How are the fashion sectors in Europe, Russia, Ukraine connected?

How are the fashion sectors in Europe, Russia, Ukraine connected?

Translated by

Nicola Mira

The invasion of Ukraine has taken the European and Russian textile and apparel industries by surprise. At a time when a large number of fashion labels and associations are signalling their support for the Ukrainian people,


Ukraine Invest, the body that promotes the Ukrainian industrial sector, has indicated there are more than 2,500 companies operating in the country’s textile, apparel and footwear sectors, some 500 of which are active in textiles. In 2019, the industry accounted for 16,000 jobs in apparel/footwear, and 16,000 in fabric manufacturing. In the same year, the two sectors generated a revenue of respectively $850 million and $330 million.

Ukraine Invest listed AdidasZaraEspritNextMexxBenettonTommy HilfigerHugo Boss

The French Fashion Institute (IFM) told that last year the EU and the UK combined exported to Ukraine €642 million worth of apparel (2.09% of total exports), and €727 million worth of textiles (3.09% of the total). Conversely, as reported by, Ukraine is a marginal supplier to the EU, into which the country exported €347 million worth of apparel (0.40% of the EU’s total apparel imports) and €166 million worth of textiles (0.45% of the total) last year.

Russian industry small but not negligible

Textile and apparel is reportedly the second-largest industrial sector in Russia after agri-food, with a revenue of approximately RUB4.0 trillion (€32.7 billion at current exchange rates, after the rouble’s collapse). According to the WTO

The Bosco Manufactory factory in Kaluga, Russia, in February 2021 – Shutterstock

In 2021, the EU exported €2.34 billion worth of apparel to Russia, equivalent to 7.60% of the European industry’s total exports. “Contrary to the image that Russia and its billionaires might suggest, [the country] does not account for a huge share of our luxury exports,” said Gildas Minvielle

But what about Russian suppliers to Europe’s textile/apparel industry? Their market share, it appears, is even lower than that of their Ukrainian counterparts. Last year, Russia exported €39 million worth of apparel to Europe (equivalent to 0.05% of European apparel imports), and €98 million worth of textiles (0.27% of the total). Figures that seemingly paint a not quite so troubling picture of the war’s economic impact on the European industry. But the fact that they translate into a potential sourcing vacuum for European textile and apparel SMEs, which hardly expected a conflict would put them under pressure, must not be overlooked.

Energy, market and consumption crisis

On March 2, Euratex

Tsum department store in Moscow largely sells foreign brands, notably European ones – Shutterstock

In addition to manufacturers, labels and their retail clients are also facing serious challenges. Beginning with those that are selling in Russia. Local brands reportedly account for only about 20% of footwear and apparel products sold in Russia. The many foreign labels selling to Russian consumers are therefore facing tough choices. A number of major labels have announced they are withdrawing from the market, out of solidarity with Ukraine. But many labels aren’t in sound enough shape to be able to jettison Russian consumers. And this despite the uncertainties surrounding the latter’s purchasing power, now that the rouble is experiencing a major collapse.

More generally, European manufacturers are hoping that the war will not slow down consumption, and therefore orders. In France, the Alliance du Commerce

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