Blog: Leonie BarrieAre fashion and sustainability out of step?

Leonie Barrie | 1 October 2018

The global fashion industry is on a trajectory set to stretch planetary resources beyond breaking point unless it finds better ways of producing, using and disposing apparel, according to the stark message for delegates at the recent Fashion Summit (HK) 2018.

But can the apparel industry even afford sustainability in a world of trade wars, disrupted supply chains, rising raw material costs – and now tariffs?

The US Department of Labour’s '2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labour' report names Turkey and Myanmar as the most recent offenders where garment and cotton production are concerned.

And H&M has hit back at campaigners alleging the retailer is falling short of its responsibility to compensate workers in its supply chain, even though it claims almost 1m workers are benefiting from its fair wage strategy.

Campaigners have expressed outrage at the Bangladesh Government's decision to raise the minimum worker wage by 51% to BDT8000 (US$95) per month – and are now calling on brands to step in.

A senior figure in the US cotton industry has told just-style of his concern that Turkey's collapsing currency and trade disputes with the US government will cause it to import less US-grown cotton.

While signs are emerging of an accelerating relocation of garment investment from China to the Philippines, amidst the US imposing an additional 10% duty on textile and some clothing products from China.

Chinese textile firms, meanwhile, are also stepping up sourcing and investment plans in Ethiopia as increasing trade tensions between the US and Beijing create an incentive for the country to look at alternative sourcing destinations.

But despite a modest uptick in the production of apparel in the US, there are still obstacles to manufacturing domestically, a new report has found.

Meanwhile, in other news, China is reducing import tariffs on textiles; manufacturer Luen Thai is expanding with the US$28m acquisition of Universal Elite Holdings; and Lululemon has developed a bra range that feels like a second skin.

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