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Economy

Made In Marseille, Knit In North Africa: Textile Industry Unites Mediterranean

Alongside the changes emerging from the Arab spring, the fashion world in France’s southeast corner is shifting its focus away from Asia to its Mediterranean neighbors in North Africa, and establishing a textile industry network that is close at hand.

La Canebière by FaceMePLS
La Canebière by FaceMePLS
Paul Molga

MARSEILLE - Shorter production cycles, more efficient quality control...and yes, the beauty of a shared Mediterranean culture. Since the Arab spring, Marseille's textile industry has been rediscovering the virtues of proximity. Created in the French city's design studios, fashion is now being assembled just across the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

"Creativity in fashion design is benefiting greatly from these exchanges," says Maryline Bellieud-Vigouroux, an advisor to the president of the House of Mediterranean Fashion Professions (MMMM), which she created 18 years ago. At the forefront of this revival is the "Made in Marseille" marque. About 70 new brands were born from this fiery collaboration, including Fuego, Eva Kayan, Les Petites Bombes, Sessun, La Companie des Petits, Le Marseillais, and Tcheka.

In total, the textile and clothing industry represents 16% of the industrial activity in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region. It is home to 11,000 companies giving rise to 26,800 jobs, according to figures released by the Marseille Chamber of Commerce. The Department of the Bouches-du-Rhone is the industry's leader with 4.3 billion euros in sales and a total of 34% of the region's textile companies creating up to 40% of the jobs, of which 6,600 are based in Marseille alone.

A bridge between two shores

By building a bridge between the two sides of the Mediterranean, Bellieud-Vigouroux wants to "keep fashion's sacred fire alive." For the second straight year, she's hosting an original initiative: a contest among Mediterranean countries, where eight designers are selected to attend training in Marseille under the supervision of important figures from the world of high fashion, prêt-a-porter and the textile industry. Last year, 70 personalities, including representatives from Chanel, Maje, Sandro and Gerard Darel, offered their expertise to teach these up-and-coming designers how to create and develop their brands.

"It's a boost to help young designers develop their businesses without falling into the most pernicious traps of this industry," says high-end designer Jocelyne Imbert who oversees the training program. In order to finish the program, young designers will have to present in November an original creation inspired by Moroccan, Spanish, Lebanese, Turkish, Portuguese, Tunisian, Israeli and French cultures. The MMMM is also fighting to make the Mediterranean textile industry something more than just a subcontractor.

Following Marseille's lead, a new school – The Casa Moda Academy – recently opened in Casablanca to promote fashion's avant-garde. "We work fast and well which allows us to compete with China," says Said Benabdeljalil of the Moroccan textile and clothing industry association. The industry employs 250,000 people in Morocco, making it the country's second biggest economic force.

Read original article in French here

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