The textile art can’t be lost
TI 15 - November 2021

Paulo Pereira

Textile Engineer

he governmental initiative that aims to restrict resource to outsourcing from companies who have appealed to collective dismissal or dissolution of the job may be excessive and will pose difficulties. Employees have e considered by the majority of companies as a cost to be reduced. However, at the same time, we hear entrepreneurs complaining that they can’t find workers and technicians to guarantee operations. The lack of seamstresses, weavers, tuners and other technicians is well known.

With a few exceptions the textile in Portugal has been looking for more international competitiveness using cost reduction, production outsourcing and a bigger capacity to respond to clients. The strategy seems correct and consistent but is threatened by the Asian ability to deliver the same service with higher production volumes and better prices.  To compensate for the lack of competitiveness we have been betting in the geographic proximity and resorting to the North of Africa for those productions we can’t make in Portugal either because of its price or due to the absence of response ability.

We have also failed to understand that our clients have changed to more sustainable strategies. In truth, entry level brands only exist on some European countries as in the rest of the world they are usually high-end brands and are positioning themselves as such.

Therefore, we need to change mindsets. The geographic proximity that enabled us to maintain the textile must now include a personal proximity. In a small world where everything is near, ephemeral and only a click away, we can’t follow a path of fake personal interactions or a simple customer support manual. We must establish long-lasting relationships with all the people who are part of the company’s ecosystem. We shall not forget that the village is now called world.

In Italy, that for many is an example in the textile, artisans are valued. And an artisan is much more than the one who manufactures handcrafts, but the one skilled to do it. I can tell the story of an Italian architect that decided to come to live in Porto and needed to put some wallpaper in his house. He tried to hire someone in Portugal but he couldn’t. People were so focused in optimizing their contracts that they didn’t have time to serve the client or do a smaller scale work.

The solution found was to bring someone in from Italy, in his words, an artist, who travelled together with him and stayed in his house. Around here we have companies that organize themselves around a commercial and planning structure, placing production in external units, almost in a random way, as if who does what were indifferent.

Personal relationships and the appreciation of knowledge and experience must matter to prevent us from being overrun by giant Asians with procedure manuals that simulate them in a disposable way.