Blog: Leonie BarrieGrowing momentum on wages and safety

Leonie Barrie | 25 February 2014

As safety inspections on more than 1,500 Bangladeshi garment factories supplying a group of mainly European retailers got underway last week, just-style spoke with Brad Loewen, the top safety official overseeing the effort.

Initial inspections have shown poor building construction and inadequate fire safety are still putting workers at risk - but the country's apparel exports continue to soar, climbing nearly 18% in the first seven months of the current fiscal year.

Cambodian labour unions are calling for a nationwide strike in mid-March, as disputes over garment industry wages and government crackdowns on protesters continue.

The calls come as global unions and brands - including H&M and Puma - met with the Cambodian government to discuss ongoing concerns about the country's garment industry following police violence earlier this year that left four workers dead.

But the secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has told just-style exports are set to continue to grow, despite the industrial unrest currently threatening production.

Meanwhile, hazardous chemicals have been found in children's clothing and footwear produced by luxury fashion brands including Versace, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana, according to a new investigation.

It certainly seems that pressure for higher wages and better working conditions is becoming unstoppable. But will new initiatives aimed at making it easier for factories to compete while undergoing these changes actually make a difference?

Another trend is an acceleration of investment in the US spinning and weaving sector. While this appears to be driven by a number of factors including falling US energy costs, local subsidies and "yarn forward" rules of origin, just-style asks if the tide really is starting to turn?

Organic cotton production in the US is on the rise, but its future growth hinges on three key building blocks, a new survey suggests, including seed improvement, the GOTS label, and popularity of 'Made in the USA'.

But what's in it for brands and retailers looking to "reshore" or "nearshore" some of their sourcing to the western hemisphere? A new position statement from the Americas Apparel Producers' Network (AAPN) contends it can be "easier, faster, safer and better."

Despite delivering a disappointing fourth-quarter and full-year performance, German sporting goods firm Puma believes it has laid down the foundations to return the company to its sportswear focus, with a new brand campaign dubbed 'Forever Faster' designed to put it back on track.

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