Turkey: Some 95 percent of the world’s wool for fabrics is obtained from Australia and New Zealand and processed in China before a noteworthy proportion makes its way to the Yünsa plant close to Istanbul, where it is turned into products to be used by prominent fashion brands. The Turkish supplier, currently a Europe leader in production volume, has made middle-term plans to become a world leader
Yünsa, a prominent Turkish woolen fabric producer, plans to become the world’s largest supplier of the material through an additional $20 million investment that will allow yearly production to rise to 20 million meters.
“One of our main targets is to replace consumers’ expectations for a ‘Made in Italy’ brand on clothes with international quality signs,” General Manager Cem Çelikoðlu said, implying that fabric produced in Turkey was by no means below the quality of Italian or British fabrics.
The company, a Sabancý Holding subsidiary, is currently the largest supplier in Europe with an annual production of 12 million meters, Çelikoðlu said.
“The biggest Italian companies produce 6 million or 7 million meters every year,” he said.
“Our most important capital is our employees and know-how,” he said, adding that the company learned a lot about the details of production since it was founded in 1973.
“We even started chemically softening the water we use in production after discovering that Italian producers were using melted snow from the Alps, a very soft water,” he said.
Çelikoðlu forecast a total of 30 percent growth for Yünsa between 2009 and 2011.
The company exports 62 percent of its production to European countries while another 27 percent is purchased by local buyers. Yünsa’s woolen fabrics are sold to more than 60 countries.
Some 45 million merino sheep in Australia and New Zealand provide nearly 95 percent of the world’s demand for woolen fabric, according to Derya Kýnýk, a deputy general manager responsible for Yünsa’s production.
One animal’s total yearly wool output can be used to produce between 10 and 12 woolen men’s suits, Kýnýk said. “As the sheep gets older, the quality of its wool decreases because the hair gets thicker.”
Nearly the entire Australian and New Zealander wool output is transported to China, where it is processed to become the raw material for the filaments used in fabric production, Kýnýk said.
The company has sales offices in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and China, along with agencies around the world.
Balance shifting from Far East to Mediterranean
The volume of the global woolen fabric market is annually around $1.7 billion, he said, adding that 44 percent of the total is produced in Italy while 12 percent is made in China. Turkey’s share stands at 5 percent. Çelikoðlu also predicted that the sector would grow between 6 and 8 percent annually.
Buyers’ attention is again turning to the Mediterranean because of problems in the Far East, Çelikoðlu said.
“During the crisis, thousands of Chinese workers returned to their villages,” he said. “Many preferred to work in the more beneficial construction business. When the Chinese companies started receiving orders again, they couldn’t find enough workers.”
In addition to the workforce problems in the Far East, Mediterranean suppliers are faster for European buyers due to the logistical advantages they offer, he said.
“Fashion brands have started changing their display windows every three of four weeks so they need fast suppliers. Today we can deliver specific demands in a few weeks,” Çelikoðlu said.
Success throughout the 2000s
Yünsa supplies fabric to numerous world brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Armani, Calvin Klein, Max Mara, Zara and Marks and Spencer. The company produces fabrics in its integrated facility in Çerkezköy, an industrial town northwest of Istanbul.
The company’s shares on the Istanbul Stock Exchange rose 109 percent in 2009, Çelikoðlu said, adding that the company’s market value was now around 65 million Turkish Liras.
This, he said, is Yünsa’s real value, even though the company has more physical assets.
The general manager said the company’s own designs had also started taking orders from across the world.
“We started producing collections in late the 1990s. At the beginning we could take no orders. The buyers were telling us that the designs were not good and they were right,” he said. “We took the first order in 2000. It was a small but crucial start. Afterward we started to work with prominent designers.”