portugal history of weaving textiles

The rich textile heritage of Portugal is leading the way for the future of sustainable fabrics. 

Portugal has been at the forefront of textile production since the 18th century when textile factories with their whirring cotton spinning machines and large-scale looms led to textile mills replacing the flax and linen cottage industries of old. In fact, the Portuguese textile industry still accounts for 10% of the country’s exports. Nowadays, ‘Made in Portugal’ remains synonymous with quality and an excellent indication of innovation and sustainability. It’s a mark of quality and responsibility that Affina is proud to share.

portugal textile manufacturing

Creativity and Innovation in Portugal’s Textile Industry

From spinning and weaving to dyeing and finishing, Portugal has embraced every element of textile production, beginning 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 four hundred years. It’s no wonder, then, that through a combination of heritage and unrivaled craftsmanship, the country specializes in the highest quality materials. By remaining 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.

textile dying

affina fine textilesOur towels, crafted near Guimaraes – Portugal’s textile capital – embrace older methods of textile production to create intricate, textured towels inspired by nature’s patterns and custom woven with 100% organic cotton. You can find this attention to detail in our other products too. Our matelassé coverlets, are made by our second Portuguese textile-manufacturing partner, chosen for their high-quality. As the most respected jacquard weavers globally, their social and environmental certifications represent inspiring, pioneering sustainability policies and innovation in the development of new materials and processes including a new fabric made from sustainable cork.

organic cotton fieldPortuguese Textiles and the Three Pillars of Sustainability

People, Planet, Profit; three succinct words, known affectionately as the ‘Three Ps,’ capture more about sustainability (a term which is so hard to define) than any other definition. When it comes to the textile industry, these principles are of particular importance; textiles is one of the most polluting industries globally, producing a combined carbon footprint larger than either the food or transport sectorsResearch by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that the amount of water used in cotton production has reached 93 billion cubic metres of water annually.  

portugal oceanThis is the very antithesis of sustainable, but the modernization of the textile industry happening in countries like Portugal are ensuring that it survives. As eco-friendly fabrics grow in popularity, maintaining ethical production throughout the entire supply chain is complicated.

Portuguese textile companies must adhere to strict environmental policies, which are based on the EU RESET standards and ISO Environmental Standards. Reset aims to improve regional policies and promote more sustainable textile and clothing production by encouraging RESET partners to address six key areas in the textile sector:

  • Recycling in textile and waste disposal
  • Water consumption and energy saving, sustainable company organizations
  • 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

portugal bath towel weavingThese principles are intended to promote and create circular economies, prioritising regeneration over finite consumption. In Portugal, this progression has led to the availability of several eco-friendly fabrics. To ensure a truly sustainable economy, however, people are also integral. The ISO and RESET standards are buoyed by Portugal’s labor laws, which value employees and their wellbeing, including strict policies on employment security and generous parental leave rights. 

sunset on beach in portugal

Why Affina Choose to Work with Portuguese Manufacturers

“As a child, I spent my summers at the Jersey shore where I would stare out at the ocean wondering what was on the other side. In all those years I never knew that I had been staring at Portugal, and that someday I would work with the people there to bring my vision for Affina to life.” Affina Founder, Mary Ellen Putignano

As a nature-inspired wellness brand, it is important to us that our products are not only innovative, but also socially and environmentally responsible. The search for manufacturers offering innovative techniques and materials that are also sustainable-minded is never simple. Portugal’s dedication to sustainable textile development is inspiring. From OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 (an independent, international textile certification standard with ensures products are chemical free) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS certified), recognized as the world’s leading processing standard for the entire organic textiles supply chain including social criteria, to the use of low impact, fiber reactive dyes, and 100% organic cotton, Portugal’s sustainable materials and processes are undoubtedly the best suppliers for us.

portugal textilesPortugal’s textiles industry has remained world-leading through its manufacturers’ consistent position at the forefront of innovation. Where other industries have yet to adapt to the climate crisis, it has instead embraced sustainability as opportunity and progress. By reacting to the here-and-now, Portugal’s textile industry is building a new generation of sustainable fabrics and creating a rich, new heritage that will continue to pave the way for the future of sustainable textiles.

Discover the luxury of Portugal’s finest organic bath towels and linens here.

portugal textile trade

portugal tile