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Employees at a Tunisian clothing factory in Sfax, 260 kilometres south of Tunis, create underwear for lingerie chain La Perla. A string of countries around the fringes of western Europe are becoming new centres of clothing manufacture as China's factories and labourers become more expensive.

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La Perla, which makes fine lace underwear, moved production of its mass-market Studio La Perla label to Turkey and Tunisia from China late last year, and has also moved sourcing of its nightwear from China to Portugal.

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The Tunisian factory, in a industrial zone near the city of Sfax, employs 700 workers to make lingerie and swimwear for La Perla and other brands that formerly were made in China, part of a growing trend. More than a quarter of all French lingerie is now made in Tunisia and Morocco.

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The factory manager, Michel Demurs, worries about the cost of raw material and the impact of last year’s Arab Spring, which he says has discouraged some clients. Still, the trend away from China's factories is likely to continue, with production costs in China rising by 20 to 30 per cent over the past two years.

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A Tunisian factory employee works on a shipment for La Perla. Beijing's stated goal is to focus on retaining only high value-added manufacturing industries.

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For many European manufacturers, producing their clothing closer to home increases quality, allows for faster shipping and enables more control over order sizes and other factors of production.

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