French manufacturing: between industry and heritage
Like industry federations, manufacturers, and brands, Interfilière Paris is committed to strengthening and defending our closest manufacturing zones. After an increase in costs of transport and certain raw materials such as certified organic cotton, local manufacturing and recycled or regenerated material options are flourishing. The recent announcement of Eastman and Loop’s investment projects in two French sites, which, starting in 2025, will recycle plastics and polyester into textile products, has confirmed this trend.
On the other hand, transparency & ultra-traceability are hot market trends. Could the union of localized sourcing & of all things “Made in Common Sense” be a solution to improve the not-very-sustainable situation of dependence on imports?
The territorially based system
Before all things local were vaunted as an indicator of sustainability, we must remember that textile manufacturing is divided into four main stages: yarn spinning, weaving or knitting, fabric finishing, and garment production. Within production, other sustainable performance indicators linked to manufacturing location are eco-design, which includes impacts and end-of-life-cycle issues, traceability, and transparency. The sustainable quality of a product thus becomes a key criterion by default.
Depending on the brand or type of product, each of these stages can be spread over the entire manufacturing process. Nevertheless, there is the matter of an overall industry governed by certain cost or expert-skill rationales. Beyond cost, this rationale is based on the availability of resources, industries, and skills.
“With nearly 2200 firms, 63% of which are SMEs, the French textile industry employs over 61000 individuals.”
Conditions that fulfill the term “Made in France”, as we currently know it, are destined to evolve, before likely legislation that will require an indication of manufacturing provenance on labels. The promotion of special expert skills is regionally based and connected to materials, such as Calais Caudry lace (Jean Bracq, Noyon) or Lyon silks (Les Tissages Perrin). It is also a product of manufacturers’ and family-owned SMEs’ commitments since they are investing in the needed equipment and renewal of expert skills. (Bugis, Sofileta, Velcorex, Rocle by Isabella, MG2 création, etc.)
In France, organizations such as the UIT Union Industrielle textile or the Façon de faire collective are coming together to make local manufacturing more competitive. Façon de faire is putting together a panel of French material manufacturers and offers a label (SFE) guaranteeing that every step in the weaving and production of a garment has been carried out in France.
French manufacturing is quite advantageous for:
- Established brands that own their production facilities and tend to work vertically. E.g.: Petit Bateau, which is changing its industrial site to adapt to on-demand manufacturing, or the CL studio group, with its circular Chantelle One product.
- Designer and DNV brands committed to agility and transparency on a national or regional level. E.g.: Réjeanne, Body Flair, or Les Pas Petits, which are offering recycled swimsuits that are woven, designed, and made in France.
- Activewear brands offering a highly technical or innovative product.
- Luxury products that convey certain values related to rarity and unique expert skill. E.g.: Parisian brand Paloma Casile
“Producing in France was an obvious choice to reduce our carbon footprint, and, strategically, it’s a real advantage. I source materials in France and Europe, so I’m on the same strategic wavelength and vision as for our garment production.”
Reconstruction & strengthening of the sector
In 2021, the strategic committee for the fashion and luxury sectors submitted its report to the government, with a series of proposals favoring “re-industrialization”. Whether we’re talking about French or European manufacturing, it is primarily a matter of promoting heritage and our sector’s capabilities. The sector networks in place had become settled in certain locations due to the needs of the luxury industry and the innovative visions of designer brands because they had understood the stakes of available resources and the robotization of production lines. The light that guided French garment production out of the night was the Le Slip Français brand, whose DNA was 100% defined by its national (localized) character. Its founder and his creative vision largely contributed to the development of manufacturing facilities and the awakening of the public and institutions to the potential of French-based textile production.
“We manufacture in France because there is specific expert skill here and to shorten our distribution process.”
Guillaume Gilbaut, Founder of the Le Slip Français brand, 2020, talking at the fabulous French Fabrique.
“Re-industrialization” helps reduce merchandise-transport and unsold-merchandise costs due to on-demand production. It focuses on localized supply networks when materials are available on-site. This also allows for the recycling of materials, for which the French case remains a one-of-a-kind, with AGEC law. According to the UIT, re-industrializing 25% of fashion manufacturing would reduce the carbon footprint by 3.5 million tons of CO2, in other words, the equivalent of two months of emissions by the entire city of Paris.
And lastly, brand development is contributing an increasing amount to this. Through the rebuilding of the sector, investment in industrial facilities, or the co-creation of new materials in France, we’re saving heritage, biodiversity, jobs, and expert skill built on excellence.
Interfilière Paris also partners with manufacturers from all over Europe, and in the next article, we’ll discuss the European Union & the Euromed zone, which are adding flexibility and a range of prices and technologies that are complementary to “Made in France”.
By Aude Penouty – ENTADA TEXTILE