They already send 90 per cent of their output overseas, but Vietnam's two largest producers of fashion knitwear, the Bien Hoa Spinning and Knitting plant and its close rival the Hai Phong Wool factory, are now looking for wider sales in the west.

Recent plant improvements have now raised their joint output to some two million pieces a year against a mere 600,000 three years ago.

Although both companies sell strongly into the former Eastern bloc nations they are now in the process of fine tuning both construction and design to achieve the kind of standards required by the more style conscious nations of the EU and especially Italy.

They have upgraded their raw materials intake, with the bulk of the wool used now derived from the UK or Australia.

By Sonia Roberts.