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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Textiles, leather and fur industries

This page details three industrial subsectors of the TCLF ecosystem – the textiles, leather and fur industries.There is also a dedicated page for the product subsector Footwear.

The EU textiles industry

The textiles industry covers a range of activities, in a long and global supply chain, starting from the transformation of fibres into yarns and fabrics and then into final products.

The definition of textile fibres is principally based on morphology rather than composition – a textile fibre is defined as:

(i) a unit of matter characterised by its flexibility, fineness and high ratio of length to maximum transverse dimension, which render it suitable for textile applications;

(ii) a flexible strip or tube, of which the apparent width does not exceed 5 mm, including strips cut from wider strips or films, produced from the substances used for the manufacture of the fibres listed in Table 2 of Annex I of the Textile Labelling Regulation and suitable for textile applications.

There are

  • natural fibres (be they of vegetable origin, such as cotton or flax/linen, or animal origin, such as wool)


  • man-made fibres (be they natural polymers from the various kingdoms of life, such as lyocell, modal and viscose from the plantae/vegetable kingdom, synthetic polymers fossil-based or bio-based, such as polyester, or inorganic fibres, such as glass and metal fibres)

Textile fibres, yarns and fabrics, are most often intermediate textile products, used and incorporated in the production of finished and functional textile articles through the CMT process (Cut, Make-up and Trim).

Textile products, most commonly defined as those products containing at least 80% by weight of textile fibres, include leisure apparel and clothing accessories, household/interior textiles (such as towels, tablecloths, curtains, rugs, bedlinen, pillows, duvets, and upholstery textiles) as well as technical textiles.

The EU textiles industry produces value added and creates opportunities for investments and innovation. Competitiveness challenges are linked to an environmental footprint. A key challenge for the green transformation is boosting investments to accelerate sustainability and circularity.

As a labour intensive sector undergoing great technological advances, economic operators and notably SMEs in the textiles sector are currently held back by a lack of skilled employees. Recent skills trends and occupational profile developments have led to the baseline assumption of a gradual shift from lower towards medium and higher-skilled employees.

Competitiveness strengths of the EU textile industry

  • high quality of production, especially in technical textile and high-end fashion 
  • rapid integration of new and innovative materials 
  • design, creativity, strong brand names, especially in the high-end industries 
  • strong leadership in high-value-added segments where drivers of competitiveness are difficult to replicate
  • specialised firms taking advantage of new tech and consumer trends

Competitiveness challenges of the EU textile industry

  • increased competition from emerging players, as well as companies in other sectors (e.g. e-commerce)
  • low profit margins, especially for SMEs 
  • sustainability in the value chain, including a big environmental footprint (high cost of compliance with environmental and chemical legislation) 
  • fierce international competition, also due to factors such as lower environmental and social standards in third countries 
  • skills gaps
  • high labour costs
  • ageing workforce
  • innovative capacities concentrated in a few EU countries
  • high dependence on imported goods

Economic importance of the industry

The textile sector is an important part of the European manufacturing industry, playing a crucial role in the economy and social well-being in many regions of Europe. According to data from 2021, 1.3 million people were employed in the textiles industry, while the overall turnover amounted to €147 billion.

The Textile Labelling Regulation (EU) 1007/2011

The EU has aligned laws in all EU countries with Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011 on fibre names and related labelling and marking of the fibre composition of textile products, commonly referred to as the Textile Labelling Regulation. This was done to protect consumer interests and eliminate potential obstacles to the proper functioning of the internal market.

There are plans for the Textile Labelling Regulation to undergo a fundamental update and revision.

The EU Ecolabel for textile products

Please see this document on the ecological criteria of the EU Ecolabel for textile products, and the Ecolabel website.

Green public procurement for textile products and services

Please view these pages on green public procurement (GPP) and GPP criteria and requirements.

The EU leather industry

The EU is a major actor of the global leather market. Its leather industry is made up of diverse products and industrial processes. The European Commission works to promote the innovation and competitiveness of firms in the field, while protecting consumer health and the environment.

Characteristics of the EU leather industry

The leather tanning industry uses hides and skins (by-products from the meat and dairy industry) that would otherwise be disposed of by being sent to landfills or incinerated. Leather is the tanning sector's fundamental output. It is an intermediate industrial product with applications in downstream sectors of the consumer goods industry.

The most important outlets for EU tanners' production are

  • footwear – 41%
  • furniture – 17%
  • the automotive industry – 13%
  • leather goods/accessories – 19%
  • clothes – 8%
  • other – 2%

The EU maintains its position as a leading world exporter of semi-processed leather. European tanners have become the preferred suppliers for high-end luxury brands in fashion, interior design and the automotive sector worldwide, setting the world standards for quality and brand value. 

The EU is the source of some of the highest-value calfskins in terms of leather and raw material. Tanneries in the European Union are typically family-owned SMEs. Regional concentration is strong, and the industry often plays a key role in the local economy as the predominant creator of wealth and employment.

