Brands and retailers

Kappahl to launch new sustainable denim collection: In February, KappAhl will launch a sustainable denim collection inspired by present globalisation trends. The collection is made using Better Cotton – a more sustainably grown cotton – through more sustainable production processes. 40% less water is used in its production (24 Nov 16).

Can fast-fashion brands like Zara Go sustainable? Apparel chains such as H&M, Zara and Forever 21 conquered the retail world by promising fast fashion: cheap, trendy and disposable. Yet there’s a growing number of consumers this holiday season who want just the opposite. Data shows that shoppers – especially millennials, the target market for fast-fashion companies – are increasingly looking for clothes made of higher-quality materials or they’re keeping their existing clothes longer. Some are even seeking apparel that’s been reused or recycled (30 Nov 16).

What’s wrong with the H&M design award and the entities that support it? “…it is inadequate to consider this initiative without context – namely, H&M’s history of exploiting those responsible for manufacturing its garments and accessories. Moreover, it is irresponsible for the fashion industry –and a handful of its most esteemed publications and influencers – to triumph this initiative (and ones like it) without shedding light on the gross injustices associated with fast fashion, practices championed by H&M” (29 Nov 16).

Ramblers Way redoubles focus on American-made, sustainable clothing: Ramblers Way, an ethically sourced, American-made sustainable clothing company has announced an extensive rebrand across the company along with the new tagline ‘Clothing for a Good Life.’ The new brand look and feel embodies Ramblers Way’s commitment to protect the planet, support local economies and build its business based on lifelong values (22 Nov 16).

London College of Fashion and Kering: Professor Frances Corner, Head of London College of Fashion opened the 3rd annual Kering Talk with the comment that when LCF moves to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2020, all the faculties and facilities will be under one roof, giving the students and teaching staff “literally the space to think”. There was a lot of thinking going on last night at this LCFxKering event and Professor Dilys Williams, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at LCF, bookended Frances Corner’s comment when she later closed the event by saying she likes to think of fashion by flipping a Zadie Smith’s quote to arrive at “what is the point of making beautiful clothes if they don’t make you think?” (25 Nov 16).

WOOLN, the fashion company that hires grandmas to do its knitting:  new fashion start-up in New York City has hired an unusual workforce to produce its beautiful hand-knitted accessories. WOOLN relies entirely on the skill of nine middle- to elderly-aged women, all retirees and New York residents who are also skilled knitters (25 Nov 16).

Bestseller releases CSR report: “This year, we have adjusted our strategy in order to ensure that it continuously reflects a high commitment and ambition level and that it embraces new sustainability tendencies and focus areas. We have set a new goal to reduce the amount of virgin plastic in our packaging and in our supply chain, and we have emphasised our commitment to integrate animal welfare in our buying practices to a higher degree,” says Mogens Werge, Communication & Sustainability Director (26 Nov 16). See report here.

Major brands fail tests and promotions that mislead in China: More than a third of clothing with brands such as Dunlop, Adidas and Uniqlo sold at 12 department stores that were checked by Shanghai's market watchdog failed quality tests (24 Nov 16).

Tchibo named Germany’s most sustainable company for 2016: Tchibo was named Germany’s most sustainable large-scale company at an award ceremony last week. The winners of the ninth German Sustainability Award were announced in front of 1,200 guests including the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, and actor and honorary laureate Nicolas Cage. The jury honoured Tchibo for its pioneering role and commitment in the consumer goods industry, and for addressing important challenges in its value chain with good sustainability management across all areas. (25 Nov 16 – in German).

 Reports, Guidelines and Standards

PETA’s “Live Lizards Hacked Apart” ad too graphic: A PETA ad asking holiday shoppers to consider not buying exotic animal skin products was deemed too graphic to be posted on city bus stops, according to the animal rights group. The tagline for the ad reads “I am not a handbag, a belt or a pair of shoes. I am a living being — just like you” (23 Nov 16).

“Designers should adapt digital sample to reduce waste”: Designers need to adapt to new operating models for sampling and embrace digital prototyping: this was one of the key takeaways from Beyond Green, a signature circular textiles event that concluded recently in Amsterdam. The programme was organised by Circle Economy, a social enterprise in association with Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) (24 Nov 16).

