Blog: Leonie BarrieRegional supply chains shape up

Leonie Barrie | 26 November 2018

Regional patterns in world textile and apparel trade are becoming increasingly important, according to an analysis using data from the re:source by just-style sourcing tool. The trend reflects both the changing dynamics of the global economy and the shifting sourcing strategies of fashion brands and retailers.

Issues within the North American supply chain were the focus of a hearing on the potential impact of the new US-Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). Representatives from the US apparel and textile industries all voiced concerns regarding tariff preference levels (TPLs), arguing they will make trade more difficult.

One of the key messages to come out of this year's Fair Wear Foundation Annual Summit was that creating a truly sustainable global garment industry requires input from all players, including brands and retailers, business associations, trade unions, governments, NGOs and the end consumer.

Another discussion at the event was the prevalence of child labour in garment factories in Asia. An uncomfortable truth for many brands and retailers, part of the solution is to be more open about why it happens, how to avoid it, and what to do when child workers are found.

But poor working conditions, low wages, modern slavery and human trafficking in the garment industry happen closer to home as well. As more UK retailers look to reshore some of their sourcing, the local industry has come under intense scrutiny – and the findings are not good. Executives from across the sector have told just-style what's going wrong, and why tough government action is needed.

The looming economic fallout should Bangladesh refuse to extend the Accord on Fire and Building Safety has been described as “a crash in slow motion.” In just one week's time the Bangladesh government may force this landmark agreement to stop operating out of Dhaka.

To get investors thinking far more about the human rights impacts of their investments and reward companies that are more transparent about their policies and practices, this year’s Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) provides a snapshot of who’s doing what. And while most companies scored poorly, Adidas and Marks and Spencer are bucking the trend.

Indeed, such are the challenges that the United Nations is preparing to launch the 'UN Alliance on Sustainable Fashion' in March next year, in a bid to create an industry-wide push for action to reduce fashion's negative social, economic and environmental impacts.

But in an age where products often cross multiple borders and pass through several sets of hands before reaching the shelves, how can producers, manufacturers, suppliers and retailers ensure they can back up their claims on the label? Forensic science can provide proof of provenance.

A recent event in the UK has also heard how the athleisure segment has several attributes that position it well to tackle the issue of 'fast fashion'.

And by this time next year, there could be as many as 30 garment manufacturing factories that are owned and operated by Asia-based companies in Haiti, just-style has been told.

But hundreds of store closures could be on the way at Gap Inc as the firm appraises the namesake brand locations that are "dragging down" the business. The move comes after the segment reported a 7% drop in third-quarter comparable sales.

Meanwhile in other news, third-quarter filings from US apparel and footwear brands and retailers have continued to come in; H&M has hosted an event to explore ways the fashion industry can become more transparent; and JCrew’s CEO has departed after less than 18 months in the role.

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