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David Birnbaum

American populism and the global garment industry – Comment

4 January 2018 | David Birnbaum

Our industry is undergoing a truly generational change. Do we really want to fight pick a fight with our consumers as well? asks David Birnbaum.... read more

Breaking out of the cheap commodity garment trap

31 August 2017 | David Birnbaum

From basic commodities to high value added fashion, why do some industries develop while others remain forever mired in cheap garments? David Birnbaum takes a closer look.... read more

A tale of three countries – Vietnam, India, Bangladesh

14 July 2017 | David Birnbaum

Things are no longer going well for Bangladesh when it comes to US garment imports, writes David Birnbaum, as he takes a closer look at why the country has been left behind as its competitors have moved forward. ... 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

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: Capacity building key to Myanmar momentum

30 April 2015 | David Birnbaum

A focus on the development of locally-owned factories is an impediment to the development of the garment industry in Myanmar, David Birnbaum believes. Instead, he suggests the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) must take a leading role in moving the industry forward. ... 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: The future of transfer pricing

23 December 2014 | David Birnbaum

Governments and tax authorities are finally getting smarter when it comes to the issue of transfer pricing – the prices charged between related businesses, such as buying offices and their parent companies - as David Birnbaum explains.... 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: Bangladesh's garment trend lines look pretty poor

6 June 2014 | David Birnbaum

Bangladesh's share of the US apparel market has been in decline since February this year. But a closer look at the figures shows that while it is holding up in basic men's wear, women's wear fashion is on a downward trajectory.... read more

COMMENT: Bangladesh heading for sourcing history?

28 April 2014 | David Birnbaum

Just six months ago the major brand importers and giant transnational factories were rushing to build state-of-the-art operations in Bangladesh, despite the Rana Plaza and Tazreen mishaps. Where are they now? asks David Birnbaum.... read more

Comment: Bangladesh industry development moving backwards

14 April 2014 | David Birnbaum

Despite the many claims to the contrary, it would appear that China's share of the US garment export market has failed to decline - while at the same time, Bangladesh's garment export market share has failed to rise.... 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 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: 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: Holding Cambodia accountable for its actions

6 August 2013 | David Birnbaum

A fundamental difference between Cambodia and Bangladesh is that the Cambodian government and industry are held accountable for making the necessary improvements to factory working conditions. And this, says David Birnbaum, will ensure Cambodia moves up the economic ladder.... read more

Comment: Bangladesh factory inspection plans set to fail?

11 July 2013 | David Birnbaum

Major EU and North American brand importers and retailers have separately announced plans to inspect their supplier factories in Bangladesh and to offer funds and assistance with remedial action where required. But David Birnbaum believes that unless they inspect the entire industry, their efforts will fall short.... read more

Comment: What's the best way to raise standards in Bangladesh?

30 May 2013 | David Birnbaum

Three strategies have emerged among clothing brands and retailers trying to decide what steps to take to raise standards in factories in Bangladesh. But David Birnbaum believes the approach in which customers provide funds to upgrade factory structures is the worst option of all.... 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: Crossing the line on ethical behaviour

21 January 2013 | David Birnbaum

The fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in Bangladesh last November was the result of at least one customer's decision that providing minimal working conditions and subsistence wages are not cost-effective. The challenge, now, is to find a solution, says David Birnbaum.... 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

Comment: Caught in the compliance trap

7 August 2012 | David Birnbaum

Compliance, while an excellent idea in theory, is fundamentally flawed, argues David Birnbaum. What was originally an honest effort to make the industry more socially responsible has resulted in a situation where neither the very worst factories are penalised nor the very best factories protected. Here he offers some solutions.... read more

Comment: Caught in the cost of labour trap

20 July 2012 | David Birnbaum

In the ongoing debate running on just-style about labour costs in Bangladesh, David Birnbaum asks why wages in the country remain so low?... read more