Textile industry

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Processing of flax in the family business, Sweden, around 1920

The textile industry is one of the oldest and, in terms of number of employees and turnover, one of the most important branches of the manufacturing industry . It uses vegetable, animal, mineral or man-made fibers to manufacture textile products such as webs , fabrics , felts , nonwovens , knitted fabrics and knitted fabrics , which are processed by the clothing industry, among others. Other areas of application are tents, tarpaulins, sails, geotextiles, house textiles (curtains, drapes, upholstery fabrics, carpets, towels), medical textiles (e.g. bandages)

The textile industry is subdivided into spinning , weaving , knitting ( knitted fabrics , curtains, stocking knitting ), knitting (knitted fabrics ), and textile finishing ( pretreatment and finishing ). Knitted and crocheted finished products (knitted fabrics) are products of the clothing industry.

The textile industry is the most important preliminary stage of the clothing industry . Both branches of industry differ in the manufacturing technologies used. Today there are virtually no companies in Central Europe in which all stages of production are carried out from raw materials to the end product. Rather, companies in the textile and clothing industry work based on a division of labor and are internationalized. Today almost no clothing is produced in Germany, although some of the largest clothing manufacturers are based in Germany.

Jobs in other branches of industry depend directly and indirectly on the textile and clothing industry. It is a supplier for the pharmaceutical , vehicle and construction industries as well as for the medical and protective clothing sectors and, in turn, uses services from other branches of industry such as the mechanical engineering industry or the chemical industry .

Furthermore, depending on the type of raw materials processed, a distinction can be made between the linen industry , cotton , wool , silk , chemical fiber and bast fiber industry .


General story

Pack carrier memorial in Neuenkirchen (Steinfurt district) . These people from Holland pioneered the textile industry

The textile industry is one of the oldest branches of industry . As an extremely labor-intensive production, it contributed significantly to the influence of individual regions. For example, the power and influence of the Italian city of Lucca in the 13th century rested in large part on the city's silk industry . A number of very specialized groups belonged to the Lucca craftsmen. Among them were those who specialized in unwinding silkworm cocoons, those who twist the threads, dyers and weavers. A similarly differentiated division of labor can also be found in the processing of wool. Shepherds drew the sheep; Shearers were responsible for shearing the sheep .

Carders combed the raw wool and freed it from coarse impurities, spinners processed the wool fibers into threads and weavers finally produced cloth from the wool threads. Such made of wool fabrics had often beyond fulled be. Dyers dyed the wool threads of high quality fabrics; more often, however, the finished woven fabrics, as this method was cheaper. The dyers were often of particular importance. During the Renaissance in particular, great importance was attached to the colors of fabrics. Social rank was often indicated by particularly brightly colored clothing. Dyers went through several years of training. Often, however, the dyers were assigned homes and workplaces in the outskirts of the settlements and cities, as their craft was also considered dirty and smelly.

In the Middle Ages , a large proportion of textile products were made at home (for personal use or for a publisher) or in small textile craft businesses.

History in Germany

In Germany, textile production was widespread in rural areas in the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the modern era , especially in the German low mountain ranges , as these areas offered both favorable climatic conditions for flax cultivation and extensive meadows for sheep farming . From this a linen and wool processing ( spinning and weaving ) developed.

By Hollandgänger who acted with linen, developed as in northern and western Germany, especially in the Münsterland , the textile industry. The textile industry was present in almost all low mountain ranges, especially: Swabian Alb , Eifel , Bergisches Land , Hunsrück , Rhön , Vogelsberg , Franconian Forest , Vogtland , Ore Mountains , Black Forest and Bavarian Forest . Significant parts of the textile industry in the German low mountain range emerged as substitute industries for the declining or abandoned mining industry - such as the lace - lace and trimmings industry in the Ore Mountains and the jersey industry in the Swabian Alb.

In the 18th century, the demand for textiles rose sharply as the population grew. This is how the publishing system first developed, in which a publisher bought the raw material, had it spun and woven for a fee and then finally sold the finished product. The spinners and weavers came almost exclusively from the rural lower classes. Often the whole family had to secure their income through their work.

