Patagonia launches European fix-it tour: Patagonia wants to stop the flow of fast fashion. The group will make more than 50 stops around Europe this spring as part of the "Euro Worn Wear Tour," offering free repairs on busted zippers, rips and buttons, and teaching people how to fix their own clothes, regardless of the brand. The tour will kick off on April 15 in both the UK and Germany, taking in Italy and the Netherlands before finishing in France on May 21 (09 Apr 16).

Kelly Slater on his new eco label: Eleven-time world surfing champion Slater talked this week about his new label Outerknown, and the personal importance of ethical fashion. “After reading horror stories about slave labour and the environmental impact of textile products, I just wanted to start at the base level and work from there,” he said. “If your heart’s in it and you want to go about things the right way, it can be done” (02 Apr 16). At the Outerknown website, Slater puts it like this: “I created Outerknown to smash the formula. To lift the lid on the traditional supply chain and prove that you can actually produce great looking menswear in a sustainable way.” So far, he’s partnered with the Fair Labor Association and Bluesign to keep on top of labour and environmental issues, promising this is just the start.

Unauthorised subcontracting in supply chains: As Kelly Slater mentions above, if you want to do things the right way, you can do it. But it’s not a picnic. A piece posted on the Omega Compliance site during the week shows just how hard it can be (05 Apr 16). As the opening paragraphs says: “The majority of Chinese factories subcontract at least one production process to a separate, undisclosed, manufacturer. This poses a significant risk to responsible sourcing programs.”

Five lessons from Mud Jeans: Mud jeans is a circular business (leasing jeans is a significant aspect), and they have learnt some things along the way. They are: i) make your proposition and its circular aspect easy to understand; ii) circular concepts need adoption time - continuously educate your customers; iii) circular businesses face cash flow issues that challenge standard banking solutions; iv) viral marketing is not only cheaper but gives you vital customer insight; and v) close relationships in the value chain means less waste and brings higher margins (03 Apr 16).

PETA protests Hermès over ostrich leather: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) held a protest outside the Hermès flagship store in London demanding it and Prada stop using ostrich and other exotic skins. PETA has previously released videos exposing issues associated with ostrich farming in South Africa. One of the protestors at the demonstration was quoted as saying: “Anyone who buys a bumpy Birkin bag or pockmarked Prada purse is responsible for the shocking, slaughtering, plucking and skinning of a smart, sensitive and curious young ostrich” (01 Apr 16). Last year, Jane Birkin “requested that [Hermès] ‘debaptise’ her name from its Birkin bag, particularly from the crocodile-skin version, due to the ‘cruel’ methods necessary to make said pretty purse” (29 Jul 15).

Ananas Anam’s pineapple leather alternative: Ananas Anam, a UK textiles startup turning waste pineapple leaves into a leather substitute, already interest from the manufacturers of shoes and handbags to car seats. We should start seeing the first items in stores in early 2017 (31 Mar 16).

Sunspel launches made-in-England jeans: Established in 1860 as a textile manufacturer, Sunspel is better known these days as a retailer of men’s basic apparel. So it’s interesting that it’s going back to manufacturing and introducing its first ever ‘Made in England’ selvedge denim jean, on the website for £163.00 (01 Apr 16).

VF involved in $320 Million Manufacturing Innovation Institute: In a public – private national research initiative, VF Corporation has partnered with more than 80 companies and non-profit organizations to spearhead a new manufacturing innovation institute to advance the future of the U.S. textile industry through digital and technology enhancements. The Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) Alliance is leading the project, bringing together non-traditional partners to integrate fibres and yarns with integrated circuits, LEDs, solar cells and other capabilities (05 Apr 16).

Norwegian government pension fund signs initiative with apparel sector: Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) has signed an initiative within the apparel manufacturing sector “to improve social and labour conditions in the apparel industry. The initiative will work to develop a standard for how companies in the industry assess social and labour conditions in their supply chains. The initiative seeks to contribute to a more sustainable apparel sector through standardised processes, common tools and a possible certification of companies and their supply chains” (05 Apr 16).

Stony Apparel founders help raise $800,000 for cancer treatment: Founders Steve Maiman and Tony Litman received the City of Hope Spirit of Life award at an event that raised more than $800,000 for the research and medical centre (31 Mar 16).

