The apparel and textile business blog from Petah Marian
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So long, farewell
27 Sep 2013 11:41
A slight change in direction means that today will be my last day with just-style.
So much has changed in the apparel industry over the past two years - sustainability is becoming increasingly important, while there is now a real sense of urgency around improving safety conditions in Bangladesh.
This is an exciting time to be in the apparel industry and an exciting time to be writing about the industry.
The greatest pleasure in this job has been getting to know the just-style community at various gatherings around the world.
I'll still be writing about the apparel industry, albeit with a slightly different focus, so I look forward to bumping into many of you soon in my new role.
In the meantime, I leave you in Leonie and Katie's very dependable hands, and hope the next news and insights editor of just-style enjoys their tenure as much as I have.
M&S launches all-star ad campaign
19 Aug 2013 15:23
Marks and Spencer's new ad campaign
UK retailer Marks & Spencer has put its weight behind its women's wear relaunch with a high-profile ad campaign starring some of "Britain's leading ladies".
The campaign, shot by Vanity Fair photographer Annie Liebovitz, evokes more of a high-fashion shoot than its predecessors, which featured more "accessible" celebrities like Twiggy and Myleene Klass.
Through this transition phase, executives at the company have talked at length about making the brand more aspirational, and this certainly looks like one of the first public steps towards achieving that.
Featuring women who have a "strong sense of personal style and inspirational achievements" those fronting the campaign include: actress Dame Helen Mirren; Vogue USA creative director Grace Coddington; Olympic gold medal winning boxer Nicola Adams; Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International; through to what already appears to be a controversial choice (at least on Twitter and in the Daily Mail this morning) - artist Tracey Emin.
"We wanted to mark this moment with a confident statement about UK style," said M&S creative director Steve Sharp.
"The British have a history of being creative and pioneering and these women represent just that. As industry leaders in their field, they make a significant difference that has seen them break boundaries, challenge stereotypes and create visionary artistic work. As the nation's biggest retailer, we too have broken boundaries throughout our history and it's this unique position in the marketplace that has enabled us to bring together this remarkable group of people."
M&S's clothing sales have been in decline over recent quarters, and with this, the first collection put together by general merchandise director Jon Dixon style director Belinda Earl, much is riding on its success.
High hopes as new M&S clothing ranges hit stores
24 Jul 2013 14:55
Tomorrow (25 July) is set to be a big day for Marks and Spencer as its eagerly- anticipated clothing collection begins to hit stores.
Much is riding on the new range, the first under the new general merchandise management team, which is working to turnaround the category after eight quarters of decline.
While shareholders have high hopes for the line, company management is keen to play down expectations that this one collection will turn around its fortunes in women's wear.
Speaking to journalists alongside the collection's launch in May, general merchandise manager John Dixon said the clothing business can be described as either a juggernaut or an oil tanker, and that improvement will come incrementally rather than all at once.
The collection will start to hit stores tomorrow, with a full launch and advertising push in September.
Structural concerns must extend beyond Bangladesh
09 Jul 2013 14:47
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has taken a great step forward after the 70 brands and retailers involved agreed to inspect all of their supplier factories over the next nine months.
While the collapse in April of the Rana Plaza factory complex prompted the move, with over 1,100 people dying in the tragedy, Bangladesh is not the only country with structurally unsound factories.
Two workers died at a Cambodian factory making footwear for Japanese sportswear company Asics in the middle of May when a walkway collapsed. The same month, a further 23 people were injured in the country when a shelter collapsed at Top World Garment, which was making clothing for H&M without its knowledge.
And just last Thursday, an apparel factory at Bhiwandi, near Mumbai in India collapsed, with the death toll currently standing at seven workers. According to global union IndustriAll, the building was illegal and unauthorised construction was taking place.
These problems are not unique to the clothing industry; a further three buildings have collapsed in India in recent months. A two-storey building collapsed yesterday (8 July) in Secunderabad, in south India, killing at least 12 people; at least 10 people were killed last month when part of a five-storey building collapsed in Mumbai; and 74 died when a Mumbai apartment building collapsed in April.
With monsoon season well underway in India there are concerns that yet more poorly constructed buildings may collapse.
The important work being done in Bangladesh to shore up building safety must be extended into other apparel manufacturing countries.
Indeed, the International Labour Organization's Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) initiative is advising a structural review is carried out on all buildings in all garment and footwear factories in Cambodia.
Commenting on the Bhiwandi collapse, IndustriAll general secretary Jyrki Raina echoed the thoughts of many industry watchers when he said: "This illustrates that the problem of exploited workers labouring in unsafe buildings is not restricted to Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Accord is one step, but the concept must spread to other countries."
Bangladesh begins to feel wider impacts from Rana Plaza
05 Jul 2013 10:19
Last week, the US government took a stand against what it deemed as a lack of progress in improving safety in the Bangladesh apparel sector, and suspended the country's trade privileges.
While the US' Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme in Bangladesh does not include garments, mostly focusing on imports of tobacco, sports equipment, porcelain china and plastic products, the move is a symbolic one and emphasises the seriousness of US concerns over the country's factory safety.
