In Portugal, nothing is lost. Everything is transformed. Naturally.
The Portuguese Fashion Cluster is recognised for its ability to innovate and the confidence that its know-how inspires in the international market. Made up of eight sectors where the clothing, footwear, leather goods and jewellery sectors stand out, it brings together 14,657 companies, primarily family-owned SMEs, which employ more than 163,000 workers.
In 2021, the Fashion Cluster generated a turnover of more than 9.6 billion euros, representing 9.4 per cent of the Portuguese Manufacturing Industry.
With a solid commitment to Research & Development, and design, the companies in the cluster provide an integrated offer. Client-oriented, they invest in differentiation, customisation, and more flexible and higher added-value services. Through the implementation of Industry 4.0 and the digitalisation of procedures, they have managed to generate new sales and management methods, boosting their presence in e-commerce and various marketplaces.
Portuguese designers have invested in a unique style where creativity takes centre stage, bringing irreverence to design and form. This ambition of seeking new concepts, supported by a contemporaneity that looks to the past for inspiration, has received international acclaim and worldwide attention.
Portuguese fashion stands out for its elegant and daring pieces. Natural fabrics, such as linen, wool and cotton, are:
- The raw material of excellence.
- Making them sophisticated and exclusive.
- Taking risks in design to create unique and timeless pieces.
With digital innovation, fashion in Portugal has undergone significant transformations, with companies and creators adopting technology to experiment with new ways of creating, promoting creative originality. New tools such as 3D printing, digital and laser dyeing are a trend.
The future of fashion in Portugal promises to be irreverent, dynamic, sustainable, and differentiating. With the adoption of new technologies and the creation of increasingly unique and sustainable products, fashion in Portugal is increasingly asserting itself internationally, strengthening its reputation for talent and know-how.
Sustainability and social responsibility are the watchwords in this cluster, which has sought and found solutions to reduce its ecological footprint in production, promoting the use of new materials, methods, and more environmentally friendly production processes.
That's why sustainable fashion is more than just a trend in Portugal. It is a reality that is here to stay.
“Made in Portugal” is synonymous with quality, innovation, sustainability, and tradition.
Factors that differentiate the Fashion Cluster
- Tradition and quality
- Innovation and design
- International business culture
- Integrated offer
- Social, ethical and environmental responsibility
- Development of new recyclable materials
Clothing textile sector
Differentiation | Sustainability
The Portuguese clothing and accessories (clothing textile) sector is constantly reinventing itself. It is proficient at blending the modern with the traditional, the classic with bolder design, and technology with resilience, but also at caring for the natural resources the planet makes available.
It is a sector that stands out for the creativity and design of its products and for its technology in terms of materials, processes, and functionalities. The focus on the brand and its collections has been increasing and gaining international recognition, along with industrial diversification and investment in technical and functional textiles, new technologies and more sophisticated products. It shows flexibility and adaptability, allowing it to work with small series with significant added value and technological innovation.
While the solid environmental commitment is reflected in using noble, natural raw materials and sustainable production methods, Portugal is committed to innovation without losing the traditional features that identify and differentiate it. Centenary companies, most of which are family-run, guarantee the preservation of the richness and uniqueness of their origins.
One of the sector's priorities is adopting sustainable practices that support cleaner and more responsible production. The use of eco-friendly materials, such as recycled fibres, reducing waste, investing in continuous improvement programmes to increase energy efficiency and decrease water consumption, and opting for the exploitation of renewable energy sources, which help reduce the carbon footprint of textile products.
Respect for the workforce is one of the pillars of the good practices that guide the sector in Portugal; safety and good working conditions are considered crucial and are aligned with the company's operating strategy. Procedures that increasingly guarantee the future and differentiation on the international scene.
The clothing textile sector has evolved in the use of technology in its processes, contributing to companies remaining competitive in the international market, with an increasingly demanding environment where quality and naturalness are essential.
Through digitalisation, the industry has been able to increase productivity and efficiency as a result of greater process automation. Likewise, the use of automated production systems has made it possible to increase production capacity, reduce errors and improve product quality, as well as allowing more incredible speed and precision in their development.
Digitalisation also contributes to supporting sustainability practices, intervening in the control of consumption and monitoring processes to adapt to needs and reduce waste.
Portugal rigorously seeks to minimise environmental and social impact, ensuring that production practices are sustainable and responsible, focusing on the following:
- use of natural raw materials
- waste reduction by avoiding material waste, reducing the consumption of natural resources and the amount of waste generated, such as fabric remnants
- circular economy encouraging the reuse of products through the use of recycled fabrics and the reuse of materials
- promoting fair working conditions
- open communication, enabling consumers to make informed choices
The numbers confirm: this is one of the most important industries for the Portuguese economy, representing 41% of the total in the Cluster. It integrates 8,308 companies that employ more than 81,200 professionals. In 2022, exports amounted to 3.64 billion euros, with Spain, France, and Germany being the leading destinations for the sector's foreign sales.
Innovation | Tradition
Exporter par excellence, the Portuguese footwear sector has evolved with the times and leads the change, taking advantage of the best nature offers. Today, it is a dynamic sector that values the past and the traditional, but it has transformed itself into a modern industry that looks to the future. It has developed a strategy of constant international promotion and is committed to building a collective image, recognised worldwide as a symbol of quality, design and innovation.
