Just Style spoke to a number of garment suppliers and brands in London a few weeks ago and it quickly became clear that now China’s zero-Covid policy has ended, 2023 is the year it wants to show the world it’s open for business.

China’s garment suppliers are back for business

It’s all smoke and mirrors if you look beneath the surface however, as an analysis of the annual trade data released by the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) and the US International Trade Commission (USITC), showed that despite China’s continued Covid lockdowns and supply chain disruptions – it had not gone anywhere last year.

In fact, even with the ongoing controversies relating to Xinjiang cotton and the last minute opening and closing of ports due to Covid outbreaks, China remained the largest source of apparel for the US market in 2022 by miles.

Associate professor in the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies at the University Delaware, Dr Sheng Lu told Just Style China’s market shares did fall, reflecting the ongoing efforts of US fashion companies to reduce “China exposure” and minimise the supply chain risks.

China, of course, knows it can’t rely solely on the US market for its garment exports, which might explain why its Government part-funded garment suppliers to go out on the road and attend international trade shows this year, such as the Source Fashion show in London.

It should be noted the garment suppliers in attendance were from all over the world – not just China – and were all vetted on their responsibility credentials but during Just Style’s exclusive discussions it was obvious those from China were the most excited to be sharing their sourcing offering with the wider world again.

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China’s garment suppliers admitted the Covid years had been extremely challenging for them but now the doors are open they were delighted to be able to meet their existing customers and generate new ones at face-to-face at events once again.

Some of China’s garment suppliers in attendance also revealed the domestic market is now considered to be equally important as it’s international one and needs to run in parallel in order to maintain success.

Notably, China announced a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ethiopia last week, which could also be seen as a way for it to strengthen its apparel sourcing in alternative locations from the traditional ‘West’.

This decision is particularly interesting given the US suspended Ethiopia‘s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) privileges back in 2021 due to concerns over human rights violations.

We should expect to see more strategic moves like this from China over the coming months and now it’s ‘officially’ open for business it will be interesting to see who it chooses to work with closely moving forward.

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