Blog: Leonie BarriePolitical shadow over apparel supply chain

Leonie Barrie | 7 November 2016

As the Brexit roller-coaster continues to twist and turn, and the US presidential election campaign nears its unpredictable and possibly protectionist end, there's no doubt these events – and the perceived impact of globalisation – are casting a shadow of uncertainty over the global apparel industry and its supply chain.

But potential ramifications are still likely to be some way off, according to a panel discussion at the recent Kingpins denim sourcing show in Amsterdam.

US retailers, meantime, are being advised to prepare for a rush of holiday shoppers after this week’s election, as consumers take advantage of promotions and deals to buy holiday season gifts and treat themselves.

Technology also has a key role to play in helping brands, retailers and manufacturers to adapt their business models to meet shifts in both business climate and consumer demand – be it implementing changes around design, fit or product innovation.

just-style has taken a closer look at the fast fashion supply chain – which is all about getting product to market quickly without over-spending. Fabric platforming, data metrics and new technologies such as digital printing can all help to speed up the process.

But after weighing up the various modes of transport available to clothing companies, experts say only use air freight if there is no other realistic option and the speed of delivery justifies its cost with high value sales.

Has peak internet hit Britain’s clothing sales?, asks Mike Flanagan, after the internet's share of UK clothing sales fell for the first time ever in the three months from June to September.

Meanwhile, Fast Retailing, owner of the Uniqlo casual clothing chain, has invested US$3.8m in a joint venture with specialist knit machinery manufacturer Shima Seiki to increase production of its Wholegarment seamless knitwear.

And it was a busy week for Adidas, which unveiled its first mass production running shoe made from up-cycled marine plastic – and has committed to creating 1m pairs of the new UltraBoost shoes by end of 2017.

The company is also introducing its "strongest and most innovative" rugby jersey, with features that include a new chassis system designed to give the wearer a competitive edge by improving the flow of energy through the body.

But the German sporting giant is also restructuring its Reebok brand, with the relocation of its North American HQ to Boston and the loss of 150 jobs.

In Vietnam the Ministry of Industry and Trade is to withdraw a regulation requiring textile products made in the country to be inspected for formaldehyde and aromatic amines derived from azo dye.

And the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has severed ties with six more ready-made garment suppliers after they failed to implement workplace safety measures.

C&A Foundation, the charitable arm of global fashion retailer C&A, has invested EUR250,000 (US$278,000) to help close the loop for textiles and create a zero-waste industry.

And French luxury and sportswear group Kering is to contribute to a new design curriculum to teach students about the environmental impacts of their creations as part of a partnership with The New School's Parsons School of Design.

Last week the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) revealed a new and improved version of its Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI), a cradle-to-gate tool that measures and communicates the environmental performance of thousands of materials used in apparel and footwear.

The group is also expanding the Higg Index to include a new 'adoption and analytics' service as part of a collaboration with sustainability consultancy Anthesis.

And in other news, a new model has been launched for transparency and traceability across the calf leather supply chain; Gap Inc CFO Sabrina Simmons is to step down next year; Forever 21 is to shutter its flagship store in Hong Kong; and a shipment of cotton has become the first physical commodity to be traded using a blockchain-based smart contract system.

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