US trade representative Michael Froman said the Obama administration is initiating new discussions with the Bangladeshi government to improve the worker rights environment so that GSP benefits can be restored.
This is another blow to an industry that is beginning to experience the wider impacts from the recent tragedies in the country. In particular, orders from key American and European buyers to Bangladesh garment manufacturers are said to have fallen after the Rana Plaza factory collapse.
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) director Fazlul Hoque said the overall drop in garment orders is around 10% during this spring/summer compared to last year, although unnamed industry sources in local media have claimed the drop is 30-35%.
Meanwhile, Laos, which has its sights set on more than doubling its clothing exports by 2015, is facing serious problems finding and retaining workers. While the small landlocked South East Asian nation may not initially appeal to international buyers due to its lack of local textile materials and poorly educated workforce, its GSP access to Europe is making it increasingly attractive.
Many of the 100 or so garment exporters in Laos say they could expand considerably if only they could recruit and retain enough workers.
Sub-Saharan Africa is another region working to develop its clothing industry. It too faces a number of serious challenges, particularly around factories' foreign ownership. Large proportions of the clothing industries in Lesotho and Swaziland are mainly Taiwanese-owned, with the remainder of the industry owned by foreigners.
The continuation of much of this investment relies largely on the US's African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is set to end in 2015. If AGOA is not renewed in 2015 a large chunk of the industry will relocate elsewhere. Even if it is renewed, uncertainty about renewal and lead-time requirements will also encourage some to leave.
Nike recorded a jump in fourth quarter net profit, driven by higher sales and improved margins. The company said fourth quarter profit jumped 22% to US$668m, while revenue increased 7% to $6.7bn. The sportswear giant said it recorded gains across all product types and in every geography except Western Europe and Greater China.
H&M posts weaker results on poor weather
24 Jun 2013 14:58
H&M Hennes & Mauritz has signalled its intention to continue sourcing in Bangladesh despite the recent apparel factory disasters. Investor relations manager Nils Vinge said that while China remains the most important sourcing country for the retailer, and that it does look at new markets, it is not jumping from one country to another.
The comments came as the company recorded an 11% drop in second quarter profit, which fell to SEK4.66bn (US$727.2m). Sales edged down 0.1% over the period to SEK31.64bn. The company blamed poor weather and negative currency exchange for the results.
Meanwhile, Tesco revealed that it has stopped taking clothing from one of its supplier factories in Bangladesh after a structural survey of the site revealed serious safety issues. The move comes after the retailer embarked upon structural surveys of all factories it sources from in the country following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka in April.
The supermarket operator said it has stopped using 15 factories in the past 12 months after they failed to take "sufficient action" in response to its concerns.
In more positive Bangladesh news, Fast Retailing revealed it would open its first stores in the country, in partnership with Grameen Group's Grameen Healthcare Trust, a social enterprise that helps to address issues related to poverty, public sanitation, education, gender issues and the environment.
Products will be produced in Bangladesh using locally sourced materials, providing practical items in a range of colours made from soft and synthetic fibres - made by locals, for locals.
The two stores will tailor their offer to the specific needs of Bangladeshi consumers, offering a range of 32 items for men, and ten for women, for between US$2.50-15.50.
In a move welcomed by NGOs, the US government has downgraded Uzbekistan in its Global Trafficking in Persons (GITP) report to tier III, the worst ranking available, for its use of forced and child labour to pick the country's cotton crop.
Human Rights Watch said that under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPA), President Barack Obama must decide within 90 days whether to apply or waive the sanctions mandated for Tier III countries. The NGO called for the US government to impose sanctions on the country if it fails to invite the International Labour Organization (ILO) to monitor the situation ahead of this year's harvest.
US apparel group PVH expects growth to accelerate once teething problems with the integration of the Warnaco business are addressed.
Speaking at the company's annual shareholders meeting last week, chairman and CEO Emanuel Chirico said the recently enlarged group has faced challenges clearing excess inventory, and upgrading Warnaco's operating systems the same level as PVH, requiring investment in IT and design.
Finally, sportswear giant Nike has announced a significant restructuring of its leadership team following brand president Charlie Denson's decision to retire in January 2014. Denson will be replaced by Trevor Edwards, who is currently EVP of brand and category management.
The move triggered at least 12 new appointments across the leadership team.
Closed loop continues to gain traction
14 Jun 2013 14:14
When I last spoke to the industry about closed loop, many were interested, but also emphasised the many challenges faced by those interested in recycling fibres - weakness in mechanically recycled fibres, to issues with dyeability in chemically recycled polyester.
Yet, at the Made-By conference last Friday, G-Star and Kuyichi talked about how they were both integrating recycled cotton fibres into their denim ranges.
Dutch denim brand Kuyichi has an interesting background, formed by Dutch NGO Solidaridad after it couldn't find a market for organic cotton it had developed in Peru during 2000.