Competitiveness of the EU leather industry

The leather tanning industry is a global industry, and EU tanners are highly dependent on access to raw materials and export markets. The EU tanning industry is the world's largest supplier of leather in the international marketplace. 

European tanners face two types of trade barriers

EU rules on leather

EU rules on animal by-products

European standards on leather

European standards relating to leather are developed through the technical body CEN TC 289 of the European Committee for Standardization. There are currently 143 standards with relevance to leather products. These standards cover a number of fields. One standard provides, for example, the guidelines for the test methods and recommended values for upholstery leather for furniture and another standard specifies a method using microscopy to identify leather and distinguish it from other materials.

Study on the feasibility of a leather labelling system at European level

This study analyses a range of labelling harmonization possibilities for leather such as social labelling, environmental labelling, animal species and leather authenticity. It gives an overview of the potential impact of different policies and recommends further assessment in the area of leather authenticity. It also enables an evaluation of whether a further cost-benefit analysis of the various potential labels is necessary.

Study on the feasibility of a leather labelling system at European level (2 MB)

  • those hindering the export of finished leather
  • those restricting access to raw materials, a typical barrier to the leather tanning sector and considered the most harmful since it significantly impacts the competitiveness of European tanners

Since access to European raw materials has become more difficult (because beef production and the slaughter rate have dropped in recent years), access to raw materials outside the European Union is crucial. Many non-EU countries maintain export bans and restrictions for raw hides and skins.

The EU fur industry

The EU is a key actor of the global fur industry.

The fur industry is comprised of a wide array of economic operators, including farmers, trappers, dressers, manufacturers, brokers, auction houses, retailers and designers.

The European Commission works to promote the innovation and competitiveness of firms in the field, while promoting the animal welfare of both farm and wild animals and consumer protection.

EU rules on fur

EU projects on SME competitiveness

The EU is committed to supporting the competitiveness of SMEs in the Textile, Clothing, Leather and Footwear sectors.

Learn more about our European light industries innovation and technology (ELIIT) project.

Textiles and clothing

Given that textile products are a major part of the clothing sector, standards, studies and statistical data often address the Textiles and Clothing sectors as one, thus encompassing the whole textiles sector (textile clothing and other textile products) and the whole clothing sector, thereby comprising garments made of textiles as well as garments made of any other products (most notably leather and fur).

European standards on textiles and clothing

European standards relating to textiles and clothing are developed through technical body CEN/TC 248 of the European Committee for Standardisation. The standards relate notably to the determination of size test methods, terminology, minimum performance requirements for certain types of textile products, and environmental aspects of textile products. For example, European standard EN 14682 aims to ensure that children’s clothes are safe with regards to cords and drawstrings.

Study on the in-depth assessment of the situation of the T&C sector in the EU and prospects

A 2012 study provided an in-depth assessment of the situation of the textile and clothing sector in Europe. The study draws on the key findings of six independent reports and presents the way forward and recommendations for the textile and clothing industry.

Study on the in-depth assessment of the situation of the T&C sector in the EU and prospects (December 2012).

International trade

In 2022, the EU exported EUR67 billion of textile and clothing and imported EUR137 billion. The biggest exporters of textile and clothing to the EU in 2022 were China, Bangladesh and Turkey.

The leading role of the EU textile and clothing sector is attributed to innovation, design, creativity and strong brand names, especially in the high-end industries. The textiles and clothing industry is global, with constantly increasing trade flows. Free Trade Agreements are considered as an effective tool to support operators in internationalisation but also to promote the environmental and social aspects of the ecosystem with trading partners while maintaining open and undistorted trade. In particular, the Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter in free trade agreements can help enforce environmental and social standards.

EU rules of origin in the textile sector reflect the numerous steps in production processes from fibres to yarns, fabrics and confectioned products. The rules are descriptive and based on processes. The processes aim to ensure the value-added of operations and synergies with our trading partners. As a basic principle, the EU applies the ‘double transformation rule’. ROSA (Rules of Origin Self-Assessment) is a one-stop-shop for rules of origin for your product in most EU trade agreements.

Planned and proposed legislation

Review of the current textile labelling regulation (Regulation (EU) 1007/2011)

The Commission is planning to revise the EU rules on textile labelling to introduce comprehensive physical and digital labelling of textiles and related products of the ecosystem, notably leather and fur apparel and clothing accessories as well as leather and fur household/interior products.

The revision aims to address the shortcomings of the current rules and divergent labelling requirements across EU countries, ensuring accurate, intelligible and comparable information to consumers, notably on environmentally relevant aspects, while reducing compliance costs and ensuring regulatory clarity and consistency.

Preparatory Study on Textile Products in view of a potential Ecodesign Delegated Act for Textiles

Proposed EU rules on apparel waste, clothing accessories waste, footwear waste and household/interior textiles waste

Leisure apparel and clothing accessories, household/interior textile, leather and fur products

For more information on leisure apparel, clothing accessories, household/interior textile, leather and fur products, please see our dedicated page.

Technical TCLF products

More information on technical TCLF products