Blog: Leonie BarrieResponsible development a key requirement

Leonie Barrie | 9 September 2014

US retail giant Gap Inc has made no secret of the fact that it faced - and continues to face - a number of compliance issues linked to its decision to start sourcing garments from Myanmar/Burma.

And the extent of these challenges has now been revealed after the San Francisco-based firm released details of the "rigorous due diligence process" it underwent before sourcing began, and the ongoing legal, labour and human rights issues it is now actively monitoring.

The findings make sobering reading for other Western brands and retailers thinking of doing business in the country.

More than a year after H&M revealed it was looking to source garments from Ethiopia, the Swedish fashion apparel retailer has joined forces with state investment firm Swedfund to help support responsible development in the country's textile and clothing industry.

And as part of ongoing efforts to improve working conditions in Bangladesh's garment sector, VF Corp has agreed to provide a corporate guarantee for up to US$10m in remediation loans provided to its suppliers by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

But work to implement fire and building safety improvements in the country's garment industry is being hampered by ongoing friction between the Accord and Alliance. The Alliance has most recently hit back at the Accord after it rejected some of the Alliance-backed inspections of buildings shared by members of the two groups.

Garment supplier Echo Sourcing has been building its business in Bangladesh since 2005 and is confident of continued growth in a country. The company has also told just-style it is keen to broaden its horizons and is eyeing potential new markets such as Ethiopia.

The latest figures, meanwhile, suggest cotton production is set to exceed consumption in 2014/15 for the fifth successive season, leading to rising stocks outside China and falling prices.

And although global wool production for the 2014/2015 year is forecast to be at its lowest level for 70 years, its prospects for future growth are positive thanks to new technical developments and end uses, according to a new report from just-style.

Against an improving economic backdrop and a highly promotional retail environment, back-to-school shopping helped to push up comparable store sales for most US apparel chains in August.

Teen apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co is aiming to remove the logos from its garments on sale in North America by next spring as it focuses instead on more on-trend merchandise to help it compete with fast fashion players.

And while well-established in many other industries, 3D technology is still relatively new to the fashion sector. But as just-style's latest management briefing shows, the tools are already starting to transform apparel firms - from design and development to 3D printing and technologies to help consumers try and buy better-fitting clothes.

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