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.
- 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 Regulation was adopted to ensure that citizens, businesses, and public authorities can readily identify their rights and obligations.
The main elements* are:
- general obligation to state the full fibre composition of textile products
- minimum technical requirements for applications for a new fibre name
- the requirement to indicate the presence of non-textile parts of animal origin
- exemption applicable to customised products made by self-employed tailors
- empowerment of the European Commission to adopt delegated acts amending the technical Annexes of the Regulation, in line with Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
- reporting on the implementation, review clause, and study on hazardous substances to be undertaken by the Commission
*This explanatory text is not legally binding and does not express the official position of the European Commission. Please see our FAQ (73 kB).
According to the Regulation, textile products have to be labelled or marked whenever they are available on the market.
The indication of the fibre composition of a product is mandatory at all stages of the industrial processing and commercial distribution of that product.
All products containing at least 80% by weight of textile fibres, including raw, semi-worked, worked, semi-manufactured, semi-made, and made-up products are covered by the Regulation.
The Regulation does not cover size, country of origin, or wash/care labelling.
Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011 on fibre names and related marking of the fibre composition of textile products was adopted on 27 September 2011 and became applicable on 8 May 2012.
Council Regulation (EU) No 517/2013 of 13 May 2013 adapting certain regulations and decisions in the fields of free movement of goods, freedom of movement for persons, company law, competition policy, agriculture, food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, transport policy, energy, taxation, statistics, trans-European networks, judiciary and fundamental rights, justice, freedom and security, environment, customs union, external relations, foreign, security and defence policy and institutions, by reason of the accession of the Republic of Croatia - see p. 1-71 of the Official Journal, L 158, 10 June 2013
The Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts in accordance with article 22 of the Regulation concerning
- the adoption of technical criteria and procedural rules for the application of article 20(5)
- amendments to annexes II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII and IX, in order to take account of technical progress
- amendments to annex I, in order to include new textile fibre names in the list set out in that annex
Up to now, the Commission adopted 2 Delegated Regulations.
Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 286/2012 of 27 January 2012 included the new textile fibre name ‘polypropylene/polyamide bicomponent’ in annex I and amended annexes VIII and IX to take account of technical progress - see p. 1-6 of the Official Journal, L 95, 31 March 2012.
Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/122 of 20 October 2017 included the new textile fibre name ‘polyacrylate’ in annex I and amended annexes II, VI, VIII and IX to take account of technical progress – see p. 3-7 of the Official Journal, L 22, 26 January 2018.
The proper identification and quantification of polyacrylate in mixtures with other fibres can be challenging. To ease proper identification of the polyacrylate fibre, a technical analysis was performed for the verification and validation of suitable methods to identify and quantify polyacrylate in mixtures with other fibres.
In this study, polyacrylate's chemical composition was examined, its properties tested, and its characteristics and parameters defined and validated. The analytics were part of commissioned tasks to establish a new generic name for polyacrylate.
Adding a new fibre name requires that the relevant Annexes of Regulation (EU) No. 1007/2011 are amended. The European Commission will only initiate this process if the amendment appears inevitable due to the need to improve consumer information and/or the proper functioning of the European single market.
Applications may be submitted by manufacturers or a person on their behalf. Applications must include a technical file which fulfils the requirements indicated in Annex II of the Regulation.
Applications from industry
Applicants from companies or industry federations should be aware that Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011 on textile names establishes generic fibre names. A new name is justified only if the fibre cannot be classified into any of the existing groups. Promotion via textile labels of company products as a ‘quasi-marketing measure’ is not allowed under this Regulation.
A written application for an amendment of Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011, together with the technical file, can be sent to:
Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs
Unit G1 ‘Tourism, Textiles’
Email: GROW-G1ec [dot] europa [dot] eu (GROW-G1[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu)
Companies are advised to contact the relevant European industry federation before launching an application. While not formally required, it is helpful if the application is supported by the industry. It is also helpful if a request is supported by consumer organisations.
The Regulation does not foresee that a temporary fibre name will be granted during the transition period, pending the assessment of the fibre application. According to Article 9.5 of the Regulation, fibres not yet listed in Annex I may, however, be designated by the term ‘other fibres’.
Technical file content
The information required to apply for an amendment to Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011 must be in line with the minimum requirements established in Annex II to the Regulation.