We want our clothes to tell a different story: “There is nothing more important than performance, and fashion brands have to perform because of this greed - not a percent or two per year, but at least 10 percent quarterly, even when we’re talking about billion-dollar businesses. There is no end to the greed, so the brands are spreading themselves thin,” said trend forecaster Li Edelkoort in an interview with Deutsche Welle published this week (23 Nov 16).

Is your T-shirt clean of slavery? Science may soon be able to tell: Shoppers lured by a bargain-priced T-shirt but concerned about whether the item is free of slave labour could soon have the answer - from DNA forensic technology (28 Nov 16).

‘Made in America’ versus fast fashion: The higher wages and management costs of the “Made in USA” label, although ethical, come at a very expensive price. Midrange brands trying to maintain that status have met with obstacles that fast-fashion competitors can sidestep by offering similar designs with minimum financial hassle (25 Nov 16).

How it became fashionable not to wear fur: In October, a group of leading young fashion designers, including Hannah Weiland of Shrimps, Molly Goddard, and Faustine Steinmetz, wrote to students at Central Saint Martins urging them not to use fur in their collections. “Fortunately, in order to be a success in the fashion world, you don’t need to contribute to the barbaric treatment of animals practised by the fur industry”, they wrote. And of course, they’re right - taking a stand against real fur has never been more on trend. From icons such as Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to some of the world’s best-loved stars - like Penélope Cruz, Kate Winslet, and Miley Cyrus - everyone who’s anyone has spoken out against it (25 Nov 16).

Black Friday rings up the financial costs of fast fashion: The problem with fast fashion, and the hype for huge savings on days such as Black Friday, is that sustainability issues around raw materials sourcing – oftentimes overlooked – could create supply disruptions and result in higher raw material costs over time (25 Nov 16).

What Bangladesh can do to help garment workers: Sliding deadlines for safety improvements following the Rana Plaza disaster demonstrate why the Bangladesh government must act [letter to the editor] (25 Nov 16).

ZDHC releases Wastewater Guidelines for sustainability: The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) programme, a collaboration of 22 leading brands, 13 value chain affiliates and 7 associates, has released its Wastewater Guidelines, a unified expectation on wastewater quality for the entire textile and footwear industry. The Guidelines have been endorsed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) (26 Nov 16).

Does fashion have a mental health problem? Fashion’s unique pressures can leave its workers vulnerable to mental health issues, impacting employees and employers alike. What can the industry learn from other sectors? (28 Nov 16).

London College of Fashion part of the UN’s mission to end violence against women: The London College of Fashion has launched a campaign entitled #TheOrangeProject, which is focused on raising awareness about violence against women. The campaign, launched in collaboration with Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio platform and the United Nations, includes a social media take-over and a student design competition (27 Nov 16).

PETA releases video of animal cruelty at Brazilian cattle ranches supplying to JBS Leather: A PETA video exposé (which may contain disturbing images for some viewers) featuring investigative footage from the nongovernmental organization Repórter Brasil of several cattle ranches in Brazil supplying JBS – the largest leather processor in the world – reveals that cattle were branded on the face, electroshocked, and beaten before finally being slaughtered (15 Nov 16).

Greenpeace sounds the alarm on fast fashion: On Black Friday, a big promotional opportunity for many US and European retailers, Greenpeace issued a warning about clothing overconsumption, stating it has a serious environmental impact (29 Nov 16).

Vegetable ‘ivory’ offers accessory alternative for China’s green fashion advocates: Wildlife groups have been working to put an end to the ivory trade in China, and last year, the government promised to stop domestic sales. But there’s another kind of “ivory” that may soon see a growing market in China: vegetable ivory from the tagua nut (aka corozo). While not necessarily an elephant ivory replacement, tagua producers are hoping to make gains in China’s local luxury fashion industry (29 Nov 16).


Sae-A and partners send fourth medical mission to Haiti: Together with the George Washington University School of Nursing, South Korea's Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital, and Haiti's The Vision Plus Eye Clinic, Sae-A (a leading global apparel manufacturer and exporter) led its 4th Medical Mission to Northern Haiti at the S&H Primary School. The Medical Mission took place over the course of one week and treated approximately 2,500 local residents. (18 Nov 16).

