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Fibres & fabrics

David Birnbaum

Why it's time to build a new US textile industry

9 May 2019 | David Birnbaum

In an increasingly competitive world, it is time for the US textile industry to consider a new strategy, according to David Birnbaum. Instead of relying on free-trade partners for exports, he suggests a move away from garment related fabrics, a focus on high-tech materials, and replacing the yarn forward rule with fibre-only could be the key to reinvention.... read more

The failure of the US garment industry – Part III – Reshoring Y/N

16 November 2018 | David Birnbaum

A 65-year strategy to force US consumers to buy made-in-US garments has been an all-time disaster, asserts David Birnbaum, with the result that the US garment industry is now in a state of failure. The technology to create smart factories means reshoring has the potential to revolutionise the industry. But the key question in this, the last in a three-part series, is: Will reshoring benefit the US garment industry?... read more

The unintended consequences of China clothing tariffs – Comment

13 August 2018 | David Birnbaum

If President Donald Trump imposes punitive tariffs on Chinese imports into the United States, David Birnbaum believes the move would simply subsidise every other garment exporting country in the world, in the form of increased orders at higher prices.... read more

No miracle at midnight on the coming garment tariffs – Comment

26 July 2018 | David Birnbaum

China is the target in the upcoming trade war with the US, and Donald Trump's latest threat to impose tariffs on all US$500bn of imported goods from China will undoubtedly hit garments. But replacing China means replacing 37-42% of all US apparel imports – and its deflationary impact on FOB prices, writes David Birnbaum.... read more

Unravelling the Indian garment export anomaly

8 December 2017 | David Birnbaum

How is it possible that an industry that, for all practical purposes, is dominated by a single season can become one of the world's largest garment exporters? David Birnbaum takes a closer look at the Indian garment anomaly.... read more

Lies, damned lies, and statistics – the sustainability version

22 June 2016 | David Birnbaum

Garment making is to a large degree a model for sustainability, says David Birnbaum, adding that those working towards greater sustainability have an obligation to be transparent and accurate. What is not needed is input from those who lack the experience and knowledge to help.... read more

TPP and the garment industry – are there any winners?

15 April 2016 | David Birnbaum

David Birnbaum is trying very hard to understand how the garment provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) will affect US stakeholders. I can understand just who will fall into the loser column, he writes. The problem is finding anyone to place in the winner column.... read more

Comment: TPP winners and losers

13 October 2015 | David Birnbaum

Now that it appears the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) may actually come to pass, which apparel and textile producing countries are most likely to benefit and which will not? David Birnbaum agrees that Vietnam will be the big winner — but believes the greatest loser will almost certainly be the US textile manufacturers.... read more

COMMENT: Asian union development and the Western response

29 July 2015 | David Birnbaum

For the past three years, industrial action has been on the rise in all Asian garment exporting countries. It is a replay of similar events that occurred almost everywhere in the early stages of industrial union development, says David Birnbaum. The difference, however, is that regulations relating to workers and factory working conditions are usually imposed by Western importers.... read more

MGMA’s efforts "truly remarkable" says Birnbaum

25 June 2015 | David Birnbaum

Global garment industry specialist David Birnbaum applauds MGMA’s efforts to improve labour rights and practices in Myanmar.... read more

COMMENT: Towards an Asian sustainable development strategy

22 June 2015 | David Birnbaum

In any discussion on social responsibility, the garment-exporting countries of South and Southeast Asia have a serious problem of credibility that nobody wants to address. Yet credibility is the single most important factor in determining the success or failure of any sustainable development strategy, writes David Birnbaum.... read more

COMMENT: Myanmar - the road forward?

16 June 2015 | David Birnbaum

Everyone wants to see a successful Myanmar garment industry. Governments in garment importing countries, importers, the international institutions and development banks are all on board. But by far the greatest obstacle is compliance, writes David Birnbaum.... read more

COMMENT: Myanmar - right time, right place, new challenges

14 April 2015 | David Birnbaum

As apparel retailers and brands continue to seek alternatives to their traditional suppliers, David Birnbaum contends that Myanmar is the last remaining place in Asia that can support a major garment industry. But if it is to reach its true potential, manufacturers and customers must work together to overcome some serious problems.... read more

Birnbaum bites back: Skills or new technology?

25 February 2015 | David Birnbaum

Skills or new technology: which gives better leverage to a manufacturing country? This question has been posed to global garment industry expert David Birnbaum, who has agreed to share his advice and opinions by answering questions from just-style readers on topics of special interest. ... read more

Birnbaum bites back: SME survival in a world of giants

13 February 2015 | David Birnbaum

Global garment industry expert David Birnbaum has agreed to share his advice and opinions by answering questions from just-style readers on topics of special interest. Our first query asks about operating small and medium-sized factories in an industry dominated by multinational giants.... read more

Outlook 2015: Two key shifts for customers and suppliers

15 January 2015 | David Birnbaum

In his take on the key apparel industry issues to watch in 2015, David Birnbaum homes in on the problems facing those brands who have set their sights on developing markets in China and Russia; and a solution for the new model full-service factories.... read more

COMMENT: Defending the new model buying office

5 January 2015 | David Birnbaum

In recent articles David Birnbaum has discussed the changing role of the buying office, how to quantify performance, and the issue of transfer pricing. The next challenge, he says, is the need for detailed audits to ensure that buying offices set their commissions fairly.... read more

