2012: A year in review - The unusual and unpredictable
From toxic T-shirts to virtual fitting rooms, defamatory garments and compostable shoes, the clothing and textiles industry in 2012 was anything but dull.
2012 started off with workers at Mexican textile firm Hilaturas Tejidos y Acabados Xtra ending a four-year strike after agreeing on a new wage deal with its owners - proving that sticking to your guns long enough can actually pay off. The manufacturer even agreed to compensate the firm's 429 workers for four years of unpaid work.
But it has been concerns about consumers potentially getting sick because of the clothing they wear that has proved to be a common and recurring headline grabber in 2012.
European consumer watchdog BEUC in June warned football fans that their health could be at risk, after tests showed certain country team shirts contained harmful and toxic substances such as lead - with the Poland strip so contaminated with a toxic organotin compound (used to prevent sweat odour) it should be "banned outright" from shops.
In August, a US report from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) claimed many back-to-school items, including children's boots and raincoats, also contained high levels of phthalates, which have been linked to adverse health effects like birth defects, asthma, diabetes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
And in November, 20 leading fashion brands including Zara, China's Metersbonwe, Levi's, Mango, Calvin Klein and Marks & Spencer were accused by Greenpeace International of selling clothing contaminated with chemicals with hormone-disrupting or cancer-causing properties when released into the environment.
But the eco-publicity was not all bad in 2012. Brands have this year been pushing lines as being good for human health and the environment.
In August, Puma announced it would be launching a range of compostable and recyclable shoes and clothing, for instance, with plans to offer completely biodegradable products by 2013. Retailing giant Marks & Spencer also unveiled in June, what it is calling the "world's most sustainable suit", made from organic wool with a lining from recycled plastic bottles.
Also, some health-oriented products have been developed with value-added features coming from re-engineering rather than recyclability, with the markets for heated garments, and clothing that offers protection against insects growing this year. German company W.Zimmerman, for example, developed a unique textile heating system called Novonic Heat, which can be integrated into any type of clothing to provide active heat, while US-based Burlington launched No Fly Zone insect repellent fabric technology.
Lawsuits and controversy
Lawsuits were aplenty in 2012 for clothing chain Urban Outfitters. The year started with the Navajo Native American tribe filing a trademark violation lawsuit against the retailer, claiming the company had been selling more than 20 products under the ‘Navajo' or ‘Navaho' names since 2009. In April, Urban Outfitters got into trouble again with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for an early sample of a T-shirt sporting a pocket patch that resembled the yellow star Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.
Another IP controversy emerged this summer around the 2012 Olympic Games, where in July the Egyptian Olympic Committee allegedly provided the country's Olympic team with counterfeit training uniforms bearing the Nike brand - only they weren't Nike. Synchronised swimmer Yomna Khallaf drew attention to the gaffe, revealing an "official" bag that had a Nike logo on the front, but an Adidas logo on the zipper. Meanwhile, the US came under fire for giving its athletes Olympics uniforms manufactured in China.
And for high-tech this past year - in today's fast-paced culture, who has time to try clothes on anymore? Enter department store operator John Lewis's virtual fashion mirror at its flagship store in London, which superimposes clothing over customers' on-screen images, allowing them to see how they look in an outfit without getting changed.
Researchers in the UK, coordinated by the London College of Fashion, also developed a prototype web-based body scanning application that acts like a 'virtual' tape measure, advising the user on which size garment to buy when they visit the website of their favourite participating retailer.
Finding a cheap and responsive outsourcing option closer to home is increasingly a key option for US and European brands....
Some 200 companies have now signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Dhaka, which killed more than 1,100 people in 2013....
UK value fashion retailer Primark has today (3 June) revealed it will expand into France with the opening of its first store in Marseilles later this year. ...
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