In the first half of the 19th century, the British textile industry became the main competitor for operations in mainland Europe. As a result of the mechanization of the weaving and spinning process emanating from the British Isles and the displacement of linen and wool by cotton , the textile industry in the low mountain ranges increasingly lost its importance, which led to impoverishment and great economic hardship , including the weaver revolt . The importance of the cotton and silk processing industry in the German-Dutch border area, however, grew. B. in the Lower Saxon town of Nordhorn . As a result, West Saxony including the Vogtland (East Thuringia, Upper Franconia, Bohemia) developed into a center of the textile industry.

In the vicinity of companies in the textile industry, supplier industries emerged in which steam engines and machines for spinning and weaving mills were produced. This also made Saxony a center of textile machine construction in Germany. In Chemnitz and the immediate vicinity alone there were 3 leading loom factories, the most important of which was Louis Schönherr . The rise of textiles to become the most important consumer good alongside food and luxury goods also brought about the emergence of other industries such as the manufacture of washing machines .

After the Second World War , the Ruhr area developed into an important location for the clothing industry in the Federal Republic of Germany, as a number of entrepreneurs from the former centers of the German clothing industry around Wroclaw and east Berlin had come to the Ruhr area among the refugees and displaced persons . They opened new companies which, due to the scarcity of raw materials, initially mainly reworked old clothes and textiles before they helped the textile and clothing industry to a brief boom. East Berlin became the center of the GDR's clothing industry . Since the beginning of the 1960s, however, the industry has been characterized by a persistent shrinking process due to increasing competition from the Far East.

From 1955 to 1980, over 400,000 jobs were lost in the textile and clothing industry in the Federal Republic of Germany . In the 1950s, many companies had to give up. This was received as an aftermath of the Korean crisis: the outbreak of war triggered panic buying of cotton in the western world; the price rose in March 1951 to 33 DM (pure washed medium-fine wool A). Six months later the price had dropped to just 13 DM; many textile processing companies were left with the cost of expensive cotton.

Further reasons for the decline of the textile industry were rising real wages. From December 29, 1958, the Deutsche Mark was fully convertible again. In the Bretton Woods system (a system of almost fixed exchange rates) the D-Mark appreciated several times; as a result, textile imports (often paid for in US dollars or in pounds sterling ) to Germany became cheaper.

Around 450,000 jobs have been lost in the German textile and clothing industry since 1980. Only 5% of all textiles sold in Germany are also made in Germany.

Production hall of the Lauffenmühle 2019

One of the oldest textile companies in Germany, the Lauffenmühle in Lauchringen on the Upper Rhine, is in full production in 2019. After several bankruptcies since 1993, the company could not find an investor to continue production even with a newly developed, recyclable fiber.

Importance of the textile industry today

The textile industry is only of secondary importance in Europe today . Many fabrics come from the People's Republic of China , India , and Bangladesh (see Textile Industry in Bangladesh ), South Korea , Taiwan . They are dyed and sewn there, which gives the textile industry a key role in the coming fashion colors and shapes. In contrast, the production of technical textiles is even growing in Germany.


The textile and clothing industry in Germany is still a traditional branch of the manufacturing industry . In around 1,300 almost exclusively medium-sized companies in the German textile and clothing industry, around 130,000 employees generate sales of around EUR 28 billion. The export quota is around 40% in the textile industry and 44% in the clothing industry (2008). The textile and clothing industry is the second largest consumer goods industry in Germany after the food industry. After China , Bangladesh , Hong Kong and Italy, Germany is the fifth largest exporter of textile and clothing industry products worldwide.

The German textile and clothing industry is run by medium-sized companies . More than half of the companies have fewer than 100 employees, and fewer than 10 companies have more than 1,000 employees. Numerous companies have been family-owned for generations. Around a third of the industry is assigned to the clothing industry, two thirds to the textile industry.

Traditional centers of the textile industry in Germany are or were in Aachen , Albstadt , Apolda , Augsburg , Kempten (Allgäu) , Aschaffenburg , Bad Hersfeld , Bielefeld , Herford , Bocholt , Chemnitz , the Lower Rhine with the centers Krefeld and Mönchengladbach , the Bergisches Land with Wuppertal and the West Saxon Erzgebirge foothills with Crimmitschau . The Ruhr area and Upper Franconia are also important . The latter, together with the city of Münchberg, houses the textile and design faculty of the Hof University of Applied Sciences . The Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, with the textile and clothing technology department in Mönchengladbach and around 1,800 students, is the most important training facility for the textile and clothing industry. Other centers are Plauen and Vogtland , Rheine , Schmallenberg and Zittau , Upper Lusatia and Wiesental and the Upper Rhine in the southern Black Forest . There is hardly any other area in Germany that is researched as intensively as in the textile sector. There are a total of 17 institutes and research facilities in Germany that are active in the textile sector.

