The third Monday of the year  — often dubbed ‘Blue Monday’  — is supposedly the most depressing day of the year. The concept is based on winter weather conditions, post-holiday season debt and the average time since new year’s resolutions have been broken.

While the concept has long-since been dismissed as pseudoscience, it provides an interesting backdrop to look at how 2024 is already shaping up and whether the apparel sector is still on track with its New Year resolutions.

So far, we’ve seen disruption to global trade in the Red Sea and Suez Canal, further escalated by recent intervention from the US and UK. We’ve also started to see the impact of last year’s unrest in Bangladesh as US apparel imports from the country again slowed in OTEXA’s latest figures last week.

All this before we’ve even started on the many pending elections this year.

The start of 2024 has also seen another unfortunately familiar trope in the sector, as Boohoo found itself accused of mislabelling goods manufactured overseas as “Made in the UK”.

The news came just months after a previous investigation alleged that Boohoo employees were instructed to pressure suppliers for reduced prices, even after deals had already been agreed.

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By GlobalData

So far, it’s not looking great for those hoping the fashion sector could start making more positive steps in 2024.

Gherzi Textil Organization partner Robert P Antoshak suggested the industry’s new year’s resolutions should include “doubling down on environmental initiatives and truly supporting garment workers’ demands”.

At Open Perspectives, global non-profit H&M Foundation’s virtual conference, associate professor and deputy science director at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Per Olsson, outlined how the fashion sector needs fundamental shifts in order to become more socially and environmentally stable.

“This is about actually phasing out the systems that created the problems in the first place,” he said.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Brunnström, strategy lead at H&M Foundation highlighted the inequalities that still exist in Bangladesh’s apparel sector.

Despite women making up 60% of Bangladesh’s apparel workforce, only a small percentage of leadership positions are held by women including managerial or supervisory roles. She said: “I want to remind us all about the importance of being aware of the current power relations out there and constantly ask yourself, who’s invited to the conversation?”

The new year also brought with it the news that hundreds of garment workers in Bangladesh were allegedly fired following protests for higher wages in October.

All of this acts as a pertinent reminder that old habits and stereotypes will be hard for the fashion sector to break.

The big question is will 2024 finally be the year when the apparel sector can clean up its act? Perhaps we can use Blue Monday to hit the refresh button and give 2024 another shot before it’s too late?

Just Style’s top stories last week

Zara jumps ahead of H&M to become second largest apparel brand in Europe

GlobalData’s Apparel Market in Europe to 2027 report shows that Inditex-owned retailer Zara has overtaken Swedish fashion retailer H&M to become the continent’s second-largest apparel brand, behind sports brand NIKE.

Wolverine Worldwide offloads Sperry to Authentic Brands Group in $130m deal

Fashion conglomerate, Authentic Brands Group (Authentic) has acquired the intellectual property of US footwear company, Wolverine Worldwide’s brand, Sperry and signed a licensing agreement with retailer Aldo Group to serve as a North American operating partner.

Boohoo under fire as ‘Made in UK’ labels found on overseas-made goods

Boohoo has defended itself against claims it has been labelling goods produced overseas as ‘Made in the UK’, with a spokesperson telling Just Style it was an “isolated incident”.

Egypt set to unveil ‘world’s largest’ textile factory in February

Egypt is opening what it claims to be the world’s largest spinning and weaving factory next month with investments exceeding £30bn ($38bn), according to local news reports.

Walmart AR tech allows consumers to share virtual outfits with friends

New technology shared by Walmart Inc at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas will enable consumers to share virtual outfits with friends.

Transforming fashion sector requires unlearning the bad, accepting mistakes

The global fashion sector will need to phase out certain processes to become more socially and environmentally sustainable and be honest in its storytelling when intended solutions lead to unexpected consequences.

Signal: Victoria’s Secret & Co leveraging AI to boost online shopping experience

Victoria’s Secret & Co (VS&Co) has entered a strategic, multi-year partnership with Google Cloud to leverage its AI and generative AI technologies in creating “more personalised and inclusive” online shopping experiences for its customers globally.

Fashion For Good to scale regenerative innovation in fashion

Amsterdam-based innovation platform Fashion For Good announced the renewal of its strategy, focusing on facilitating the widespread adoption and scalability of “regenerative fashion innovations.”