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  January 28th, 2023 | Written by

World’s Textile Industry Attempts a Spirited Post-Pandemic Comeback at Frankfurt Trade Fair

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After suffering a massive slowdown during the two years of the devastating Covid pandemic, when global supply chains were also disrupted, the world’s textile industry attempted a spirited comeback at the recent four-day international Heimtextil 2023 of Frankfurt. 

Heimtextil, the world’s largest trade fair for home textiles, attracted a large turnout of international exhibitors and visitors, albeit the numbers were lower than the pre-pandemic levels.   The Heimtextil show was, in fact, the first full-fledged event in three years although a “mini” Heimtextil edition, combined with the technical textile show TechTextil was held in June 2022.  

The event, showcasing a wide range of products – from raw materials, technology, upholstery and decorative fabrics, outdoor fabrics, artificial leather and wallpaper, technology and recycling with its emphasis on sustainability, etc. – made a “powerful return”, and provided “all the signs for success as a barometer for the trade fair business year”, as Detlef Braun, the executive board member of Messe Frankfurt, put it. 

Sustainability was the key word at the show. To save the planet’s increasingly shrinking resources, greater emphasis will be put on recycling.  Innovative material developments from natural raw materials such as mushrooms, plant fibers or recycled waste products provide impulses for the future of home textiles; a special “Future Materials Library” at the show provided pointers in the future direction, flanked by special guided tours and high-profile lectures.  Caroline Till, a textile technology specialist and co-founder of the London-based Franklin Till studio, explained that sustainability and, with it, the circular economy had become imperatives for the industry.  

Turkish companies, reeling from business losses under the Ukraine crisis – both Russia and the Ukraine were their major markets before the outbreak of the war – and the absence of Chinese buyers because of the Covid, made a strong attempt to woo international customers at the show. 

The 315 exhibitor strong Turkish contingent, up from 304 in 2020, displayed a wide range of products – from curtains and curtain fabrics through blankets, rugs and bed covers to upholstery, furnishings and decorative materials – and while the first day appeared slow for some of the exhibitors resulting from the low numbers of visitors, they were satisfied with the overall result. 

Omur Isiki, a representative of the Istanbul based Turkish Home-Textile Association, popularly known by its acronym TETSIAD, maintained that Turkish companies were aware of the growing importance of recycling. “Some companies are trying to acquire recycling technology.  Recycling, as a corollary of sustainability, will play an important role in the global textile industry,” he said. Turkey is Europe’s largest home-textile exporter, supplying to 118 countries. 

Haluk Hocaoglu, the sales director of Flokser Textil San. of Arnavutkoy/Istanbul, which supplies artificial leather used for upholstery, interiors of vehicles, garments, bags, etc., said in an interview with Global Trade that he was, initially, unsure of the response his company would get at the show because of the Covid and the Ukrainian crisis.  Hocaoglu and his team had come with “realistic expectations”, anticipating very few Russian and Ukrainian buyers, but “then our expectations were exceeded when we received some very promising business enquiries from buyers from other countries.  In short, we can’t complain!”  

Flokser had has an annual turnover of US$ 75 million, with exports amounting to $ 15 million. 

Another Turkish exhibitor, Ipeker Tekstil of Bursa, which showcased its weaving, dyeing and printing services as well as its products such as fashion fabrics and bedding, presented its “unique fiber” cupro. “Our product is recycled but it is strictly vegan in character … our fiber is known as cupro (it is also known as vegan-silk cupro). Cupro is used for women’s and children’s clothing but also for men’s shirts,” Recep Eller, a company representative said.  Ipeker received “good business enquiries” from potential buyers from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Europe.  “Indeed, we received an order right at the show from a Portuguese buyer,” he said.

Pakistan’s textile industry, the mainstay of the country’s exports, put up a brave front at the show despite the pessimism that had descended on the industry following political and economic turmoil, and the devastating floods that destroyed a large part of Pakistan’s infrastructure and cotton crop. 

Aftab Gauhar, the director of Gohar Textiles, a leading textile mill in Faisalabad, Pakistan, said in an interview that many producers had sustained heavy losses in production because of the floods. Pakistan’s cotton production is about 9 million bales, of which 2.5 million bales were lost as a result of the floods. The country traditionally requires about 15 million bales of cotton; the difference between its production and actual requirement is met through imports from Brazil, the United States, etc. 

“In some cases, prices of locally-produced cotton are higher than imported cotton,” he observed. Gohar Textiles, which had an annual turnover of about $ 135 million in 2022, up from $ 120 million in 2021 and $ 95 million in 2020, received a “good response in Frankfurt, completely exceeding our expectations”, Gauhar said. However, he felt that the four-day trade fair should start on Monday, instead of Tuesday, which will make visitors come on Thursday, the last day.  “If the fair starts on Tuesday, then visitors tend to stay away on Friday, the last day.  This makes considerable difference to exhibitors who can get maximum benefit from their participation.”

An elated Olaf Schmidt, the vice president of Messe Frankfurt, the show organizer, said in an interview that after two difficult years, “we’re back in business”.  “It is the first show in 2023 at our trade-fair ground. The numbers have been promising for us … we have had 2400 exhibitors while the number of trade visitors exceeded 44,000 from 130 countries. The international attendance touched 82% of visitors at the show, reinforcing Heimtextil’s status as a really global platform. The show has been good and cleared any doubts in the global textile industry. We are confident that the next show in 2024 will be even better and head towards the level of 2900 exhibitors of 2020,” Schmidt said.

According to Messe Frankfurt, China presented the largest contingent of 429 exhibitors, followed by India (382), Turkey (321) and Pakistan (269).  

Asked about the growing realization among foreign companies to move out of China to other production sites such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, etc., Schmidt said that Vietnam was strong in shoe production but was now also growing in the garment sector. “Vietnam is gaining importance .… global changes are affecting supply chains but China will still remain the largest textile producer in the future,” he predicted.