By: Mike Flanagan
A forthright take on the follies the world’s apparel buying community has to deal with, from Mike Flanagan, CEO of Clothesource – and his suggestions for putting them right.
A decade-long enthusiasm for cutting trade barriers has come to an end, with sceptical electorates now seeing more downsides than upsides. But trade lobbyists continue to chase new barrier cuts, or defend concessions that have already reached the end of the road.
Will "strong man" politicians kick-start the sluggish garment industries in India and Pakistan? asks Mike Flanagan. Evidence so far, he suggests, shows progress ranges from positive to unconvincing.
The recent strike by workers at a Chinese plant operated by Taiwanese footwear manufacturer Yue Yuen was as much to do with the status of migrant workers as the firm's sharp practice, believes Mike Flanagan. And it certainly doesn't mark the start of a Guangdong Spring uprising.
Retailers and brands are increasingly engineering their operations to make the most of changing trends affecting everything from sourcing to sales. But as Mike Flanagan points out, the model that works for one company is unlikely to work for another. Here he gives some examples.
The term 'backward linkages' - used by commentators a decade ago to describe clothing factories with spinning, weaving and dyeing facilities nearby - seems to be coming back into fashion. But far from being the key to success for garment makers, says Mike Flanagan, neither the commercial nor the environmental case stands up.
The pressure for higher wages and better working conditions looks unstoppable – and is being accompanied by a wave of new initiatives aimed at making it easier for factories to compete while making these changes. But will they work? asks Mike Flanagan.
The last two weeks of December threw up three huge issues that overturned most of the current wisdom about the garment industry. In this month's Flanarant, Mike Flanagan looks at why it is so difficult to forecast long-term trends in garment making.
Trade Facilitation is the new industry buzzword, but can anyone get excited about it? asks Mike Flanagan. They should, he says, highlighting here the potential of the WTO's Bali Package to enhance clothing supply chains. He also urges the industry to push for fast implementation, noting that garment workers would be the biggest beneficiaries.
Despite a decision eight years ago by Japanese brands and retailers to cut the amount of clothing sourced from China, garment imports from the country are on the rise. Mike Flanagan believes the reasons should resonate with buyers in the US and EU too.
A huge change has come over the clothing industry since the decision by around 120 fashion retailers and brands to sign the Bangladesh Accord or Alliance. But while buyers are becoming more relaxed about seeing factory audits published, trade associations seem to be increasingly out of touch.
The issue of productivity in garment making countries around the world refuses to go away. But as Mike Flanagan writes here, there's no point in asking where the most productive workers will be in five years' time. It's the environment they're working in, and how that compares with other locations, he explains.
Faced with an opportunity to change the course of events by getting Gap to sign up to the Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh, an online petition and social media campaign made little difference to the company's stance - or its sales. As Mike Flanagan asks: Does social media matter only if concerned with things that don't?
In the past few months, some of the world's most powerful institutions have criticised how the apparel industry operates. And while businesses are getting advice from many different directions, Mike Flanagan wonders if compliance has reached a watershed moment.
Actions need to speak louder than words when it comes to tackling working conditions in the Bangladesh garment industry. And in the wake of the collapse last week of the Rana Plaza building near Dhaka, Mike Flanagan has what he describes as "a modest proposal" for identifying and delisting all unsound factories.
The explosion in proposed trade agreements will probably stimulate major changes over the next decade in how apparel buyers organise their supply chains. But as Mike Flanagan explains, they never deliver what - or when - their lobbyists say they will.
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