Innovation is driving Taiwan’s growing textile and clothing industries and two key signs reflect this upward trend.
Taiwan’s export earnings for 2011 rose to (U.S.)$12.7 billion, an increase over the previous year’s (U.S.)$11.3 billion.
Despite a troubled world economy, production value also continued to rise in Taiwan, and by the end of this year is expected to top out at roughly two to three percent more than the previous year. The value of goods produced is on track to exceed (U.S.)$17.1 billion.
An increasing emphasis on manufacturing functional and eco-friendly fabrics has given Taiwan textile and apparel makers a competitive leg up against their chief rivals, China and South Korea.
“Taiwan’s textile industry stands for the first choice of internationally well known sportswear and outdoor retailers while they are sourcing functional as well as environmentally friendly textiles,” said Justin Huang, Secretary General of Taiwan Textile Federation, in a statement released by the Taiwan Trade Center.
An increasing trend in the West toward “Green living” — consumers buying and using environmentally safe and recyclable goods, and conserving resources — has boosted international demand for Taiwanese functional and eco-friendly textiles.
China, itself the world’s biggest maker and exporter of textiles and clothing, is buying fabric from Taiwan. China has cut tariffs on 136 Taiwan-made textile and apparel items. European sales of Taiwanese fabrics have also increased.
Among the innovative fabrics manufactured in Taiwan are coated and laminated protective materials for firefighters, and warm but light-weight and breathable fabric, including fleece, for sports, skiing and other outdoor activities.
To keep abreast of competitors, Taiwan must be continually innovative or relinquish its recent gains.
Although China is estimated to be as much as ten years behind Taiwan in textile technology, Chinese makers could eventually erase that lead.
“The Chinese are smart,” said Zoe Chen, creative director of a major Taiwan clothing maker, the Lealea Group. “They will catch up. So I’m always thinking of new ways to push…[innovative] fabric forward.”