Clothing Textiles

The "clothing textiles" product group includes

fabrics and knitted fabrics for:

  • sportswear,
  • casual wear,
  • rainwear,
  • nightwear,
  • workwear,
  • underwear,
  • fashion clothing,
  • linings,

and finished knitted products such as

  • baby and children's wear,
  • jogging pants,
  • sweaters,
  • other outerwear,
  • leg wear,
  • T-shirts.

Clothing textiles and the circular economy

In the transition to a circular economy, the sector is working together with companies and also through e.g. Flanders Circular (Production Industry Work Agenda). After all, Belgian clothing textiles manufacturers are strongly committed to switching to more circular solutions, beginning with recycled fibres.

'Circular economy' is about more than just recycling, which is obviously an important element of it. But other aspects are certainly important for clothing textiles as well. These include life extension through proper use of materials or through proper maintenance, repair and reuse of clothing. Therefore, partnerships are of great importance with e.g. textiles maintenance companies or tailoring companies that handle the repair of garments or clothing fabrics.

'Due diligence' is becoming a defining factor in the entire clothing textiles value chain.

Exploring new horizons

The Centexbel textiles knowledge centre plays a crucial role in disseminating knowledge among textiles companies, and SMEs in particular. In this context, an annual Horizon Exploration of Clothing Textiles is organised, where updates relating to innovations, patents, standards, labelling, and legislation directly or indirectly related to apparel are all made available. Centexbel's research projects are also outlined at each event. The 2022 edition zoomed in on circularity and sustainability – and this was no coincidence. This included the Dutch Technical Agreement, NTA 8195 Circular Textiles, which could later serve as the basis for a European Standard (NEN). Within this NTA 8195, requirements and categories are defined. Another great example was the new tool 'Impact and Water Footprint Calculator' from STeP by Ökotex, an absolute first in 2022.

There is also some collaboration with HoGent's FTILab+ to build up knowledge around innovations. This includes research into the potential of hemp cultivation for (clothing) textiles applications. Hemp fibre has many advantages – ecologically, economically and regionally.

Fairer competition

By pursuing a policy of due diligence, the aim is to implement processes throughout an entire value chain that make it possible to trace the risk of human rights and environmental violations, as well as taking measures to avoid and remedy them. In the context of the possible introduction of European policies in this regard, the clothing textiles sector, owing to the fact it is global in nature, is one of the sectors coming under greater attention.

An important condition regarding due diligence is that there will be no one-size-fits-all arrangement – it will be sector-specific. Moreover, the uniqueness of SMEs should not be overlooked. If realistically applied, due diligence will not only benefit people and the environment, but also lead to fairer competition across all borders. The European Directive on due diligence was originally announced for the autumn of 2021. However, because of the great importance, this was not an overnight process and the original proposal needed to be thoroughly revised. An approval is expected in the spring of 2023. Fedustria is collaborating constructively and taking initiatives to prepare our companies for it and guide them.

The Clothing Textiles product group is also following other European initiatives with great attention, for example the free trade agreements that the EU is negotiating with India, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Unfair competition from mainly China, but also Turkey, is also regularly being reported to the Belgian authorities.

05 KLED CETTE Dublin London
Key figures
Weaving Knitwear
Number of companies 10 15
Number of employees 1.000 300
Exported quota 90 % 60 %
Activity evolution in 2023 (in value) -0,5 % -9,3 %
Share in the total added value of the Belgian textile sector 10 % 10 %

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Kris Van Peteghem

Kris Van Peteghem

Economic Advisor (Flanders)