Beypazari is a town about an hour or so west of Ankara. It is known, amongst other things for its carrots, 80 layered Baklava and dated houses, some which are museums. Beypazari also has a decent silver jewelery hub and markets straddling the main street. Blueberries, almonds and other goodies made their way into our shopping sacks. Also, thin scarfs, with embroidered edges for 5 lira (about €2).
Imagine my disappointment then, when I saw pretty much the same scarf yesterday, at a branch of Mavi Jeans, retailing for 25 lira. It wasn’t the price that disappointed. It was the ‘Made In China’ tag. The sales assistant, chimed in with, ‘oh but the fabric is from Turkey, they just assemble it in China’.
Summary: same scarf 5 lira 100km away versus send material overseas to be worked on in China then sell for 25 lira? Does this formula sound a little strange to you too?
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has a program called the “Innovations for Women’s Empowerment in the GAP Region Project” where garments produced by women in economically compromised areas in Southeastern Anatolia are sold exclusively in certain Turkish ateliers. It’s well and good for large scale development efforts like this, but while there is a town an hour away, making the same products for a 1/5th of the cost, do we really need to buy Turkish goods assembled in China? Mavi Jeans is one of the few Turkish brands, arguably, that has some international footing (oh and by the way, when Mavi opened on Broadway, NYC about 6 years ago, the goods there were cheaper than what they retail for in Turkey…not exactly inspiring for the aspiring Turkish middle class/consumer). So why are we not investing in our local economy?
Other ‘Med’ countries: Italy and Spain in particular have managed to to leverage their garmenting prowess into household names. Inditex is the parent company of Zara, Oshyo, Massimo Dutti and others while you have underwear extravaganza flying out of Italy in addition to the Benetton’s and so on. If Turkey is going to move beyond kebabs, tea and some Eurovision popsters, perhaps it could start by focusing on infant industries, garments being an obvious pick. Even the surplus produced for H & M and Banana Republic retail cheaper than the SALE stock at Mavi. Really, with brilliant kids graduating here, someone can (*should) do the math to end up with a healthy bottom line, healthy local investment and healthy brand image and happier economy.