The Thai textile and garment industry is eyeing a 10-15% growth in exports in 2010 thanks to expanding opportunities in the region and a focus on design. 

According to Pongsak Assakul, president of the Thai Textile Manufacturing Association (TMA), the industry is rebounding quickly, despite export revenues falling 13% in 2009 amid the global economic downturn.

Part of his optimism stems from the Source Asian Full Service Alliance (SAFSA) a three-year initiative to pair local manufacturers and buyers within the region and from around the world.

Set up by ten member countries of the ASEAN Federation of Textile Industries (AFTEX) and the ASEAN Competitiveness Enhancement (ACE), the scheme is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

With products spanning woven tops, woven bottoms, sleep wear, lingerie, athletic wear, children’s wear and knitwear, the initial goal is to team 20 pairs of manufacturers and buyers.

Firms taking part so far include Guess, JC Penny, Polo Ralph Lauren, VF and PVH, as well as European brands such as Debenhams, Hugo Boss, Max Mara and Benetton.

“By participating in this project, manufacturers are able to optimise operations across the supply chain: cost reduction, production efficiency, quality assurance and timely product delivery,” said Mr Pongsak.

Part of the financial support from USAID will be used to get industry experts and advisors on board, as well as boosting labour skills and participating in international trade fairs.      

Dej Pattanasettapong, former chairman of the National Federation of Thai Textile Industries (NFTTI), is also confident Thai firms will be “on the world's fashion map in the next ten years” with better designs, upgraded manufacturing facilities, own brands, and better distribution.

“Other key factors include our human resources,” he adds, “especially Thai fashion designers, who are highly competent at producing trend-based, season-oriented collections.”  

Pattanasettapong also points out that major global players like China, Eastern Europe, Mexico and Cambodia all saw their textile and garment exports drop sharply over the last two years.

A key priority for the Thai apparel industry “is to regain confidence of overseas trade partners and buyers which has been altered by the country's political uncertainty,” says Komsan Vijitvikrom, president of the Bobae Garment Association.

He notes that targets for the country’s street fashion and ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) firms include Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, India and the Middle East.

“We are making a good progress with these sectors particularly in terms of design, quality and branding,” Vijitvikrom explains.

“There is an increasing number of emerging manufacturers enter into the industry, many of which are SMEs.”
The Department of Export Promotion (DEP) is also making a contribution through its support of the annual Bangkok International Fashion Fair and Bangkok International Leather Fair (BIFF & BIL 2010).

This year the trade show expects to feature 1,200 booths from domestic and overseas exhibitors, fashion shows, an Asian Designer Congress, a series of seminars and business matching facilities.