The Timor region of Eastern Europe is a small destination famous for its clothing. Most European tourists visiting the region are amazed by the variety of clothing available in the Timor area. However, the region also has an equally diverse history and as such a plethora of local and regional artwork, architecture and pottery. Clothing in Timor is unique in that there is no single style or type of clothing. Rather, the clothing is classified into different groups to reflect the different tribes, families, age and social status. Clothing can be found in the Timor region for men, women and children.
The Timor Leste traditional clothing is mainly composed of sarongs, tent garments, jute and other colorful woven fabric, known as “teton”. It is often worn during celebrations such as dances and gatherings, weddings and funerals. Some of the most common items of clothing among the Timor Leste population include dresses, long gowns, colorful knitted sweaters, brightly embroidered tunics, sandals and other forms of footwear. A typical Timor garment would include brightly colored clothing made of wool, with cut-off sleeves, decorated with beads and laces.
Textile production in Timor began in the late 19th century when Portuguese workers returned from India to establish textile mills. These mills soon became a hub for the Timor’s export market and Timor’s textiles soon reached every region of the world. These textiles were not only used for clothing but were also fashionable and embellished for decoration. During the early years of the trade, the Timorese developed a taste for elaborate embroidery work that came to be known as “teton”.
Today, Timor is a developing country that relies on exports to meet its fiscal needs. In the past thirty years, however, Timor’s economy has become more diversified. In addition to building up its textile manufacturing base, the country has also become a significant player in the global market. The growth of the east Timor Textiles (ETT) industry has helped Timor diversify itself from traditional industries such as agricultural produce to those sectors that are highly technical. Timor’s success in the agricultural sector has led to a growth in the manufacturing of clothing, particularly of high fashion.
East Timor is the world’s leading exporter of wool and Timor’s clothing exports account for more than 90% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Timor’s clothing industry continues to grow at a rapid pace and this has lead to the rise of numerous clothing manufacturing companies in Timor. Some of these companies are emerging on the international textile market. As a result of the growth of the east Timor Textile Company, Timor’s clothing exports have grown every year and now account for almost a fifth of the country’s GDP.
Another aspect of Timor’s textile industry that has benefitted from globalization is the fact that many based clothing manufacturers have chosen to expand into the international textile market. These companies offer a wide range of products, including women’s, childrens, men and children’s wear, accessories, footwear, casual wear, dress and work wear. Many based textile companies now export their products to countries such as the United States of America, China, India and France.
Timor-Leste is a predominantly rural economy and a major producer of rubber and timber. Timor-Leste has traditionally focused its efforts on the production of cashmere, raw silk and Manila rags. However, with Timor-Leste’s increasing wealth, the focus on cashmere and other rural textile products is now shifting towards apparel and readymade products. Timor-Leste has traditionally been renowned for its cotton and wool and Timor-Leste based clothing industries continue to benefit from the export of these products.
This growing global textile trade allows textile manufacturers in Timor to enjoy an increased access to markets beyond their home country. Timor-Leste is a small island nation situated east of Australia, occupying a strategic position between Australia and West Timor. The small population (less than 5 million people) means that Timor’s export sector has limited scope to develop into another Timor Leste based centre for textile manufacturing, while the island remains a viable location for producing Timor-Leste rags. Timor-Leste’s potential as a platform for other producers of textile articles remains highly relevant in the global context, where the volume of trade in apparel and readymade clothing is expected to increase substantially in the next few years.