Assessment criteria and technical work
Each application and its technical file will be evaluated against the following criteria
- the fibre is radically different from other fibres by chemical composition and/or by fibre properties
- the fibre is detectable and distinguishable from other fibres by standardised test methods
- the fibre is commercially available from at least two independent producers
- a new generic name is justified as the fibre cannot be classified into an existing generic name
When the applicant proposes one or more methods (applicable to mixtures of the new fibre with other fibres), which are not listed in Annex VIII of the Regulation, validation is required of the proposed new identification and quantification method(s). The purpose is to assess the quality and coherence of results obtained in different laboratories with the same test method(s).
Samples of the fibre (yarns and/or fabrics) provided by the applicant will undergo a technical analysis of the proposed fibre parameters, such as agreed allowance, correction factors for loss in mass (to be applied for each method) etc. The purpose is to assess whether the fibre is identifiable and distinguishable from other already existing fibres.
As far back as the 1970s, the need to align legislation on textile names in EU countries was recognised by the European Commission.
Differences in textile fibre names across EU countries created a technical barrier to trade in the European single market and hindered consumer interests.
In 1971, a directive was adopted to harmonise the names of textile products and their labelling on the items themselves and in marketing documents.
This directive was consolidated into the so-called Textile Directives: 2008/121/EC on textile names, 96/73/EC on certain methods for the quantitative analysis of binary textile fibre mixtures, and 73/44/EEC on the quantitative analysis of ternary fibre mixtures.
In 2006, the Commission decided to revise legislation on textile names again to introduce more flexibility to keep up with the technological developments expected in the industry. In 2009, the Commission adopted a proposal for a new regulation on textile names that would replace the Textile Directives.
The Textile Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011 on textile fibre names and related labelling and marking of the fibre composition of textile products was adopted in September 2011 and became applicable on 8 May 2012. It repealed and replaced the previous Textile Directives.
The expert group on textile names and labelling discusses and exchanges information on the application of Regulation (EU) N° 1007/2011 on textile fibre names and related labelling and marking of the fibre composition of textile products.
The members of the group also provide their expertise and advice on other matters related to fibre names and labelling. Find more information on the Commission Expert Group on Textile Names and Labelling here.
Study of the need and options for the harmonisation of the labelling of textile and clothing products
The study examines possible new labelling requirements on the characteristics of textile products at EU level. Potential areas analysed include:
- origin labelling;
- harmonised care and size labelling;
- indication of allergenic substances;
- electronic labelling and other new technologies.
The study was commissioned to preparing a report as required by Article 24 of the Textile Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011).
Study of the need and options for the harmonisation of the labelling of textile and clothing products (January 2013)
Study on the link between Allergic Reactions and Chemicals in textile products
The study examines the casual link between allergies and chemical substances in finished textile products. It was commissioned as required by Article 25 of the Textile Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011).
Study on the link between Allergic Reactions and Chemicals in textile products (January 2013)
Report regarding possible new labelling requirements of textile products and on a study on allergenic substances in textile products
The Report was adopted on the basis of Articles 24 and 25 of the Textile Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011). Article 24 requires the Commission to submit a report regarding possible new labelling requirements on the characteristics of textile products to be introduced at EU level.
Article 25 requires the Commission to evaluate whether there is a causal link between allergic reactions and chemical substances or mixtures used in textile products.
Commission Report regarding possible new labelling requirements and on a study on allergenic substances of textile products
Report on the application of the Textile Regulation
The Report on the application of Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011 was adopted by the Commission on 29 October 2014 on the basis of Article 23 of this Regulation. The report gives an overview of the application of the Textile Regulation between 8 May 2012 and the end of June 2014.
Commission Report on the application of the Textile Regulation
Report on the exercise of the power to adopt delegated acts by the Commission
The Report was adopted by the Commission on 17 December 2015 on the basis of Article 22 of the Textile Regulation. Pursuant to this provision, the Commission was required to draw up a report in respect of the delegation of power not later than nine months before the end of the five-year period, thus before 7 February 2016.
Commission Report on the exercise of the power to adopt delegated acts
The EU Ecolabel for textile products
Green public procurement for textile products and services
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
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 standardsrelating 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).
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
A 2021 study depicted the existing textile recycling technologies industrially applied or at research stage. It also provided a first analysis of their economic and environmental aspects and it investigated the different types of support to ensure their industrial uptake. Finally, it also provided an analysis on relevant policy initiatives in order to scale them up in the EU.
Study on the technical, regulatory, economic and environmental effectiveness of textile fibres recycling (December, 2021)
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