Blog: Leonie BarrieContrasting fortunes characterise the clothing industry

Leonie Barrie | 3 May 2016

Contrasting fortunes characterised the global clothing industry last week. On the one hand Hanesbrands has positioned itself as the largest basic apparel company in the world after agreeing to buy Australian rival Pacific Brands in an US$800m deal. But on the other, the UK high street stands to lose 204 years of combined retailing history as retailers BHS and Austin Reed Group both called in the administrators.

For Hanesbrands, which has now agreed two acquisitions totalling around $1bn in the space of just 21 days, the power of its company-owned supply chain is seen as the catalyst for substantial savings.

But a lack of modernisation, an unclear brand identity and a rapidly evolving competitive landscape were blamed for the collapse of UK retailer BHS, putting around 11,000 jobs at risk.

While for Austin Reed, the news of its failure leaves almost 1,200 jobs in jeopardy, and comes just a week after the business was bought by a retail restructuring firm.

An apparel industry at a crossroads and an intertwined network of challenges and opportunities are among the issues discussed by Guido Schlossmann, CEO of low-cost fast fashion sourcing specialist Synergies Worldwide. Unravelling this complexity requires a new, more global and integrated look at the industry, he tells just-style.

In the past ten years the number of free trade agreements implemented in the US has almost doubled – yet apparel imports entering under free trade agreements have fallen to a record low. We look at the possible reasons why.

Bangladesh's garment exports have continued to grow at a steady pace despite the country's image taking a hit following the Tazreen and Rana Plaza disasters – with the EU, Canada and the US all increasing imports in the last year.

But despite efforts to improve worker and building safety in the country’s ready-made garment industry, it is also clear that essential reforms are still needed and that the pace of remediation must accelerate.

Beyond remediation, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed a US$30m long-term loan agreement with Bangladesh's BRAC Bank to help finance the construction and upgrade of clothing factories.

Swedish fashion retailer Lindex, meanwhile, sold 27m garments made from sustainable materials last year, and says it is planning to launch a scorecard to rate suppliers on their sustainability performance.

And outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland is to increase the use of eco-preferred materials in virtually every product it makes – across footwear, apparel and accessories – after setting new internal environmental targets for all categories.

And in other news, a new survey suggests the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) is set to take off in the UK apparel sector; a lack of collaboration between the textile and electronic industries continues to hinder progress in smart garments; and Mexico's footwear industry hopes to grow production by 5% this year.

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