The US presidential race: The Donald has more media inches than anyone else, but it’s taken a while for the fashion press to work out exactly what a Trump presidency might mean for the industry. This week, Imran Amed, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Business of Fashion, takes a shot at making sense of it all. The Trumpmeister is bad news, says Amed, because he’s anti-immigration, and “[l]et's remember that America is a country of immigrants, and the American fashion industry in particular is built on the work of immigrants and their offspring”. There are designers (Alexander Wang, Jason Wu, Vera Wang, Wen Zhou, Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren, Thakoon Panichgul, Prabal Gurung and Stephen Gan), and “that's not even counting thousands of garment workers, artisans and ther people who make America's fashion industry tick – including Mexican Americans and Muslim Americans” (20 Mar 16).
“Back off”: So says Kelly Drennan, founding executive director of Fashion Takes Action and a communications consultant working with H&M. “I’m getting tired of reading or hearing about what H&M is doing wrong,” she says. “Can’t we just come together and applaud the positive impacts that H&M has made?” (25 Feb 16).
Speaking of H&M, the Swedish retailer was in the news a few of times during the week, all of it good. The first was because it’s enlisted rapper M.I.A.’s support to collect 1,000 tons of used and unwanted clothing to be recycled and turned into new garments to raise awareness of World Recycle Week (17 Mar 16). Then it turned up in an Elle UK report called “The lazy girl’s guide to sustainability” (recycle your clothes at H&M comes in at #2) (18 Mar 16). The Third was a Vogue story on the “preview of its Conscious Exclusive collection at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris” (18 Mar 16).
Back to the Future: Speaking of lazy, Nike has come up with a shoe that ties its own laces a la Marty McFly. Or maybe they’re for people in a rush. Or for super athletes. Take your pick. Whatever the case, the shoes are only available via auction this year, with all proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, a non-profit launched by the actor who played Marty McFly in the movie (17 Mar 16). I’m waiting for Nike to bring out some Astro Boy boots.
According to The New Yorker, “China’s rich have their first home grown haute couturier”. It’s Guo Pei, brought to widespread international attention when Rihanna wore one of her gowns (21 Mar 16). In a world of fast fashion, Guo is the polar opposite; it took her two years to hand make Rihanna’s gown.
Eyeing the supply chain: An article by freelance journalist Gethin Chamberlain questioning how Lidl sells jeans for £5.99 circulated widely during the week. His answer? “Pay people 23p an hour [in Bangladesh] to make them” (13 Mar 16).
2,500 workers at Gokak Mills in Belagavi, India (makers of dyed yarns, yarn, canvas, etc.) “have been on strike … demanding fulfilment of their various demands and in condemnation of alleged harassment by the authorities” (15 Mar 16).
Also in southern India (this time Tamil Nadu), the death of a 17-year-old girl working in Ganapathy Spinning Mills has “raised fresh concerns over the working conditions of textile workers, especially those trapped in bonded labour (17 Mar 16).
A new report from Labour Behind the Label and Homeworkers Worldwide, says an invisible workforce of homeworkers in southern India form a key and highly exploited part of the leather shoe supply chain (16 Mar 16). The full report titled Stitching our Shoes is available here (PDF).
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has partnered with VF and Target to promote manufacturing sustainability in Vietnam’s textile and apparel industry (15 Mar 16). In the first twelve-month phase, the project will assess energy and water efficiency at around 30 factories.
In Bangladesh, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has cut ties with eleven more factories for failing to make adequate remediation progress (there’s a list in the article) (16 Mar 16). Meanwhile, the government has decided to double the number of engineering firms to conduct Detailed Engineering Assessments (DEA) to expedite remediation works in factories (16 Mar 16).
Ethical fashion and apparel: Australian ethical label Etiko (“wear no evil”) was in the news this week for picking up a AU$75,000 grant via the NAB Impact Investment Readiness Fund to kick-start an export push (16 Mar 16). Etiko topped the 2015 Australian Ethical Fashion Report (opens as PDF) by Baptist World Aid Australia.
Emma Olson, owner of Hazel & Rose, was the subject of a profile in the lead up to the opening of a new store in Minneapolis (17 Mar 16). Her boutiques stock only well researched socially and eco-conscious brands.
From Cambodia, comes news of three local ethical clothing brands: Good Krama, using hand-woven silk and natural dyes or upcycles material from factories; Tonlé, using “upcycled materials left over from garment factories”; and Dorsu, which provides a “good working environment or employees” (17 Mar 16).
Forbes (14 Mar 16) profiled a start-up I’ve been following on WeChat and LinkedIn for a while from China called The Squirrelz. An upcycling and eco-wholesaler, The Squirrelz sells eco-sustainable textiles and defective materials from overstocked Chinese factories. I wish I’d thought of that!
Ethical textiles and materials: It’s been a decade since the Nordic countries shut down viscose production, but with a spike in cotton prices in 2011, pulp makers are working to develop “clean ways to turn birch and pine trees into clothes or sofa covers to help revive their industry and meet demand from fashion and furniture firms for alternative textiles to cotton” (14 Mar 16).
Downlite is the first manufacturer of down to be certified to the Global Traceable Down Standard (PDF), which addresses animal welfare and supply chain traceability from parent farm to factory. Downlite is a supplier to outdoor apparel company Patagonia (15 Mar 16).
And then there’s the question of leather. Lucy Siegle asks, “Is it time to give up leather?” Ethical material if done sustainably? Or an unstainable product based on a mountain of slaughtered cows (“430 million annually by 2025”)? It’s an interesting read either way (13 Mar 15).
Cotton seemed to be in the news more than usual. First are reports on child or forced labour. Following a story that Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have made minimal progress in eradicating child labour from cotton fields (8 Mar 16), there was a claim that Uzbekistan “went out of its way to make participation in the 2015 harvest appear voluntary”, despite the forced mobilisation of citizens, “including health care workers, teachers and students” to harvest the crop (15 Mar16). In the meantime, Indian cotton exports to Bangladesh showed no signs of slowing down, topping 2014 figures by 36 percent (for a total of 2.99 million bales in 2015). Bangladesh imported 6.1 million bales of cotton in 2015, 49 percent of which came from India (13 Mar 16), and appears on track to meeting its target of doubling its apparel exports to US$50 billion by 2021.
Richard Holland, director of WWF’s Market Transformation Initiative, thinks we at the crossroads when it comes to sustainable cotton production; i.e., ‘organic,’ ‘Better Cotton’ and ‘fair trade’. He says, “Despite these various types of sustainable cotton now making up around 10 percent of global supply, there is a gap between supply and uptake.” Why? Well, we’ll need to wait and see, since WWF Pesticide Action Network U.K. and Solidaridad will release a report in April that looks at the gap and some of the factors behind it (17 Mar 16). I’ll keep you posted.
Transport for London (TfL) – the local government body responsible for most aspects of the transport system in Greater London – has inked a five year partnership deal with the Fairtrade Foundation to source Fairtrade cotton for all cotton in its staff uniforms (14 Mar 16).
Gucci and gay marriage: Now that it’s legal in Italy, Gucci has announced its intention of granting family-related leave to its employees irrespective of their sexual orientation (15 Mar 16).