Blog: Michelle RussellCutting edge technology defining apparel industry

Michelle Russell | 15 May 2017

Cutting-edge textile processing products including a new technology for dyeing yarns in a more sustainable manner and a digitalised sewing machine set up via a touchscreen or app, were among the most exciting developments at last week's Texprocess trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany.

Technological innovation also continues to transform every step of the jeans industry from fibre blends, alternatives to indigo dyes, use of sustainable resources, and new developments in fit and finish. This was a major focus of the recent Kingpins Show Amsterdam denim showcase.

For the past 20 years, Western buyers have been getting lower prices by switching production to countries with exceptionally low wages. But do recent announcements from Amazon and Adidas - a patent filed for on-demand apparel production, and a project to produce personalised misoles - mean automated manufacturing is going to grow?

Meanwhile, key participants in the global garment supply chain met in New York City recently to assess progress in garment worker safety, and brainstorm steps to ensure future progress in Bangladesh.

While the work of the Alliance and the Accord was praised, one academic described their goals as “a moving target”, adding that completing all inspections by June 2018 was “an extremely optimistic scenario”.

US NGO Human Rights Watch believes it is crucial to empower Bangladeshi workers to protect themselves after inspectors leave and responsibility for building and worker safety is handed over to the government.

In response, a spokesperson for the Accord says a number of brand signatories are negotiating with global union federations about a possible extension and broadening of the group's scope. The group last week launched a financial support programme for suppliers designed to ensure major and costly safety measures can continue to be carried out as the organisation enters its fifth, and final, year.

Implementing the European Union (EU)-Jordan agreement struck last July to simplify EU rules of origin for manufacturers in Jordan if they employ Syrian refugees, can only be good for European clothing brands and retailers, experts agreed at an event in Brussels last week.

While Brazil's textile and apparel sector expects to generate 10,000 jobs this year and lift revenues by 1% to BRL123bn ($39bn) as Latin America's largest economy begins to emerge from its worst recession in history.

Apparel imports into the US saw double-digit growth from four of the top ten supplier countries in March, with Vietnam leading the way, as retailers replenished stocks in preparation for the spring season.

In other news, Coach has acquired accessories and apparel business Kate Spade; Adidas has sold its golf brands in a deal worth US$425m; Ralph Lauren is cutting 107 jobs as part of its turnaround plan; VF Corp has banned fur and angora under a new materials policy; and New Zealand has ratified the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.

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