Clothing sector is one of the most promising when it comes to the economy of Eastern Poland. It consists of two subdivisions: the production of textiles and clothing & fur production. The largest concentration of garment industry is in Lubelskie, Warmińsko-Mazurskie and Podlaskie voivodships.
The development of this sector of economy in the Macroregion of Eastern Poland stems from historical factors and geographical location. The location between Western and Eastern Europe facilitated the export of textile products. Until recently, the region relied mainly on trade with its neighbors from the east, but western markets became more accessible after Poland joined the European Union. It also resulted in the improved quality of products and modernization of facilities in order to keep pace with the competition. Even now, clothes manufactured in Eastern Poland are primarily an export commodity, and only a small part of the production output enters Polish stores.
Companies operating in the textile sector can be divided into:
1. manufacturers of clothing products
2. businesses providing seaming and stitching services for global brands
3. fabric manufacturers (cotton, flax, etc.)
4. textile factories
5. importers of semi-finished products and apparel
6. shops and warehouses selling various clothing brands
7. franchise stores
8. online stores
The vast majority of companies are involved in stitching garments for the recognized Western manufacturers who outsource this service to companies from the eastern provinces which guarantee high quality. It can be said that Eastern Poland is becoming an increasingly important center in the production of women’s underwear. Polish underwear brands can be found in such countries as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Spain, Holland, Israel, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Canada, Lithuania, Germany, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, USA, Hungary, Italy and United Kingdom. The products are made from high quality materials imported from several countries around the world and the final product is manufactured in Poland.
Clothing sector in the Macroregion lies exclusively in the hands of private owners. Most companies are small or medium-sized businesses based on family traditions. One of the most recognized is the ‘Defacto’ company from Bielsk Podlaski. The company was established in 1995 and its activity centers on designing and producing clothes for girls and young women. Another important brand is ‘Planet Fashion’ from Olsztyn. Operating since 1995, it produces and sells clothes under the brand yups! and Cotton World. In the Podlaskie voivodship, one of the major companies is ‘Orion’ form Grodek. It was established at the premises of the former Knitting Plant ‘Karo’. The company provides mostly embroidery services for other big brands like Puma, Kappa, Umbro, Orsay, Americanos and Tech-Med. As far as the Lubelskie voivodship is concerned, it is worth to mention ‘Nipplex’ from Łuków. The company operates since 1994 and produces underwear. Moreover, such companies often have their own online stores.
Companies from the textile sector, aim to strengthen their market position through the Podlaski Cluster of Underwear Production Companies, which was established in 2008 and consists of several companies. Its purpose is the mutual exchange of information, joint promotion and effective market research obtained through collaboration with the regional universities and development of new manufacturing ventures. One of the undertakings is the System for Inner-Cluster Exchange of Raw Materials that enables the internal transfer of raw materials. The creation of the System for Free Production Capacity Utilization is another initiative to be taken. A universal asset of all affiliated entities is the skilled and experienced staff (seamstresses, corsetieres, technologists and designers). Total number of sets produced in by the cluster is about 3 million units per year and the export is approximately 40% of the production output.
On of the major reasons to locate production of textiles in Eastern Poland is highly skilled and inexpensive workforce. Sector-related education is highly developed – up to 32 vocational schools prepare the specialized staff for the clothing sector. The total number of such schools in Poland equals 78 and the majority is located in Eastern Poland. Employment in the textile sector is usually obtained by young or middle-aged women, which reflects social structure of the region. It is especially important that young people in Eastern Poland, particularly those working in management and marketing of textile sector are ready to embark on new challenges, often establishing new clothing companies. Beneficial for investors are Special Economic Zones in the five provinces of the Macroregion as they offer tax exemption. Companies can also receive funds from the Operational Programme: Development of Eastern Europe and other EU programs.
On the whole, the Macroregion of Eastern Poland has enormous potential for development of the textile sector, resulting mainly from a favorable location on the map of Europe and the availability of human capital.