The future prospects of the German textile and clothing industry are primarily in the area of ​​so-called technical textiles and their diverse uses and uses. The Textile Research Board sees the following main topics with future potential for the textile and clothing industry.


In Austria , the most important textile locations are in Vorarlberg and in the Waldviertel , where tape production was mainly based and which is therefore also known as the Bandlkramerlandl , and the Mühlviertel . Vorarlberg was primarily historically important as a supplier to the St. Gallen textile industry.


In Switzerland , the textile industry was particularly well represented with production facilities in Eastern Switzerland and in the Zurich Oberland . Today Winterthur, with the headquarters of the Rieter company and others, is a location where many textile machines are developed. St. Gallen is still famous today for the exclusive St. Gallen lace . The textile industry in eastern Switzerland was primarily known for its high-quality screen until the 17th century, then for cotton products. During the heyday in the 19th century, embroidery was mainly produced.


Raw materials and products

Production techniques and stages of manufacture

Basically, the following production stages and techniques are to be distinguished along the textile processing stages :

Textile raw materials can be of natural origin (such as jute , sisal fiber , cotton , sheep's wool , silk , flax fiber ) or they can be artificially produced ( polyester , polyacrylic , glass fibers ).

Technical Textiles

So-called technical textiles are a new area. Textiles for aircraft construction (carbon fiber composite technology), boat and shipbuilding (polyester composite) and the construction industry (permanent textile roofs such as the musical building Hamburg-König der Löwen and the roof of the Dresden train station).

Textiles have important functions in cars, trains, airplanes and ships in terms of comfort, safety, acoustics and fuel economy. The proportion of textiles in a car is currently around 20 kilograms and will be around 30 kilograms in 2015. In addition to the classic use of textiles in seats, textile compounds of plastic fibers with epoxy resins will increasingly replace metals, as they have comparable stiffnesses but weigh considerably less. A quarter of the new Airbus A380 is made of fiber-reinforced plastic. Forecasts assume a share of 80 percent.

Geotextiles can be used preventively in construction to prevent erosion. Large-scale canopies for sports fields, soccer stadiums, public squares and industrial areas are already increasingly being made from textile materials, as they are less weight than concrete or glass, but at the same time are more flexible, have a high degree of light permeability and are not compromised Can protect against UV exposure. The trend is towards textiles that are self-darkening when there is excessive incidence of light or that can help generate electricity through implemented solar cells . In addition, textile-reinforced concrete is already used today in the construction of cantilever bridges.

Other future projects are textiles for seats that enable active ventilation, more efficient climate control through spacer textiles and an enhancement of the ambience through textile operating and lighting surfaces. In the security area, the development is moving in the direction of self-monitoring of the security textiles in tires, adaptive textile shock absorbers and luminous textiles for emergencies.


Due to technical developments, but also due to climate change and the increasing number of natural disasters, the protection and safety of workers, aid workers and consumers are becoming increasingly important. Textiles will play an increasingly important role here. An example of this are textiles that protect against UV radiation . In protective clothing, through the integration of microsystem technology , the insulating effect of protective clothing against cold or heat will be recorded online in the future, in order to operate actuating heating or cooling systems that prevent frostbite or burns. In addition, the vital parameters of the wearer of the clothing can also be recorded. In addition, the need for special clothing that protects the wearer from chemicals or UV radiation, as well as high-visibility clothing for pedestrians and cyclists will increase.

The trend is towards clothing systems that adapt to the environmental conditions and the condition of the wearer. This is especially true for functional textiles in the sports and leisure sector, which adapt to temperature fluctuations, change the color according to the environment and regulate the moisture management on the body surface depending on the respective performance of the wearer.

In the field of home textiles , sensors in carpets will in future take over control functions for the room climate, show the way in emergencies or take over access controls.

Another future project are textiles that release nourishing and fitness-enhancing substances onto the skin. In the area of ​​work clothing and work gloves, such textiles can also have a preventive effect to avoid skin problems.

Medical section

In the future, textile-integrated monitoring systems for care will enable the long-term recording of physiological parameters and diagnosis and follow-up care after medical interventions outside of clinics and medical practices. Future textile projects are clothing with biofeedback, orthotics with sensors / actuators and fall protectors with an emergency call function, so-called smart clothes .

