The Portuguese textile sector was worth around €4.9 billion and leather €200 million in 2021 and both have been growing sales over the last decade or so. But these raw numbers do not tell the real story of the changes that have been going on in both sectors. As leather goods and clothing sourcing agents, we get to visit a lot of factories (mainly in the north of Portugal where we are based) and it is impossible to miss the amount of investment that has been made, reflecting a movement up the value chain by so many of these businesses.
There has been a lot of European funding made available for leather and textile companies looking to introduce productive innovations into their factories and this has really driven change through the Portuguese supply chain, particularly in the cluster of textile companies to be found just north of Porto where the more innovative companies have tended to be based. In this area (principally around Braga, Famalição and Guimarães) there are a number of high end textile factories that have delivered some world-leading innovations in both high-tech textile manufacturing and production and this culture of innovation has filtered down through the supply chain. What this means for our clients looking to source clothing and leather goods from Portugal is that it is increasingly difficult to supply lower-end products as the focus is moving towards mid and premium production.
Together with this move up the value chain, there has also been a lot of investment and effort made in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), with a program of support (again partly EU funded) to make the Portuguese textile sector a good citizen of the corporate world. The RESET program being implemented in Portugal includes the following themes:
// Recycling in textile and waste disposal
// Water consumption and energy saving, sustainable company organisations
// New sustainable chemistry, including reduction of chemical substances
// Smart textiles and new ways of production
// Eco-creativity, natural fibres, short value chains
// New materials and new applications
We are seeing a lot of our clients finishing their manufacturing in China (and to a lesser extent other Asian textile powerhouses) because of environmental and human rights concerns and the Portuguese textile sector has done a very good job of differentiating itself by taking on board these changes. The RESET program does not come cheap (although the EU funding is an enormous help), so many brands are now demanding these kinds of standards from their manufacturers it is really becoming obligatory for any factory looking to become a serious player in the sector. Again the best practices being put in place by the larger factories are rapidly filtering down through the supply chain.
Our work as leather and clothing sourcing agents in Portugal has changed dramatically over the last 20 years or so as we have moved up the value chain, with more of our time being spent finding and auditing the more premium manufacturers rather than just finding a low-cost solution for undifferentiated production which used to take up more of our work. Our clients are also demanding that we play a greater role in quality control and CSR control, so that they can rest at ease that their production will be placed in the right hands. If you are looking to source your production from Portugal, then please get in touch and we will gladly show you the very best that Portugal has to offer!