After Tunisiaâ€™s economy suffered a massive body blow at a time of fragility following the 2011 revolution Tunisiaâ€™s textile industry is coming out fighting looking to conquer new territories and become more visible in the market. Confidence in Tunisia by knitwear giant Benetton was recently shown by a visit to CETTEX (Centre du Technique et Textile) in Tunis. According to CETTEXâ€™s website Benetton want to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnership including technical support and training for enterprises located in regions Kasserine and Gafsa.
Tunisia is strong in lingerie, swimwear and knitting including hosiery knitting. This makes it not just a sourcing destination but also a buyer for high end technical knits. Traditionally the country has mainly supplied the French (34% of total production) and Italian markets (taking 28% according to APIâ€™s report). Unlike its neighbours Egypt and Morocco, Tunisia is focused on the quality end of the market and is now looking to expand into the UK and German markets.
Zied Zamoussi owner of a Sfax based lingerie manufacturer stated that they supply Aubade, Lise Charmel, Calida from Switzerland, and from Spain Selmark & Jianera, these are the main clients. They have one big factory and four small units with flexible production model making swimwear, lingerie, corsetry and pyjamas at the main factory, they have one small for swimwear and another for lingerie and another for pyjamas. For the big brands they have minimum one line of production for example Lise Charmel 1000 per day. They have nine lines for the large factory, but the maximum per customer is one line, no customer takes more than 30% capacity, this is the maximum to reduce our risk.
The Tunisian textile and garment industry comprises of 1,852 companies. The industry is across six sectors including yarn spinning, finishing, knitting/hosiery and ready made garments. Production of knitted fabrics as well as readymade garments using knitted fabrics such as jersey and interlock for T-shirts and sweatshirts make up a large segment of the industry with 1597 companies in this segment of which 1381 companies export.
According to the website there are 236 hosiery knitting companies in Tunisia with 175 exporting. The main bases for activity are the city of Tunis the capital, Sfax in the South East of the country, and the coastal towns of Sousse and Monastir.
Moncef Khemakhem Gerant owner of Cisconfection, a lingerie company in Sfax with four production units, said that they work for brands such as Decathlon in France, Etam, Eminance, Well, Dim and Tchibo. Tunisian companies like Cisconfection are looking beyond private labelling: They are in the process of integration, doing product development and creating a mark called Chanaz for lingerie femme and maillot de bain, they are selling in Tunisia and proposing internationally, they are showing the salon de lingerie, selling in two shops in Tunisia. In terms of materials he said that they do European sourcing for the fabric and some from Tunisia.
Sweater knitting is also a small part of the Tunisian textile industry focused mostly on the mid-market. Karim Zouari of industrial knitting company CSM said that they are producing for the French market, like Christine Laure, Pro-mode, Camaieu, mid-market brands. They work with 50/50 acrylic cotton, 50/50 acrylic wool, 100% cotton, cotton viscose and with some brands they work with viscose, polyamide, angora. Majority of their work is cut and sew. They produce an average of 10,000 pieces per month. Flat knitting, from 7 gauge to 12 gauge for cut and sew. Working with patterns, fancy knitting, cables because they have Japanese machines, 12 Shima Seiki machines. They can do fully fashioned but they have some who ask for fully fashioned but 70 â€“ 80% of production is not fully fashioned.
In hosiery sector, there are nine companies based in both Tunis and Monastir. Many companies do not have a website or listed. However, Monastir based Sotichauss which provides a full package of design, production and printing for socks, stockings and pantyhose in a variety of yarns from technical fibres from Coolmax to cashmere and bamboo, has its own website.
In knitted fabric and garments production there are some 341 companies listed on the Tunisian Industry portal. The majority have expertise in underwear and swimwear and other ready made garments. In total CEPEX listed 19 companies that are purely focused on lingerie and swimwear.
Currently CEPEX, the governmentâ€™s trade and export office are focused on lingerie and swimwear as key products and services with a strong programme of trade missions and trade shows including the recent Paris InterfiliÃ©re.
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