H&M’s fair living wage strategy update: The company says it implemented the Fair Wage Method in 68 factories during 2015 and an additional 78 in 2016. At the end of this year, supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, China and Turkey will be covered. They also note that 40 per cent of the factories producing for H&M in Bangladesh now have democratically elected and effective employee committees (04 Apr 16).

H&M's Conscious Exclusive Collection released for 2016: H&M’s Conscious Exclusive collection for 2016 has been released, offering higher-end, eco-friendly pieces that aim to bridge the gap between style and sustainability (07 Apr 16).

Labour groups demand H&M deliver ‘safety conscious’ fashion: Labour rights groups in Europe, Bangladesh and North America launched a call this week for consumers to participate in a global day of action on May 3rd. The protests, which will coincide with H&M’s 2016 Annual General Meeting in Solna, Sweden, will demand H&M finally keep its promises to make its Bangladeshi supplier factories safe. A review of corrective action plans relating to 32 of H&M’s strategic suppliers, carried out this week, shows that the majority of these factories still lack adequate fire exits nearly three years after H&M committed to improve working conditions by signing the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety (07 Apr 16).

The real knock offs: In what I think is one of the more interesting stories I’ve read this year, Sapna Maheshwari and Beimeng Fu track down a company owned by one of the wealthiest men in China, which they say is responsible for selling more poorly made clothes based on stolen designs through Facebook than anyone else (05 Apr 16). If you think fast fashion retailers have a problem with sustainability, then consider what’s happening in the supply chain of a company selling prom gowns for ten bucks. Mind boggling.

Gucci fashion advert banned for using 'unhealthily thin' model: “A Gucci advert promoting the company’s latest fashion range has been banned by UK regulators for using a model that looked ‘unhealthily thin’, and for pushing an ‘irresponsible body image’ (06 Apr 16).

1.5m new workers in Myanmar’s garment sector by 2020: The Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) predicts the industry will generate US$12 billion in export value and create 1.5 million new jobs by 2020 (06 Apr 16).

“Hope for Myanmar”: Actor Bill Nighy (who is also Oxfam Global Ambassador and campaigner for the Robin Hood Tax) went to Myanmar recently, penning an article for The Huffington Post when he returned (05 Apr 16). “Imagine being too scared to ask for a bathroom break at work. Or working in 38 degree heat without safe drinking water. Or being locked in, forced to live in fear of fires or other accidents,” he begins. Although he ends the article on a hopeful note, it’s clear he doesn’t see things in the same way as the MGMA (above).

Vietnam shifting from fast fashion to ethical couture? Perhaps, but there’s a long way to go. Still, you have to start somewhere (06 Apr 16).

The East African Community to outlaw imports of second-hand clothes: The regional trade bloc comprising Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi wants to outlaw imports of second-hand clothes by 2019, ending the importation of clothes donated by people in rich countries with the aim of boosting local manufacturing (02 Apr 16).

Levi’s starts to recycle clothes in Europe: Levi’s is rolling out a program in Europe that it started a year ago in the US, enabling “consumers to recycle clothing and shoes in store in aid of reducing the volume of waste sent to landfills” (03 Mar 16).

Bestseller joins ETI: Danish retailer Bestseller has joined the Ethical Trading Initiative, thus committing to adopting the ETI Base Code, a model code of labour practices, as well as following ETI’s Principles of implementation (30 Mar 16).

Canada’s VCAD integrates sustainability in fashion programs: The Visual College of Art & Design (VCAD) in Vancouver has updated its curriculum for fashion programs to include a dedicated course on sustainability within the industry, one of the first diploma programs of its kind in North America (04 Apr 16).

More on the Fair Trade textile standard: Previous editions of FSWIR have noted the release of Fair Trade’s textile standard, criticisms by the Clean Clothes Campaign, and Fair Trade’s response. For those interested in a longer analysis of the standard, then Jan Furstenborg’s piece might be of interest (05 Apr 16). When the initiative was first announced, Jan was invited to conduct a feasibility study for the German development and cooperation ministry (BIZ). He’s willing to send you his 100-page report if you contact him.

