Blog: Beth WrightWeaving a new vision for US denim

Beth Wright | 7 October 2019

The closure of the last US selvedge denim mill two years ago might have marked the end of an era. But thanks to the vision of Daniel Feibus and his team, the original looms have found a new home at Vidalia Mills as part of plans to build a cutting-edge, transparent and sustainable denim manufacturing chain in the United States.

While fashion brands and retailers are far removed from the farmers growing the cotton used in their clothes, bringing the two together is key to understanding the raw material's environmental impact and making true sustainability claims about the cotton contained in their clothes.

Meanwhile, the US has been given the green light to impose tariffs ranging from 10% to 25% on US$7.5bn worth of goods it imports from the EU, including clothing – as part of an escalating trade row over aircraft subsidies. 

And the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has withheld clothing from a manufacturer in China over concerns the products were made using forced labour.

The move comes as finance ministers and treasurers of four nations – Indonesia, Australia, Canada and Singapore – have formed a coalition, indirectly calling on the US and China to settle their differences, which, they say, is impacting the entire global economy.

The latest monthly round-up of updates to key free trade agreements and trade preference programmes involving the EU, US and Japan covers developments in September 2019. Trade agreements, rules of origin, tariffs and schedules are all covered in depth in the re:source by just-style strategic planning tool.

Elsewhere, Nicaragua, one of Central America's leading apparel producers, has been suffering a decline in exports to the European Union (EU) this year, except for one category that is bucking the trend: T-shirts.

While in nearby Peru, clothing manufacturers are betting on a local fibre with international renown to grow exports: Alpaca.

In UK retail, the Marks and Spencer management team has admitted it is 18 months behind schedule on a turnaround plan for its clothing and home business.

The John Lewis Partnership is to merge its two businesses under one executive team, resulting in the loss of a third of the group's senior management roles.

And supermarket retailer Tesco has announced the resignation of its group CEO Dave Lewis who will step down from the business next year – a departure one analyst says will leave "some mighty big boots to fill." 

Meanwhile, JD Sports says it will continue to "co-operate fully" with the competition watchdog's probe into its acquisition of rival Footasylum, which the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says could result in a worse deal for customers, both in-store and online.

And UK supermarket Sainsbury's has told its suppliers they must foot the cost of additional duties should the UK exit the European Union without a deal.

In the US, fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 and its US subsidiaries have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced plans to exit most of its international locations in Asia and Europe.

While elsewhere, New Zealand outdoor apparel retailer Kathmandu has struck a deal to acquire Australian surfwear clothing and equipment brand Rip Curl for AUS$350m (US$233m).

And the first phase of a project by Shop Direct, Next Plc and Varner to improve employment conditions for young women in South India's fabric mills has engaged almost 9,500 people, with the partnership now gearing up for a second phase, due to launch later this year – with plans including the launch of an app for workers to provide feedback.

However, a due diligence study of the Tamil Nadu leather footwear manufacturing sector has found wages and conditions to be worse than those in the region's garment sector, with many issues not being picked up in company audits.

In other news, Stella McCartney has become the first fashion designer to launch a new sustainable bio-based faux furapparel industry heavyweights have committed to a new initiative to transform the impacts of the global packaging supply chain on forests; and H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson remains confident the Swedish fashion retailer's transformation strategy is bearing fruit

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