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Taiwan needs to consolidate its leadership position in performance wear

"Taiwan’s love interest with sports activities and a brewing expanse of micro-gyms and running clubs is offering a new wave of growth for sportswear companies. Last year alone there were more than 600 running races hosted on the island and Taipei City’s bike paths are overflowing with cyclists. This enthusiasm was visible during the recent Taipei Innovative Textile Application Show (TITAS) trade event at the Taiwan World Trade Center. Leading companies including manufacturers, equipment makers, and innovators gathered together to discover the latest in textile innovation from the island."

 

 

Taiwan needs to consolidate its leadership position in performance wear

 

Taiwan’s love interest with sports activities and a brewing expanse of micro-gyms and running clubs is offering a new wave of growth for sportswear companies. Last year alone there were more than 600 running races hosted on the island and Taipei City’s bike paths are overflowing with cyclists. This enthusiasm was visible during the recent Taipei Innovative Textile Application Show (TITAS) trade event at the Taiwan World Trade Center. Leading companies including manufacturers, equipment makers, and innovators gathered together to discover the latest in textile innovation from the island. While there were many innovative offerings but they were just available to a select few. For Taiwan, this tendency for closed-door promotion isn’t limited to the trade show floor. Consumers around the world remain equally in the dark about textile innovation coming from Taiwan.

Taiwanese prowess

Taiwan needs to consolidate its leadership position in performance

 

Since the past three decades, Taiwan has transformed itself from low-cost fabrics manufacturer to a global powerhouse specialising in functionally advanced textiles. As per Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, more than 70 per cent of the world’s outdoor sportswear, the largest application for functional textiles, is currently made using performance textiles from Taiwan. Taiwan has more than 4,300 textile manufacturers employing over 140,000 people, and total production value reached NT$409.3 billion (US$13.5 billion) in 2015. Global companies from Nike to Adidas to Under Armour source their functional textiles from Taiwan. Taiwan scores over others owing to its depth and speed of innovation as well as its eco-friendly production capabilities.

It’s just not performance wear, the city is making waves in eco-textiles as well. Some recent innovations include: fabric fibres made from oils derived from coffee beans and even trash reclaimed from the world’s oceans. Having said that experts believe Taiwan’s leadership in textile innovation could be short-lived if the nation fails to build a reputation among end-consumers. When one buys an outdoor hiking jacket or a pair of yoga pants, the brand on the outside signals the product’s US or European heritage, and the label inside declares the country of production; nowadays that’s likely to be Vietnam or Bangladesh. The name Taiwan, however, fails to appear at all, despite the fact that the product’s material and much of the production innovation have been originated from Taiwan.

Staking claim

Some stakeholders say they like to remain behind the curtains and are happy the way things are shaping up. But such a mindset might leave a permanent scar on the country’s projection as the textile innovation hub and the production might shift to other rising countries. Additionally, this tendency is restricting the emergence of local brands into the performance or eco-textile space, which is all the more detrimental for the country’s economic growth. That’s the reason Taiwan has just remained a contract manufacturer for years.

Is Taiwan in a position to afford such a loss? Just as Italy is recognised as home to the world’s best leather, and New Zealand the home to the best wool, Taiwan needs to build its technical innovation capabilities. Consumers should be as confident in buying outdoor sportswear with textiles from Taiwan as they are in buying eyeglasses with lenses made in Switzerland. In order to attain this, Taiwan needs a strategic, long-term promotional campaign to promote the nation’s leadership in functional and eco-friendly textile innovation and manufacturing practices.

With such an initiative, the country would be able to achieve two goals at the same time: Firstly, a positive reputation among consumers would lead to further growth, resulting in greater investment; and secondly it would offer a market leadership position which can be sustained over the years. It will also enthuse youngsters to take part in this changing paradigm. In the end, Taiwan needs to get out of traditional silos and come out in the open to stake its claim in the innovative textile domain.

 
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