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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Textiles Ecosystem – TCLF (Textiles, clothing, leather and footwear) industries

The Textiles Ecosystem, composed of the textiles, clothing, leather and footwear (TCLF) industries, is amongst the most globalised value chains. The European TCLF industries employ 2.2 million workers. 99.5% of the companies active in the ecosystem are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The textiles industry includes the transformation of natural and man-made fibres into yarns and fabrics as well as, through the CMT process (Cut, Make-up and Trim), the production of finished and functional textile articles. Textile products, defined as those products containing at least 80% by weight of textile fibres, include leisure apparel and clothing accessories, household/interior textiles as well as technical textiles.

The textiles ecosystem also contains the leather industry as well as the entire clothing and footwear sectors. Therefore, all non-textile components of animal origin, notably leather and fur, used in the production of garments and footwear are a part of the ecosystem as well. Furthermore, by including the entire leather industry, the textiles ecosystem also comprises household/interior leather products, such as furniture, as well as technical leather products, such as automotive upholstery.

The textiles ecosystem is amongst the most globalised value chains that exist today (Centre for Industrial Studies, 2021). It is mainly composed of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which represent 99.5% of the companies active in this ecosystem. Women represent more than 70% of all employees. The main EU producers of textile and clothing are concentrated in Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. Over 40% of EU apparel is produced in Italy (Eurostat Structural Business Statistics).

Top EU producers by subsector

A line chart showing which EU countries produce the most in the 7 textile subectors


Source: Based on data from Eurostat Structural Business Statistics. CSIL report on Data on the EU Textiles Ecosystem and its Competitiveness (shares of total EU production, average 2015-18).

Actions to facilitate trade

The textiles ecosystem faces strong international competition. Given the high volume of imported products, over 70% of fashion products consumed on the EU market are imported, and to level the playing field, it is important to ensure market surveillance and to eliminate market access barriers in third countries.

The EU Market Surveillance Regulation lays down a framework for the enforcement of product compliance rules both in the internal market, by market surveillance authorities, and at EU external borders, by designated authorities (usually customs authorities) which are tasked with controls on products entering the Union market.

The Commission follows the application of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and negotiates the removal of technical obstacles within the context of the WTO.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Counterfeiting is an issue concerning the competitiveness of the textiles ecosystem, especially the clothing and footwear industries. The Intellectual Property Action Plan (2020) includes many elements of importance for the ecosystem. The Commission works to fight fake goods and provide information on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

CE marking

Textile products and footwear do not have to be CE marked according to the Textile Labelling Regulation (EU) 1007/2001 or the Footwear Directive 94/11/EC respectively.

However, if textile products or other products of the textile ecosystem, including footwear, fall in scope of legislation requiring CE marking, they have to be CE marked according to the provisions of the legislation in question – this is notably the case for certain TCLF technical products such as personal protective equipment, medical devices and toys. Construction products are subject to particular rules on CE marking. Biocidal products are, on the other hand, subject to particular rules on classification, labelling and packaging.

Non-TCLF specific legislation impacting the ecosystem

This is a non-exhaustive list of current and proposed EU legislation that, although not addressing the TCLF ecosystem specifically, nevertheless impacts the sector substantially by introducing or proposing rules on the products themselves and their manufacturing processes, their manufacturing facilities, activities related to the products in question or general enforcement

Market surveillance

Customs controls

Proposed Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation

Product Safety

Liability for defective products

Consumer protection,Unfair commercial practices

Proposed Empowering Consumers Directive

Proposed Green Claims Directive

Proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

Proposed Regulation on forced labour products

Health and Safety at work

Equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres and Gas appliances

Industrial Emissions



Packaging and Packaging Waste


Study on the competitiveness of the EU textile ecosystem

A 2021 study provided a comprehensive assessment of the EU textile ecosystem by analysing its competitiveness and innovation capacity. Relevant economic data covering a number of indicators is presented and a methodology has been defined to provide for regular data updates.

Data on the EU textile ecosystem and its competitiveness (December 2021)