Blog: Leonie BarrieEsquel's eco-friendly manufacturing complex

Leonie Barrie | 11 June 2018

Hong Kong-based Esquel Group, the world's largest woven shirt maker, has been bedding-in operations at a ground-breaking new $313.3m eco-friendly manufacturing complex in southern China. With a focus on sustainability, the facility supplies premier blended cotton yarns, with a garment factory to follow – as CEO John Cheh tells just-style.

New data also shows China remained by far the world's largest investor in spinning, texturing, weaving and knitting machinery last year – meaning the country is set to continue its dominance of the global textile industry for the foreseeable future.

While it may be too early for the prospect of heavy tariffs on goods from China to impact US apparel imports from the country, it appeared to fall out of favour in April with a 14.5% slump on last year. Meanwhile, five of the top-ten garment supplier countries booked double-digit gains, with Pakistan recording nearly 40% growth.

The European Union is also moving closer to imposing higher duties on US products, including clothing, as part of a response to the punitive tariffs by the Trump administration on imports of steel and aluminium. The new duties are expected to start applying by July.

Meanwhile, Guatemala expects to double its apparel export growth this year. The forecasts come amid surging US orders and investment to boost synthetic yarn production, executives told-just-style during the country's latest Apparel Sourcing Show.

Of the more than 1,500 garment factories in seven countries currently engaged with the Better Work programme, it has emerged that only two have so far met the initiative's stringent criteria.

But a Better Work pilot project designed to boost environmental compliance in Vietnam's garment industry has led to a country guide and self-assessment tool that can be used in factories across the industry.

And as the new Bangladesh worker safety pact – the '2018 Accord' or 'Transition Accord' – comes into play, it has fallen short of its goal of retaining 100% of its original signatories.

UK fashion, homeware and food retailer Marks & Spencer says over three-quarters of its cotton is now procured from sustainable sources, putting it on track to meet its commitment to hit 100% next year.

However, a third consecutive season of growth in demand for cotton, coupled with a decline in world production and poor weather conditions in both China and the US, are adding another layer of uncertainty to the cotton market.

In other news, The North Face has launched a "recommerce" initiative that aims to keep its clothing in use for longer; H&M is developing holograms to enhance online shopping; and House of Fraser is to shutter 31 stores with the potential loss of 6,000 jobs.

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