The future of sustainable cotton: Speaking of cotton, a new report from Solidaridad, WWF and Pesticides Action Network UK (PAN UK) paints a picture of an industry at the crossroads. Despite sustainable cotton production reaching all-time highs (2,173,000 tonnes in 2014, or 8% of the total global supply, with projections suggesting that will rise to 13% in 2015), only “17% of all sustainable cotton being bought by retailers. The remaining 83% is diverted to the conventional cotton market, which can act as a disincentive to farmers to invest in sustainable cotton production. If greater demand is not reflected in increased orders from retailers, there is a danger that farmers will abandon sustainable production altogether and the opportunity to improve global standards will be missed” (04 Apr 16). The full report is here (opens as PDF).

Faster, faster. Cheaper, cheaper…: Áslaug Magnúsdóttir, the co-founder of Moda Operandi and the now defunct Tinker Tailor, says, “Brands must bring consumers into the buying process and build new production capabilities, so demand for new designs can be fulfilled in days, not months.” (05 Apr 16). On a related note, Fast Retailing’s Tadashi Yanai said last week that Uniqlo would go back to doing what it did best – selling jumpers and T-shirts at rock-bottom prices. “From now on, we’re going with the lowest prices as possible,” Mr. Yanai said (08 Apr 16). It’s hard to see where all this ends…

“Save animals, exploit humans”: “Some consumers will bend over backward to avoid buying from companies that exploit animals but will shamelessly buy goods made in a sweatshop without a second thought” (05 Apr 16). And vice-versa, I believe. Finding companies actively working on every issue is a nigh on impossible.

Are we fools for expecting more than corporate greenwashing? I guess that depends on whom you ask. If it’s Italian economist Guido Brera, then the answer is a resounding no. And so too for Lucy Siegle, a journalist who writes about ethical living in the UK. She takes umbrage with “H&M’s Recycle Week clashing exactly with the grassroots Fashion Revolution campaign” (03 Apr 16).

Eyeing the supply chain: A round up of what’s happening in supply chains globally

Cambodia approves controversial trade union law: Cambodia's National Assembly has approved, as expected, a trade union law, which critics say threatens to restrict workers’ rights. The law, which will affect around 3,400 trade unions, has been criticized for articles requiring every strike should be approved with an absolute majority and that trade union leaders to read and write in Khmer and not have a criminal record, among others (09 Apr 16). Criticisms have also been levelled at “provisions forcing unions to report their finances to the government each year as well as granting authorities further powers to close down labour groups” (04 Apr 16).

Workers strike in Tiruppur: Workers in three factories in Tiruppur’s knitwear cluster are on strike over recent changes to the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) scheme that locks up workers’ contributions until they are 58 (05 Apr 16).

Tiruppur garment units sign wage pact with unions: After protracted negotiations, workers in “cutting, tailoring, ironing, packing, fabrication, checking, label putting, hand folding, damage spotting and fabrication will get a 33% hike, spread over four years in the ratio of 18%, 5%, 5% and 5%, respectively.” Wages currently range from Rs 45 per day to a maximum of Rs 158 per day (06 Apr 16).

Fire safety and compliance training for three Bangladesh factories: A month-long training program on fire safety and compliance was held at the premises of Posmi Sweaters, with 40 mid-level managers, firefighting & rescue teams from Posmi, Spectra Sweaters and Fame Sweaters participating (06 Apr 16).

BGMEA asks foreign buyers to stop naming factories failing inspections: The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has asked the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance) to stop naming factories that fail to make adequate progress in improvement of workplace safety. The BGMEA believes that publishing the names on the Alliance website could “hurt their image and business.” The Alliance has cut relations with around 60 factories over non-compliance (06 Apr 16).

Five labour leaders in Bangladesh jailed over bus rape: The victim was a garment factory worker who, upon boarding the bus, was gagged, restrained and raped while the bus proceeded along it route (06 Apr 16).

Brioni reaches agreement with trade unions: The Kering-owned Italian luxury menswear label announced that announced it will reduce its workforce by 140 out of a total of 1,150 – a concession to the union and 260 less than originally planned (07 Apr 16).

(Image, Jean GerberCCO).