World Footwear


World Footwear Voices: interview with Berke Içten from TASD

Mar 14, 2024 World Footwear Voices
Today we bring you a conversation with Berke Içten, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Footwear Industrialists Association of Türkiye (TASD). Watch the new episode of the World Footwear Voices

World Footwear: We are in Istanbul at the World Footwear Congress and I have with me, Berke Içten, from TASD. Thanks for being with me today. Because we are in Istanbul, my first question to you is what can you tell us about the Turkish footwear industry? How is the year so far? And what are your expectations for the end of the year? 

Berke Içten: Thank you for coming and thank you for the interview. The year 2022 was quite a good year for the Turkish footwear industry. We closed the year with 1.3 billion US dollars worth of exports. Our production capacity was 582 million pairs and out of this 582 million pairs, 65% of this quantity was exported to the foreign markets, which is equal to 380 million pairs or something like this. So, 2022, was quite a good year. But starting from the last quarter of the last year, we began seeing that the global economy was changing. We started to feel that there was a recession and a slowing down in the major markets like the United States in Europe. That is what we starting to see from the last quarter of 2022, and this year we observed that the exports are stable and the figures are flat. In terms of quantities, we are decreasing, but in terms of value we are still 1% or 2% above our last year's figures.

World Footwear: In the last three years, a lot has been happening. We had a pandemic and all the consequences of that such as the impact on the supply chain and transport’s disruption. And after that, we were impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. Now we have war in Europe. What would you say are the impacts of these in our industry? And do you think we can continue doing business the same way we used to do 3, 4 or 5 years ago?

Berke Içten: As you mentioned, the pandemic has changed a lot in many industries, not only in the footwear industry, but in many industries, as we changed the way of doing businesses. So, after the pandemic I have to say that due to the breaking down of the supply chain, especially from the Asian countries to Europe has broken down. So, Turkey has benefited from this disruption. I have to say that many organizations, many brands, many global chains started buying from Turkey, from nearby locations because companies didn't want to put all the eggs in the same basket. That is why in the last two years, we observed a big demand for the Turkish footwear industry. But as you mentioned, the war between Russia and Ukraine, and also the war situation now in the Middle East is affecting our way of doing business. We hope that, as I also mentioned in our opening speech, quoting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey: “Peace at home, peace in the world”. I hope that these wars come to a final situation and our businesses will benefit from the next coming days. But we are anticipating that until the end of 2024 we can see a better way and better days for our industry.

World Footwear: One of the topics that has been on the agenda during the Congress was sustainability. It has been on the agenda of all of us for many years. Now, my question would be, do you think this is still being driven by the final consumer or do you think that companies and industries are already totally aligned with sustainability and working on that? 

Berke Içten: I have to say that the awareness also in the Turkish industry is getting bigger and bigger every day. If we were speaking about this several years ago, nobody was having too much awareness about this situation but as they started feeling the climate change, especially the droughts, floods, and industrial wastes, people started to feel that they have to do something for the planet, and mostly because the consumers are demanding, and consumers are asking, especially now in Turkey, sustainable products or products that make sense for the planet. So, I think that sustainability is no longer a fashion. And due to international agreements like the Paris protocols or the Kyoto protocols, the industries are going to change and to lower the carbon emissions, and people started to do something also very serious and I hope this trend will continue in the future.

World Footwear: Another topic under discussion was related to technology and to innovation. How do you think these elements of technology and innovation can help the industry to be more sustainable? And how do you think this can help us to achieve a circular economy?

Berke Içten: Especially the keynote speaker of this congress, Mr Matthew Griffin, gave us a lot of vision about new technologies and how these new technologies are going to affect the footwear businesses. Especially the robotics, especially the 3D printed shoes, totally made shoes and also biodegradable materials, especially the so-called cellular leathers which are consuming less water, even zero water, which can be produced in our offices. Maybe we can produce these in the future. I don't know if it's going to happen in the short time, but we think that in the upcoming years with the help of the technology, our material development will evolve a lot which will help towards sustainability and less consuming, less giving harm to the planet would be I possible.

World Footwear: The theme of this congress was Reshaping the Future. You already mentioned a couple of things that were discussed during these two days. But in a nutshell, what do you think were the key takeaways of the discussions? What can we take from this congress that will help us to work towards the future of the footwear industry? 

Berke Içten: Well, actually, we had five sessions, including today, and we had very charming people and we were privileged we really good speakers, panelists and moderators. Especially the opening speech, Mr. Matthew Griffin's vision affected many industry people, I suppose. When I spoke with my Turkish colleagues they were very impressed with the technological developments presented, which we are going to face maybe in the near future. So, the robotics side, the robotic workers side took too much interest, especially from our industry because as you know, the footwear industry is labor labor-intensive sector. So, we all suffer from the lack of qualified workers. That's why robotics in the footwear industry is taking too much interest from our industrialists. So, from our perspective the new way of doing businesses like 3D prints and also the approach of producing insight, I mean, not carrying the products from long distances, which will also lower the transport costs, lower the carbon emission of the transportations and producing domestically. We will also create new jobs at the European level. So, we think that this future is not coming in one day, but we have to be aware of these technological developments. I think that the future of the footwear industry is going to be better than in the past.

World Footwear: Thank you very much. These were some insights from Turkey and from the latest edition of the World Footwear Congress. Continue to follow the world footwear for more updates.

This interview was conducted in Istanbul in November 2023 during the World Footwear Congress

Check some of our previous interviews HERE