There was a new twist to this year’s FFANY show (August 4-6), with the arrival of the Turkish Leather Council, represented by five of the country’s biggest shoe companies.
Typically, footwear using the newest technologies comes from one market, while shoes featuring traditional leather craftsmanship come from another. Turkey, however, is finding a way to occupy both markets.
Ragip Çevirgen, a board member of the Footwear Industrialists Association of Turkey (TASD) and a brand rep for Foot Court, said Turkish footwear manufacturers have done a good job of keeping up with current technologies in materials and machinery while, simultaneously, still using artisans’ handwork. And he noted that they do all this while keeping their prices lower than their European competitors, with a $40-$100 wholesale range.
Though the Turkish companies’ focus on craftsmanship and quality leathers puts them in competition with the Italians, Çevirgen said Turkish companies tend to focus on comfort over style. “First health, then fashion,” he said, noting that trends tend to repeat every ten years. Instead, manufacturers focus on using technology to improve the way the shoe feels, which Çevirgen demonstrated with a lightweight slip-on shoe made with EVA and rubber foam.
The Turkish manufacturers believe they have everything needed to compete in the global footwear landscape, but they are still having difficulty breaking into certain markets. Though Turkish shoes have been very popular in China, the country’s footwear hasn’t yet been picked up in German, Italian or Japanese markets.
Turkish brands also have not yet found their way into the American market, where Turkish footwear makes up only 0.1% of total US imports, Çevirgen said. He added that Turkish companies accept some of the blame for their lack of expansion. “It’s our own fault,” he said. “We have to express ourselves louder to the world.”
This is exactly what they are now doing. TASD is currently working with Peter Mangione, managing director and founder of Global Footwear Partnerships (GFP) and the former FDRA president (1981-2009). Mangione is visiting 45 factories in Turkey and will attend the Aymod trade show in Istanbul in October and subsequently issue a business plan for the TASD. Çevirgen estimates that in five years, the awareness surrounding Turkish shoes will be much greater.