old weaving loom - closeup - photo

Portugal’s rich textile heritage

From the 18th century, Portugal has been at the forefront of textile production where textile factories with their humming cotton spinning machines and clacking large-scale looms led inevitably to textile mills replacing the traditional flax and linen cottage industries.

Influenced by the business side of colonialism, Portugal imported the necessary machinery from South America, which enabled them to fit out dozens of factories and set their economy in motion. You will find the industry is still very much alive today, in the beautiful northern city of Guimarães.

Portuguese cotton

It is Portuguese cotton that has been a front runner since the 1700s, and the Portuguese cotton industry has continued to grow with unrivalled craftsmanship in the production of bed linens and bedding. The factories produce a fantastic range of cotton percales and the softer, silkier, cotton sateen. Cotton products including towels are unrivalled in design and durability in this country.

And there are many other home products, including the beautiful woven fabrics, such as the famous Portuguese Matelassé, which is woven so as to have a raised surface with a quilted appearance, used for bedspreads and soft furnishings and still used worldwide.

Porto, Portugal - December 30, 2016: Side view of Carmo church in Porto. Built in the 18th century the church is an amazing example of the baroque architecture.

Ecological and sustainable

The ethical mind-set for sustainability continues to be the driving force of the European textile industry. The world has to face change, and the challenges it brings, and must find innovative solutions for the future.

The Portuguese textile industry and its factories play an important role in shaping the fashion industry. In this sense, Portugal is pushing to give more weight to the sustainability of its collections in the future.

A definition of sustainability is not only linked to an ecological and ethical approach, factors such as increased functionality also play an important role in sustainability.

Portugal’s textile industry is committed to strong innovation, design and the creation of new materials. Sustainability is highlighted as a central and priority objective in the industry, and manifests by way of the use of renewable energies, reuse and waste management, as well as applied technological processes which respect the environment.

Characteristics of Portuguese production:

  • Quality raw material
  • Better manufacturing
  • Scrupulously observed delivery times
  • Investment in sustainability
  • Competitive pricing
  • Technology

Portugal is a country that is increasingly focusing on a circular economy, with the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Keywords such as dynamic, fast, uncertain, disruptive or even transformative characterise today’s textile industry, not only in Portugal but also worldwide.

industrial stainless steel metal cotton weaving machines , machine weaving cotton for the fashion and textiles industry. Yarn weave traditional textile manufacturing mass production

People, Planet, Profit, three succinct words, known as the ‘Three Ps’, capture more about the ethics and level of importance of sustainability (a term which is so hard to define) than any other definition. These principles are of particular importance in the Portuguese textile industry.

To ensure sustainable textile and clothing production, there are six key areas the textile sector focus on:

  • Recycling in textile and waste disposal
  • Water consumption and energy saving, sustainable company organisations
  • New sustainable chemistry, including reduction of chemical substances
  • Smart textiles and new ways of production
  • Eco-creativity, natural fibres, short value chains
  • New materials and new applications


From spinning and weaving to dyeing and finishing, Portugal has embraced every element of textile production, starting with the cotton industry in the late 1700s through to the development of award-winning sustainable, organic fabrics. Where many other countries closed down textile production, Portugal has continued to develop, grow, and champion its traditional textile industry for the past 400 years.

Portugal is famous for its Blue Dye, a colour seen in textiles and tiles. It is extracted from the fruits of the Chrozophora tinctoria plant, native in Portugal, and its blue/purple hue was used during Antiquity and the Middle-Ages, mainly in the illuminations of precious manuscripts.

Portugal has remained at the forefront of innovation through a number of technological research and development institutes, including Citeve and Centi. Portugal’s development of innovative sustainable practices and processes highlights the creativity and imagination that runs through their textile industry.

Centi and Citeve developed the application of natural dyes in textiles and colour fastness tests. The development has seen eco-efficient processes with easy industrial implementation, and those textiles dyed with natural compounds have shown good colour fastness after exposure to sunlight and washing.

With this innovative and technically advanced solution, it will be possible for textile companies to respond to today’s challenges, styles and consumption patterns, whilst focussing on healthier and eco-friendly products.

The clothing and textile industry is one of the most important to the Portuguese economy. It makes up 15% of the total export and is one of the largest exporters in Europe.

Now, more than ever, the ‘Made in Portugal’ tag remains synonymous with quality and an excellent indication of innovation and sustainability.

By Karen Love
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Stores and collection points:


Torre Parque Industrial Lj 1
8600-256 Odiáxere
Algarve, Portugal
(+351) 282 697 791
[email protected]


Rua Parque Empresarial, 3
8400-431 Lagoa
Algarve, Portugal
(+351) 282 071 674
[email protected]

Opening times: Mon-Sat: 10am to 6pm