Crystal expands empowerment project to male staff: Crystal Group has expanded its worker empowerment programme to male staff for the first time. The first batch of 34 male workers completed the 16-month Gap Inc. PACE (Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement) programme in September. Not only is this the first time the group has customised the learning modules for men - but the graduates are also the first male PACE participants in China since the initiative launched in 2007 (29 Nov 16).

The Supply Chain

Undercover child labour video in China leads to arrests: An undercover investigation into the use of illegal child labour has led to the arrest of two men, after at least eight underage children were found making clothes in a factory in eastern China, according to state broadcaster CCTV. On Monday, a clothing factory foreman and his associate were arrested in the city of Changshu (24 Nov 16). See also the South China Morning Post’s follow up; “Scourge of child labour a result of urban-rural wealth divide” (28 Nov 16).

Bangladesh Alliance rejects critical report by worker rights groups: The Alliance has rejected the report of four global rights groups saying in several areas, it misrepresented and oversimplified the complexities of the western retailers' platforms including efforts of the Accord to improve worker safety in Bangladesh (27 Nov 16).

Labour rights protection still weak in Bangladesh: While RMG workplace safety has improved since the Tazreen Factory fire, much remains to be done in ensuring labour rights, experts and trade union leaders tell the Dhaka Tribune (24 Nov 16).

“Bangladesh government, industry need to ensure RMG workers’ rights”: The Bangladesh government and the country’s garment industry need to ensure workers’ rights to association, organise, bargain as well as raise their voices on safety issues, said Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, US ambassador. However, Bernicat found the building and fire safety in the readymade garment industry of the nation to be satisfactory (29 Nov 16).

Four years after the Tazreen Factory fire, research sheds light on the daily hazards garment workers face: Through the Garment Worker Diaries project, research teams in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and India have been collecting weekly data on what garment workers earn and buy each week, how they spend their time each day, and whether they experience any harassment, injuries, or other significant events while at the factories. Though still in the early stages of data collection, the project covers 540 workers from across these three countries, and researchers are hearing from them about the health and safety hazards they face (24 Nov 16).

Union leader demands punishment for Tazreen Fashion owner: Trade union leaders have again demanded exemplary punishment for the owner of Tazreen Fashions as 113 workers of the factory were killed in a fire mainly due to his negligence (25 Nov 16). See also a release from Clean Clothes Campaign: Four years since the Tazreen factory fire: justice only half done (24 Nov 16).

Fire breaks out at Bangladesh apparel factory: The fire broke out at the ‘Mamun Knitwear Ltd’ factory on Monday morning. Factory management said the fire was under control by the time the fire fighters arrived (28 Nov 16).

Cambodia’s Labour Ministry forms new body to monitor workplace safety: A new National Committee on Occupational Safety and Health established under a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen last week will advise the government on all work-place safety issues – but excludes transportation accidents, which one observer said make up the majority of work-related injuries in the country (23 Nov 16).

Demonetisation in India set to affect 400,000 jobs: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s big move on demonetisation has resulted in temporary job losses especially in labour-intensive sectors like textiles, garments, leather and jewellery. As many as 400,000 people, mostly daily wagers, may have either lost their jobs or shunned work temporarily due to the lack of payment so far, and the number is only going to grow if the cash crunch persists, senior industry executives said on condition of anonymity (25 Nov 16).

US Department of Labor blasts southern Californian factories for wage theft: Eighty-five percent of Southern California garment contractors operated in violation of wage laws and were guilty of wage theft in the 2016 fiscal year, according to an investigation of the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (17 Nov 16).

Downtown São Paulo residential building housing illegal sewing workshop gutted in fire: A building in downtown São Paulo that caught fire in the early hours of 23 November was home for about 20 Bolivians and an illegal sewing workshop. The media is reporting four dead (23 Nov 16 – in Portuguese).

New expanded minimum wage law in Cambodia raises concerns: Clauses within the first draft of a new expanded minimum wage law – a copy of which was obtained by the Post yesterday – have alarmed observers and trade unionists alike, who say that it would shackle rather than empower workers. “The whole process is formalised and the power taken away from the unions,” Ou Virak, president of think tank Future Forum, said after reading the draft yesterday. “Strong and truly independent unions that could not be co-opted will be side-lined and after that, they can’t do anything because they’ll be illegal” (29 Nov 16).

(Image, Kazuend, CCO)