COMMENT: Innovation is the name of the game

24 October 2014 | David Birnbaum

Innovation is all about change - sometimes planned, often unplanned. But there are lessons to be learned too, and as garment companies move to set up in-house innovation centres they would do well to take heed, writes David Birnbaum.... read more

COMMENT: Government giveaways stifle garment industry growth

12 August 2014 | David Birnbaum

Governments have a vital role to play in supporting the modern industrial economy, but in many garment-exporting countries this positive support is both lacking and counter-productive. Based on his work in the Dominican Republic, David Birnbaum suggests government giveaways make change even more difficult.... read more

COMMENT: The current state of play in world garment exports

31 July 2014 | David Birnbaum

Data from major garment exporting countries to the EU and US shows who's winning and losing so far in 2014. David Birnbaum looks at the trends.... read more

Comment: Sourcing segmentation is at odds with the data

28 March 2014 | David Birnbaum

The latest word is "segmentation": a trend whereby China is losing its position as a low-cost garment exporter and other countries have stepped up to claim their part of the manufacturing pie. The problem, says David Birnbaum, is that the concept is somewhat at odds with the data.... read more

Benchmark study India: Part III - Garment industry and public welfare

3 March 2014 | David Birnbaum

This is the third article in a series describing an ongoing project being carried out in India's apparel export sector. Here, David Birnbaum looks at some more reasons why India's garment-export industry is trapped in an environment of stagnation.... read more

Benchmark study India: Part II – Structural obstacles and systemic barriers

10 February 2014 | David Birnbaum

This is the second article in a series describing an ongoing project being carried out in India's apparel export sector. Here, David Birnbaum looks at the structural obstacles and systemic barriers contributing to the decline of India's garment industry.... read more

Benchmark study India: Part I - The project

6 February 2014 | David Birnbaum

This is the first article in a series describing an ongoing project being carried out in India's apparel export sector. Its author, David Birnbaum, hopes the research will help consultants and industry leaders in other countries to better understand the problems relating to strategic industrial change on a national level.... read more

Comment: South Asia's role in the post-Bangladesh world

3 February 2014 | David Birnbaum

While it may be too early to state with any degree of certainty that the Bangladesh bubble has burst, most sourcing professionals now accept that the bubble has developed sizeable leaks. These same sourcing professionals are also taking fast action not be caught in an increasingly probable implosion. The question, David Birnbaum asks, is where to move the Bangladesh business?... read more

Comment: The cheap labour myth

27 January 2014 | David Birnbaum

Successful garment exporters are taking a more academic approach to sourcing product. Instead of moving to the latest cheap labour country, their strategy is to reduce overhead by increasing worker productivity, training, and capital investment in cutting edge machinery. David Birnbaum explains why.... read more

Comment: Fibre, textiles and “captive customers”

10 September 2013 | David Birnbaum

In his previous article David Birnbaum suggested that the availability of local fibre appears to be a handicap for garment-making countries. Here he adds evidence that countries producing cotton fibre and textiles pay a price for their failure – while those without the benefit of local cotton fibre and textiles benefit.... read more

Comment: Fibre and its role in the global garment industry

9 September 2013 | David Birnbaum

For most industries, the availability of local raw materials is a decided advantage. Not so for the garment industry, says David Birnbaum, as he charts the relationship between a country's access to local fibre and its ability to follow changes in customer demand.... read more

Comment: The future of compliance lies with the factories

29 August 2013 | David Birnbaum

Turning the issue of compliance on its head, David Birnbaum believes that responsibility for improving working conditions and raising the garment export industry to higher level lies with the better factories, both in Bangladesh and elsewhere.... read more

Comment: Name the new China? There's no contest

15 August 2013 | David Birnbaum

Garment sourcing involves much more than finding the place with the lowest labour rates - but the industry continues to obsess about finding the next successors to China's crown as the ultimate manufacturing destination. As David Birnbaum explains, it's a complex problem, and fast answers almost always tend to be silly ones.... read more

Comment: The crooks and conmen among us

7 May 2013 | David Birnbaum

Today, many if not most importers and retailers are making an honest effort to make Bangladesh a better place to work for customers, suppliers and workers alike. But recent events such as the collapse the Rana Plaza factory building have brought out some important truths, believes David Birnbaum.... read more

Comment: Burma in brief - a short garment industry study

19 March 2013 | David Birnbaum

Fresh from a visit to Burma/Myanmar, David Birnbaum is in no doubt that the local garment industry faces some serious challenges if it is to develop into a first-class garment exporting industry.... read more

Comment: Cambodia worker rights versus worker benefits

7 March 2013 | David Birnbaum

A recent report issued jointly by the Worker Rights Consortium and Stanford Law School claims that serious deficiencies exist in the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) programme. What is more surprising is that it has taken so long to reach this conclusion, says David Birnbaum.... read more

Comment: The Trans-Pacific Partnership - Plan B

4 October 2012 | David Birnbaum

Earlier this year, David Birnbaum suggested multi-lateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks between the US and eight Pacific Rim nations provide an opportunity to change the way US garment-related free trade agreements are negotiated. Here he outlines his alternative Plan B.... read more

Comment: Bangladesh at a crossroads

25 September 2012 | David Birnbaum

The Bangladesh garment export industry has been built on the pillars of cheap labour and reliability. But the two are increasingly proving to be incompatible - and it is now time to bring all the stakeholders together - factory suppliers, customers, government and workers - to create a viable comprehensive and integrated solution, writes David Birnbaum.... read more