Distinguished by its creative design and sophistication, this industry invests in innovation and development, in improving its production processes, making them more sustainable and ecological. The know-how of Portuguese companies guarantees the quality of the products on offer and earns the trust of international markets.
Innovation in footwear is an area that is constantly evolving, with many brands and manufacturers seeking to develop new materials, technologies and designs that provide greater comfort, performance and durability, such as soles with impact cushioning, anatomical insoles and breathable fabrics. It bets on a minimalist design creating elegant and straightforward footwear that can be worn on different occasions.
Footwear companies stand out for using 3D printing technology, which allows the production of customised footwear with reduced margins of error, for the benefit of sustainable raw materials such as vegan leather, recycled rubber, and natural fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles.
Portugal has a tradition in the footwear sector, being recognised as one of Europe's leading producers of quality footwear. The industry has also invested in innovation, development and sustainability.
Main factors of competitiveness of the Portuguese footwear sector:
- Growing International Reputation
- Market Diversification
- Social and Environmental Responsibility
- Sustainability and digitalisation
Portuguese footwear reached an export volume of 2,068 million euros in 2022. Portugal exports most of its production to a total of 174 countries. France, Germany, Netherlands are its main export markets. The sector comprises more than 2,400 companies, responsible for more than 40,000 jobs, concentrated in the northern and central regions.
Sophistication | Customization
Portuguese jewellery is one of the country's most traditional sectors. But also one of the most creative and innovative. Masters in the sublime techniques of this ancient art, Portuguese artisans and designers are renowned for their craftsmanship and attention to detail. Unique pieces that fuse tradition with contemporary design approaches.
Portuguese jewellery stands out for its sophistication, capacity for customisation, and versatility and creativity. The artisanal tradition of Portuguese goldsmiths is the soul of modern jewellery design. Ancient techniques are used to create unique and personalised pieces with details that reflect Portuguese culture.
Jewellery pieces are becoming increasingly sustainable. Using recycled materials and organic crystals, artists create works promoting awareness of preserving the environment. Despite these advances, Portuguese jewellery still maintains traditional beauty and sophistication. Using natural materials, such as glass and wood, is also quite common. Portuguese designers create unique and lasting jewellery for all tastes using modern and traditional materials.
The sector also focuses on cultural sustainability. Artisans and designers have sought ways to preserve Portuguese culture through jewellery by reusing old materials and creating pieces that pay tribute to Portuguese culture.
Younger creators seek to develop a more experimental and creative approach regarding design, materials and production techniques. With a more vital sustainable awareness, they explore new forms, materials and production techniques to create unique and expressive pieces. They look for unconventional materials such as plastics, rubbers or acrylics and advanced manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing and laser cutting. Guided mainly by organic themes, the designs take on bold geometric forms.
The more traditional jewellery preserves and teaches techniques, keeping history alive, focusing on the production of exclusive pieces with precious metals; the more modern jewellery, therefore more irreverent, focuses more on aesthetic value and originality than on the richness or value of the materials.
Sophistication and customisation are essential elements in differentiating the manufacture, as they allow the client to access unique and elegant pieces of jewellery that represent their personality and style.
With exports in the order of 459 million euros in 2022, the sector comprises 1,070 companies and more than 3,200 workers. With a strong export vocation, it exports to 132 markets, with Italy, the United States and Spain as its main customers.
Leather goods and tanning
Tradition | Exclusivity | Sustainability
In the hands of Portuguese craftsmen, leather gained a new life. From Portuguese, art and craftsmanship are born unique, exclusive and timeless pieces full of sophistication. Handbags, wallets, purses and belts are created to last and pass from generation to generation, just like the knowledge that gave rise to them. The leather industry transforms a natural and durable product, combining design, comfort and functionality.
Over the last decade, the sector has rejuvenated itself. It has attracted new players, invested in developing and producing articles of excellence guided by greater environmental awareness and invested in private labels.
Design, innovation, quality, diversification of business areas, service, investment in a greener industry, sustainability and digitalisation are the significant trends that mark the sector.
Tanneries, an integral part of the leatherworking chain, play a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of the sector, which is why there is a strong focus on recycling and reuse of raw materials, along with continuous improvement of production processes with cutting-edge technology, contributing to a circular economy.
The sector has been looking for new, more natural tanning techniques, using organic materials for tanning the leather, such as tree bark or other plants, and working the animal skin ethically and sustainably, following good social responsibility practices.
Investment in clean technologies, including water recycling and using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, is increasingly common. To ensure compliance with environmental rules, companies invest in certification. All these concerns help to ensure the sustainability of leather production, contributing to a greener future in the fashion industry and differentiation factors that consolidate the sector in international markets.
The combination of sustainability and tradition is one of the ways this sector has found to protect the environment and culture while maintaining the exclusivity of the products.
The sector is currently made up of more than 350 companies that generate 5,100 jobs, with exports totalling close to 400 million euros. The main export markets are Spain, France, Italy and Turkey.
The Cluster in numbers
The Fashion Cluster represents around 22% of the Portuguese manufacturing industry.
The sectors with the most significant weight in the total of the industry are:
- Clothing and Accessories - 41%
- Non-made-up textiles - 29%
- Footwear and Components - 23%
- Turnover: 9.6 MM€ (2021)
- Exports: 7.687 M€ (2022)
- No. of companies: 14,657
- No. of employees: 163,562
- Share in national exports: 10%
- Total markets: 207
- Main markets: Spain, France and Germany represent around 51% of the total volume of exports
Source: National Statistics Institute - INE