Blog: Michelle RussellAsia's garment sector at a critical juncture

Michelle Russell | 21 December 2020

The Asian garment sector is at a critical juncture, having been left reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. While industry experts expect the region to continue to dominate global garment production in the future, they say the crisis will shape manufacturing in Asia for years to come.

In Australia, research into the purchasing practices of fashion brands and retailers has found a disconnect between their own ratings and those of their supplier factories – suggesting an ongoing failure to understand the impact their decisions have on garment manufacturers and workers.

The Australian government has also pledged to ramp up its efforts to prevent, disrupt, investigate and prosecute modern slavery crimes after acknowledging risks in its own supply chains – including textiles.

And the Mauritius clothing and textile sector has been assessing its use of technology to reduce costs and boost efficiency as it mulls how to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic in good shape to compete globally. More emphasis is being laid on the use of technology across the factories, with more lean production and supply chain consolidation to reduce airfreight costs.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is being urged to issue a region-wide ban on cotton imports from the entire Uyghur Region after a report revealed upward of half a million people were forced to pick cotton through the government's coercive labour training and transfer scheme.

UK politicians have since urged businesses that have parts of their supply chain in China's Xinjiang region to conduct the appropriate due diligence to satisfy themselves that their activities do not support, or risk being seen to support, any human rights violations or abuses.

Meanwhile, wet processing – which involves bleaching, dyeing and printing fabrics – is the weak link in reducing the environmental impact of fashion supply chains, according to a new report that has examined the financial risks arising from the extensive use and misuse of water in clothing production.

new handbook has been launched to help clothing and textile companies to reduce the use of water, energy and harmful chemicals during the wet processing stage.

The owner of UK online fast fashion retailer Boohoo Group has told an audit committee he feels the company is being punished over scrutiny of the Leicester garment supply chain and that he could easily take business off-shore but vowed the company is committed to "making things better".

In M&A news, Adidas says it is exploring strategic alternatives for Reebok, which could involve a sale of the brand – confirming speculation that began at the end of November. While JD Sports Fashion has acquired US footwear retailer Shoe Palace Corporation in a US$325m deal that significantly increases its presence on the West Coast of the United States.

November US retail sales dipped from the month prior but still showed the sixth consecutive monthly year-over-year gain, setting the stage for a healthy holiday shopping season despite the pandemic, but demand for apparel continued to wane.

While in the UK, six consecutive months of growth within the retail sector came to an end in November, with clothing retailers reporting the sharpest decline in sales volumes.

In other news, Vietnam's garment sector has set a US$55bn target for exports by 2025; the BGMEA has signed an MoU to open an innovation centre; Future Fashion Factory has secured more than GBP2m in funding for innovation in the UK fashion industry; and Bestseller is piloting two major circularity projects in Bangladesh.

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