Blog: Hannah AbdullaLabour rights set to worsen across Asia’s garment sector

Hannah Abdulla | 4 May 2020

Labour rights are set to worsen in Asia's garment sector as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the region – with knock-on implications for fashion companies trying to maintain supply chains from these locations.

Garment factories in Egypt have indicated that order cancellations linked to the global outbreak are reaching millions of dollars, and that many manufacturers have been forced to reduce their production capacity as a result.

The president of Turkish Clothing Manufacturers' Association TGSD (Türkiye Giyim Sanayicileri Dernegi) has complained about the treatment his members have experienced at the hands of international brands and retailers recently. 

And Central America's apparel exports will likely hover at $4bn to $5bn this year as the pandemic slashes the impoverished region's shipments by 50%.

Hong Kong-based Esquel Group, one of the world's largest woven shirt suppliers, is shuttering four factories in China, Malaysia and Mauritius as it struggles with falling orders.

And, garment workers in Serbia, Ukraine, Croatia and Bulgaria are said to be earning less than a living wage producing clothes for German fashion brands – with many having to carry on despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The supply chain has the potential to be the single biggest force for change in the sustainability of the global fashion industry. 

Education and collaboration are key to driving greater sustainability in the global denim industry, particularly as the sector looks to return to normalcy.

Fabric developers will need to reposition their collections to have fewer materials in order to keep buyers engaged, as the coronavirus outbreak has forced them to showcase collections differently.

The lessons learned from the outbreak must lead to a complete overhaul of the global fashion supply chain if the industry is to be sustainable in the future.

Meanwhile, three associations representing the US fashion, apparel, footwear, and travel goods industries have set out recommendations for future tariff relief and stimulus aid to help retailers and importers emerge from the coronavirus crisis.

The US fashion industry is ramping up efforts to obtain billions of dollars in tariff relief and stimulus aid from Washington as it moves to provide an oxygen tank for battered retailers and save jobs. 

'Made in the USA' textiles and apparel have attracted growing attention in recent years amid the escalating US-China trade war, the rising cost of imports, and consumers' increasing demand for speed to market. But where are these mills based, what are their production and supply chain strategies, and the key export trends

On the brands front, the Oasis and Warehouse Group is to cease trading online and close all stores indefinitely after administrators were unable to secure a buyer for the fashion business.

German sportswear giant Adidas says one of its top priorities is ensuring its supply chain remains operational, as it looks to manage relations and end the year with "healthy and reasonable inventory."

And UK retailer Next Plc is anticipating a steep fall of up to 40% in full-year full-price sales, while cancelling stock it no longer needs and moving other inventory into future seasons.

Elsewhere, Fast Retailing, HanesBrands, and John Lewis are among the latest fashion firms to mobilise their production facilities and supply chains to help address the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

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