Morocco, the north African country having clothing and textiles sector that prides itself on speed, and has expertise in denim, wovens and knitwear. It is also jostling to become a sourcing hub for Europeâ€™s fast fashion industry, taking advantage of its geographical Âlocation and the rising costs and concerns over compliance that begin to bite in China and Bangladesh, newer markets, such as Myanmar and Vietnam, are vying to become the next big sourcing heavyweights.
However, the need for an increasingly fast, flexible and reactive supply chain is leading many retailers to investigate markets considerably closer to UK shores and Morocco is poised to take advantage of this shift.
Accessible from the UK and much of Europe in the relatively short flight time of three and a half hours, Morocco is already a key sourcing market, along with Portugal and Turkey, for Spanish giant Inditex, which is renowned for its ability to get trend-led product into stores quickly.
Moroccoâ€™s focus on fast fashion was evident at the latest edition of sourcing show Maroc in Mode, which took place in Marrakech on 27-28 October and showcased the nationâ€™s manufacturers. Many of the showâ€™s 128 exhibitors specialise in fast fashion and supply brands in the Inditex Group, including Pull & Bear, Zara and Bershka.
The textile and clothing industry is an important one for Morocco, employing over 183,000 people, representing 26% of the countryâ€™s industrial jobs, and produces 1.1 billion garments every year.
The Moroccan government and the Association Morocaine des Industries du Textile et de lâ€™Habillement (AMITH), which represents the nationâ€™s fashion manufacturers and hosts the trade show, plan to enlarge the sector still further. As part of an ambitious strategy to build the industry up â‚¬500m (Â£440m) by 2020, leading Moroccan manufacturers have been chosen to act as what AMITH refers to as â€œlocomotivesâ€, guiding and advising smaller companies on how to modernise and improve production capabilities.
The sector has also been divided into a series of specialist areas known as â€œeco-systemsâ€, which include fast fashion, knitwear and denim. Each area has a different focus â€“ denim, for example, has been set the task of creating 14,800 new jobs by 2020.
Mohamed Laghmouchi is the managing director of Tangier-based woven and knitwear specialist Nova Moda II, which works with Zara and its premium counterpart, Massimo Dutti. Exhibiting at Maroc in Mode, argues that ÂMoroccoâ€™s proximity to Europe makes it particularly well suited to the fast fashion market. Morocco is the solution for producing fast fashion.
Mohamed Tazi, director general of AMITH, also believes geography will help to promote Morocco in the eyes of European retailers: The Moroccan clothing export sector will continue to benefit in 2018 and 2019 because of deep changes facing clothing retailers.
However, local manufacturers emphasise that there is more to Moroccan sourcing than speed. As Jalil Rais, director of Marisa, which supplies Sandro and Paul Smith, said that proximity is an advantage, but itâ€™s not the only one: lots of countries are near Europe and most of the world can be reached easily by plane now. Instead, he points to technical expertise, thereâ€™s a lot of know-how in Morocco. The quality of the product is good, as is the level of social compliance, which is very important for UK retailers.
President MichÃ¨le Duperrin said that in the past couple of years, they have seen more European retailers expressing an interest in sourcing from Morocco, particularly as prices in Asia have increased. Also thereâ€™s a lot of know-how and experience in the Moroccan market, so itâ€™s easier to find qualified people who can do the job you want than it might be in other countries. They can also produce at a competitive price, which is another advantage.
Morocco also has ambitious plans to become a global sourcing hub specializing in fast fashion and denim.
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