Standing its ground – textiles in Europe
Interview by WTiN, 9 December 2015
Lutz Walter, secretary general of Textile ETP (European Technology Platform) at Euratex, speaks to WTiN about market trends, technological development and sustainability across the European textiles industry.
Lutz Walter, head of the R&D, innovation and projects department at Euratex, the European Apparel & Textile Confederation in Brussels, co-ordinates numerous European collaborative research and networking projects. Since 2004, he has co-ordinated the European Technology Platform for the Future of Textiles and Clothing (Textile ETP), the largest European textile research and innovation experts network. When the technology platform was set up as an independent legal entity in 2013, Walter was appointed as secretary general.
How strong is the EU’s position in the global textile industry value chain?
The European textile industry is a very strong player on a global scale – if you look at global trade, it is clearly second, after China. It’s really standing its ground, looking from a value perspective rather than a volume perspective. What you can also see is that the European textile industry is very diversified, so it is feeding strongly into all the major end applications – fashion, home/interiors and technical textiles – which is a very unique position compared to other countries, where there tends to be more focus on fashion, or fashion and home.
From a geographical point of view, Europe is also quite diversified in terms of end markets. Total European exports of textiles and clothing amounted to €43bn in 2014, and has been constantly growing over the years. In that sense, Europe is very active in exporting products widely – we export to other industrialised countries including the US and Japan, but also emerging markets such as China. The other thing to understand is that Europe still has a relatively complete textiles value chain, spanning the process from manmade fibres to spinning, as well as filament production to weaving, knitting, dyeing and so on; it’s something that is quite important – even if some parts of the chain have been weakened over the years. The whole technical textiles value chain is also very strongly developed, with excellent collaborations with the major end market sectors.
Europe enjoys a good position in terms of innovation and technology; it is the clear global leader. For example, ITMA – if you want to see the latest technology you come to Europe, where there is still a lot of collaboration between leading textile and machine manufacturers. The fact that there is a unique research and higher education infrastructure in Europe – lots of textiles research institutes and numerous universities with textiles departments that are producing graduates through them – is clearly a strength of the textiles industry here.