more expensive and this has led to a shift in demand towards other providers. “The biggest beneficiaries have been other Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Vietnam,” says Fabregat, as they offer more competitive costs and more flexible conditions in terms of minimum orders and delivery. Countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey are also some of the new suppliers, due to their proximity to Europe.
… and back again
Spanish textile companies have also been making their way home. One of these is Aretex SA, a manufacturer of socks and children’s fashion under the Condor brand, which has its offices and manufacturing plant in Arenys de Mar. “We moved production to Catalonia last year,” says Rosario Ramos, CEO of Aretex, adding that “the future in the medium and long term is to concentrate production in Catalonia, because we have the best textile cluster in Spain.”
Nonetheless, China is still the leading supplier of clothing to Spain, which is not surprising considering the size of their industry. What is new is the leap towards the Asian giant that some Spanish textile companies, much smaller than the large chains such as Mango and Inditex, have decided to make.
A good example is Manufacturas Manufacturas Casas y Castellet SA, a producer of ties and accessories based in Barcelona, which began its Chinese venture two years ago, and now has a showroom in the Chinese city of Dalian and is planning to open a corner in Beijing.
“Our Chinese clients come from a medium – high segment, which cannot afford the big names, but they want quality, design and the Made in Barcelona stamp,” says Jordi Castellet, the company’s manager.
As for advice on how to enter the Chinese market, Castellet does not hesitate when listing three essential ingredients: a good local partner, because China “is a different world”; an attractive product that is different from what is available there, and above all, patience. “That is something that is difficult for short-term entrepreneurs to achieve.”