Blog: Michelle RussellProgress on trade deals welcomed

Michelle Russell | 19 December 2019

The United States and China have reached an agreement on a Phase One trade deal in a move that will delay new tariffs that were due to take effect over the weekend and halve the rates currently imposed on most apparel and textile products imported from China.

Further, after two years of talks, a deal has also been struck on the revised terms of the United States Mexico Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, with US apparel and textile industry groups urging swift Congressional and presidential approval. The signing could see a vote by House of Representatives on the agreement as soon as this week.

And in the UK, the Conservative Party's victory in the UK General Election was welcomed by the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT), which is now calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to work with the industry on a number of key issues. These include securing a Brexit deal that minimises disruption to trade, increasing support for exporters, fixing the skills and training landscape and increasing targeted support for UK manufacturing businesses.

Moving towards sustainability in the clothing and textile sector requires a huge amount of long-term investment – be it new sewage processing systems or recycling technology. But how to get the rewards from these investments? At this year's Integral Conversation conference organised by Hong Kong-based shirt manufacturing giant Esquel Group, companies in the fashion industry were exploring solutions.

Meanwhile, three leading apparel organisations have published a set of proposals for EU policymakers to accelerate circular practices in the apparel, footwear and textile sectors. The Policy Hub – launched by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI) and Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) – has released two position papers that outline the key principles it says policymakers must focus on in order for the sector to transition to a circular economy.

Two separate fires at factories in Asia have led to renewed calls for better enforcement of fire and building safety regulations. The first was at a bag factory in the Indian capital Delhi, killing 43 workers. Many of the factory's workers, for a large part migrants and some of them minors, were sleeping at the factory when the fire started.

The second fire occurred at a sweater factory in Bangladesh that supplies fashion retailers including Next and H&M, and resulted in one death. Several others were injured.

'Business Transformation' is a current buzzword not thought through carefully by many who use the term. If this is to be more than just internal cost cutting and wishful top line improvements, it has to mean "stop doing the things the company does badly and loses money on”. But how a fashion company can convince external stakeholders, and indeed itself, that the targets set out in budgets and range plans are both fair and achievable?

Digital data tools and machine learning can provide apparel businesses with an alternative way to make fact-based decisions that are not swayed by personal bias or emotion. This article takes a look how a digitally enabled creative process could work – and the key steps to success.

In Britain there are too many small clothing and footwear manufacturers making too little money. It is time for the sector to take a leaf from the German market and realise that for many it is merge or die.

In other news, Marquee Brands is to acquire Destination Maternity; the CEO of Ted Baker has quit amid yet another profit warning; H&M has partnered with China fashion rental platform YCloset to test subscription rentals; and M&S is working with six start-ups as part of its Founders Factory JV.

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