In addition, work is being carried out on the development of textile implants , since textiles, due to their physiological and mechanical properties, are more similar to the biological structures of the human body than metals, a great future potential is seen here. Today, vascular prostheses and hernia networks as well as meniscus implants and artificial corneas are made of textile structures. Mechanically highly resilient fiber composite materials, novel cell carriers and formers for the regeneration of organs and tissues are further future projects, some of which even enable wireless monitoring and control of the healing process by the doctor in connection with integrated sensors and intelligent drug delivery systems.

In addition, work is being carried out on the development of germ-proof barrier textiles for the operating theater and new types of textiles that enable better chances of recovery, especially in the case of chronic wound diseases.


The trend in the clothing sector is towards the integration of almost all functions of mobile electronic devices into clothing, such as telephoning, listening to music or determining position. Research is working to develop garments that can perform this function but can be washed and cleaned just like a "normal" garment.


Associations in Germany

IG Metall has represented the interests of those employed in the German textile and clothing industry since it merged with the GTB (Textile and Clothing Union) in 1998. The interests of the German textile and clothing industry are represented at the federal level by the general association textil + mode . It brings together 10 regional and 17 professional associations (overview ibid).

See also


  • Axel Föhl, Manfred Hamm: The industrial history of the textile: technology, architecture, economy . VDI, Düsseldorf 1988, ISBN 3-18-400728-6 .
  • Michael Breitenacher: Textile Industry: Structural Changes and Development Perspectives for the Eighties . Published by the Ifo Institute for Economic Research , Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 1981, ISBN 3-428-05040-1 .
  • Herbert Giese: Textile industry in North Rhine-Westphalia - the change became the program. In: Stefan Goch (Ed.): Structural change and structural policy in North Rhine-Westphalia. Munster 2004.
  • Dieter Ahlert, Gustav Dieckheuer (ed.): Jürgen Reckfort, Michael Ridder: The Münsterland textile industry. Munster 1996.
  • Michael Grömling, Jürgen Matthes: Globalization and structural change in the German textile and clothing industry. Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-602-14627-8 .
  • Friedrich-Wilhelm Döring: From the clothing industry to the clothing industry. On the history of mechanization and the organization of mass production of clothing . Diss. Hannover 1992, Frankfurt / Main 1992, ISBN 3-631-45326-4
  • Wolfgang Wüst (ed.): Industrialization of a landscape - the dream of textiles and porcelain. The Hof and Vogtland region (micro and macro - comparative regional studies 2) Erlangen 2018, ISBN 978-3-940804-09-9 .
  • Stephan H. Lindner : The crisis in the crisis: Technical innovations in the French and West German textile industry after the Second World War . In: Technikgeschichte, Vol. 62 (1995), H. 4, pp. 345-362.

Web links

Commons : Textile Industry  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Wiktionary: Textile industry  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Amy Butler Greenfield: A Perfect Red - Empire, Espionage and the Qest for the Color of Desire , HarperCollins Publisher, New York 2004, ISBN 0-06-052275-5 , pp. 5 and 6
  2. ^ Amy Butler Greenfield: A Perfect Red - Empire, Espionage and the Qest for the Color of Desire , HarperCollins Publisher, New York 2004, ISBN 0-06-052275-5 , p. 7
  3. ^ Amy Butler Greenfield: A Perfect Red - Empire, Espionage and the Qest for the Color of Desire , HarperCollins Publisher, New York 2004, ISBN 0-06-052275-5 , pp. 9 and 10
  4. ^ Amy Butler Greenfield: A Perfect Red - Empire, Espionage and the Qest for the Color of Desire , HarperCollins Publisher, New York 2004, ISBN 0-06-052275-5 , p. 11
  5. ^ Peter Braun: The Hersfeld textile industry. Past and present . Pp. 9–10, Association for hess. History and Landeskunde eV Kassel 1834 - Branch Association Bad Hersfeld, Bad Hersfeld 2003, ISBN 3-9806842-5-3
  6. table
  7. BMWI industry focus on textiles and clothing. ( Memento from July 21, 2012 in the web archive archive.today )
  8. ^ BMWi sector focus on textiles and clothing . Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  9. ^ Textile Research Board: Textile Research in Germany - Perspektiven 2015. Eschborn 2006.