Blog: Leonie BarrieDisruptors on the horizon...

Leonie Barrie | 6 October 2014

Not content with dominating the global exporting landscape, China is now switching its focus to growth in domestic consumption. And according to Li & Fung chairman William Fung, this is likely to lead to "a rather bumpy ride" for the apparel industry.

Fung was speaking at this year's World Retail Congress in Paris, where disruption was the central theme. Steven Sadove, chairman of the National Retail Federation and former Saks CEO, explained this covers everything from the innovation of new businesses to the latest generation of millennial shoppers.

Progress was also reported last week on a number of potential trade deals, including talks between the European Union and Vietnam, which have just concluded their ninth round.
Groups representing apparel brands and retailers in both the US and EU also set out what they see as the key priorities for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

But the completion of negotiations for a EU - Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has given rise to comments and concerns from apparel associations on both sides of the Atlantic. 

The impact of changes to China's cotton policy continues to reverberate, but experts speaking to just-style disagree on whether the policy could pose risks for textile and clothing manufacturers.

An inter-governmental group has also lowered its forecast for world cotton prices based on surplus cotton production and changes in China's cotton policy. But even though global cotton prices are sitting at a five-year low, any unit cost gains for apparel firms are unlikely to show up until the second half of next year - and more likely than not will be offset by rising labour and compliance costs.

There has also been a surge in sustainability announcements, focusing on new tools to help fashion brands and retailers track progress in all areas of sustainability across their businesses, products and supply chains.

The Mode Tracker from Made-By helps companies uncover key social and environmental issues and communicate their follow-up actions. A toolkit from the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) is designed to help retailers and manufacturers drive sustainable change. And Oeko-Tex has developed a new consumer-facing textile label.

Clothing has also been named as one of seven product categories that will be investigated over the next three years in California, with the aim of identifying potential priority products for which safer alternatives must be found.

First results from a year-long study into the health and productivity of garment workers in Cambodia has found that more than two-fifths of those surveyed currently suffer from anaemia. But ongoing minimum wage talks remain stagnant after a meeting last week "failed to arrive at any consensus".

Adriano Goldschmied, Diesel's co-founder, is working to promote a new stretch fabric he hopes will turn around the fortunes of the $50bn denim industry. ‘Active denim' is already wooing orders from large players, he told just-style on the fringes of the International Apparel Federation's 30th annual convention in Medellin, Colombia.

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