For those interested in what the fibre recycling process looks like, this stylish video made by Swedish premium denim brand Nudie Jeans explains all:
Fashion takes over UK Houses of Parliament
12 Jun 2013 16:32
Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the first ever fashion show to be held in the Houses of Parliament.
The UK is renowned as being a hotbed for young design talent, so it was only fitting that the show highlighted the winners of last week's Graduate Fashion Week.
The event shows that the UK government recognises the importance of the apparel trade, which the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) says contributes GBP37bn to the UK economy.
Yet, there is always more to be done, and the UKFT re-launched its manifesto last night, which outlines its priorities for the year.
To help develop talent, the UKFT is calling for the government to get behind a campaign to educate fashion and textiles graduates on the basics of running a business, as well as a new mentoring programme to help start-up designer businesses.
It is also seeking continued assistance for apprenticeships in the fashion and textile industry.
UKFT CEO John Miln said: "We are delighted that fashion design has reached the House of Commons. This is an important first step in bringing together Government and designers as they launch themselves into business and become the future of this great industry."
Last night's award winners:
- George Gold Award - Lauren Smith, Edinburgh College of Art
- Womenswear Award - Hannah Williams, UCA Epsom
- Menswear Award - Shauni Douglas & Olivia Creber, Edinburgh College of Art
- Zandra Rhodes Catwalk Textile Award - Kirandeep Bassan, Northampton University
- Stuart Peters Visionary Knitwear Award - Thea Sanders, Nottingham Trent University
The event also featured designs from George at Asda's G21 Talent line, which is created by designers from Graduate Fashion Week. Designers include Chloe Jones, Claire Acton, Francesca Quinn and Jessica Piper.
International pressure on Bangladesh intensifies
10 Jun 2013 14:59
International pressure on Bangladesh intensified last week, with the UK and US governments calling on the apparel industry to improve the safety of their supply chains in the country.
In the US, the Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing - Labour Issues in Bangladesh - where Senator Robert Menendez, committee chairman, opened the hearing by saying: "The tragedy at Rana Plaza - the deadliest accident of the global apparel industry - should be a wake-up call for all of us."
Unless they see significant changes to improve labour conditions and worker safety, Senators are calling on the Obama Administration to seriously consider suspending Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to Bangladesh - the system under which it can export certain goods to the US duty-free.
This is likely to have little impact on apparel as the vast majority of products do not enjoy GSP relief - but politicians believe it would send a powerful signal to the Bangladeshi government and business leaders in the country.
Meanwhile, the UK government has invited the CEOs of approximately 20 retailers to meet with development secretary Justine Greening to discuss how the Department for International Development can work with them on the issue.
The UK government then pledged GBP18m in aid to help fund a programme of skills training for 100,000 garment and construction workers in Bangladesh. The government said the aim is to improve overall productivity and help to produce higher-value products.
Norway also pledged NOK14.5m (US$2.5m) in aid for Bangladesh, to promote worker rights and labour relations in export-oriented industries in the country. That money will be channelled through the International Labour Organization (ILO), and is part of the Norwegian Government's commitment to promote better working conditions in developing countries.
It appears to be business as usual for the apparel industry in Turkey, despite anti-government protests. Apparel industry body, the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers' Association (TCMA), said there has been no disruption to the delivery of its members' orders following the unrest.
TCMA president Cem Negrin told just-style that while workers from TCMA member companies have been involved in some of the demonstrations, they have not taken part in the strike action that took place this week. He emphasised that some apparel workers have been attending the demonstrations in the evenings - not during working hours.
In the US, warmer weather and improved consumer confidence, combined with rising stock and house prices, helped the majority of US apparel retailers to post modest sales gains in May.
Same-store sales increased 3.5% during the month, according to figures from research firm Retail Metrics, the strongest gain since 4.5% in January.
Finally, the ever-changing sourcing equation is a challenge to the global garment and textile industry supply chain - with each region having its own inherent set of problems and opportunities. June's just-style management briefing offers a look at alternative sourcing countries to China, outsourcing options closer to home, and the key considerations of ethical sourcing.
JC Penney begs customers to come back
03 May 2013 14:57
JC Penney has released a series of ad begging for consumers to give it a second chance, following the departure of former CEO Ron Johnson after his ambitious plan to transform the business failed.
"It's no secret, recently JC Penney changed. Some changes you liked and some you didn't, but what matters from mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you. To hear what you need, to make your life more beautiful. Come back to JC Penney, we heard you. Now, we'd love to see you," the ad implores.
One of the cornerstones of Johnson's plan was no-couponing, no discounting, "fair and square pricing", which saw the company move to an EDLP model, something that seemed to turn off consumers.
According to an article in Time Magazine, the retailer has now quietly started raising its everyday prices, mainly so that it can put them back on sale in the hope of wooing back customers.
Indeed, one bargain hunting website has begun tracking prices at JC Penney, and has found that the prices of certain items, particularly designer furniture, have risen by 60% or more at JC Penney almost overnight, the Time article said.
Now the question remains, if JC Penney gives its customers what they seem to want, will it be enough to get them back into stores?