Textile industry representatives have been delivered a strong message: that their future lies in exporting.
Textile New Zealand chairman Ian Barbour told the national conference in Wellington that the once heavily-protected sector that employed 50,000 people has had to adjust to the realities of free trade.
He says any future growth is going to have to come from exports, and New Zealand needs to be in the quality, luxury market.
The high-end part of the market within New Zealand is not big enough to sustain the industry, he says.
Textile New Zealand chief executive Elizabeth Tennet says the free trade agreements that have opened up the industry to competition from imports also provide the opportunity to turn the tables.
She says China has a fast-growing middle class which can afford to buy luxury New Zealand items, and the free trade agreement will allow that.