Fendi retracts opposition to Roma Pride’s use of corporate HQ pic: In last week’s issue of FSWIR, I noted Lancôme’s PR problem in Hong Kong over booking, then cancelling, a promoted concert for Cantopop star Denise Ho. In that case, you’d be hard pressed to blame anyone at Lancôme for what transpired initially.

But in this case, you have to wonder what Fendi or its legal counsel were thinking from the outset. The background is that Roma Pride – the largest annual gay Pride and LGBT celebrations in Rome – ran an advertising campaign in which activists posed in front of the Italian fashion house’s headquarters (the landmark Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana) to promote the upcoming parade.

Fendi demanded that Roma Pride remove all images of the ad campaign featuring the building, which Fendi rents from the Italian government and the City of Rome, and threatened to sue, claiming it was the only legitimate licence-holder.

Within hours the company had backtracked, announcing that it supported the parade and the use of its headquarters in the advertising campaign (09 Jun 16).

It is perhaps worth noting that the patrons of Roma Pride include the Canadian, US, British, Australian and German embassies in Italy, and numbers among its corporate supporters Vitasnella (a low-sodium mineral water brand owned by Maltese food and beverage group Farsons), Ceres (a Danish beer from Royal Unibrew and the largest imported brand in Italy), and Red Bull Italy.

Phil Green apologises for BHS fiasco: A couple of weeks ago in FSWIR, I mentioned the closure of British high street fashion retailer BHS could put 11,000 jobs at risk. Since then, former owner Phil Green has fronted a parliamentary hearing that one journalist described as the “the longest and most confrontational parliamentary session I’ve covered over the last decade” (15 Jun 16). See more here (15 Jun 16).

PACT launches organic, fair-trade apparel line at Target: PACT has inked a deal to launch a line of ethical basics at 460 Target locations nationwide. Manufactured using Global Organic Textile Standard–certified cotton from a farmer cooperative in India, the collection of men’s crew- and V-neck undershirts, boxer briefs, and socks will be Target’s first to feature Fair Trade USA’s seal of approval (14 Jun 16). (See here for an example on Target’s website.)

Boll & Branch sourcing organic cotton from Indian farmers: Boll & Branch is on track to sell $40 million worth of sheets and towels this year, and aims to do it while using good farming and supply chain labour practices. Through Chetna Organic, a non-profit organisation working with cotton farmers in central and southern India, the company started when its husband and wife owners found it hard to purchase ethically sourced bed linen (16 Jun 16).

Guess launches sustainable denim line: Aimed at reducing water use and greenhouse gas emissions, the company is launching an environmentally responsible capsule collection made from sustainable denim for the spring/summer 2016 season (16 Jun 16).

C&S partners with Blue River Denim & Phoenix Textiles: Cohen & Sons (C&S), a premium menswear heritage brand based in Los Angeles, has announced its strategic partnerships with Phoenix Textiles and Blue River Denim. Tony Rodriguez, chief executive officer of Blue River Denim, says “We continually seek to innovate with the latest environmentally friendly and advanced wash techniques right here in Los Angeles” (16 Jun 16). By the way, C&S has a very nice video online called Denim Craft (see here). 

Marimekko announces 2020 sustainable strategy: Marimekko, a Finnish design company renowned for its original prints and colours, has released a sustainability strategy (here) extending to 2020. One of Marimekko's main targets is to increase the share of sustainable cotton and other more sustainable materials in its products and packaging (16 Jun 16).

Woollen sneakers: For a guy who grew up on a sheep farm, this makes a lot of sense.

Allbirds, a San Francisco based start-up, was launched in March by Tim Brown, a former professional soccer player, and Joey Zwillinger, a biotech engineer. The pair wanted to create a pair of environmentally friendly, comfortable, well-priced sneakers with a low price tag. Sounds impossible, right? Wrong. The duo managed to come up with a line of sustainable wool running shoes that retail for $95” (16 Jun 16). 

BASF in project to make sports shoes more sustainable: BASF is one of ten members of industry and science working together on a project called “Sport Infinity”. Spearheaded by adidas and funded by the European Commission, the three-year project aims at identifying and developing recyclable, partly waste-based, textile fibre reinforced composites. These materials enable the fast production of easily customizable sporting goods (15 Jun 16).

Can Uniqlo overcome its fast fashion past? As the company shifts its focus to higher quality garments – i.e., garments that are “not disposable, but perfect components made with quality” – the real question is how it can differentiate itself from its major competitors (16 Jun 16).

China releases new standard for outdoor jackets: [In Chinese only] China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) has announced a new standard: “Outdoor sportswear - water resistant garment” (GB/T 32614-2016). The standard includes chemical requirements, along with special provisions applicable to child safety. The new standard will take effect later this year on 01 November (17 Jun 16).

What would your jeans cost if nobody died to make them? It’s a long article, so I’ll skip straight to the answer: “$100 (full-price) for jeans should be the rule-of-thumb minimum between the likely ethically problematic and the potentially humane” (15 Jun 16).

The true cost of your cheap clothes: Is anyone else noticing an uptick in these kinds of articles recently? As if often the case, it focuses on Bangladesh (but also the shift in production from China).

"Ten years ago, you could only buy a T-shirt for US$5. Now you can buy a sweater for US$6, and for US$9 you can buy a jacket," says Mandarin Lui Wing-har, managing director of the low-profile but highly influential Top Grade International Enterprise” (12 Jun 16).

New report from WWF says leading consumer goods companies slow to deliver on sustainable sourcing: The report, Slow Road to Sustainability (PDF here), was released ahead of the Annual Summit of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) in South Africa last week, and reviews the policies and performance of the 256 brand manufacturer and retailer members of the CGF, representing combined annual sales of more than US$ 3.5 trillion globally. Of the 22 frontrunner companies listed in the report, four are from (or retail) apparel and textiles: COOP, Marks & Spencer, Migros and Nike (13 Jun 16).

Will Ethiopia’s push for industrialization pay off? GoBlu director Lars Doemer and India country head Sujata Pariti were in Ethiopia recently working on a sustainability initiative in the apparel and textile sector, so it’s interesting to ponder whether the country can replicate the kind of success we’ve seen in Asia. There’s a lot riding on apparel and textiles (14 Jun 16).

Teenage escapees from Indian spinning mill prompts crackdown on labour abuses: Officials from the southern state of Tamil Nadu say the government has launched a crackdown on factories violating labour laws after two teenage girls scaled a wall to escape from a spinning mill where they were forced to work 12-hour shifts and subjected to abuse (14 Jun 16).

Strike at Triumph JV plant in China symptomatic of wider trend: [In Chinese only] 2,000 workers at the Yancheng International Women’s Fashion Co. manufacturing plant (a joint venture between the Yueda Group and Triumph International) went on strike over compensation claims related to Triumph’s divestment and a decline in orders. As the article says, this is becoming a common trend as foreign capital departs the country looking for cheaper manufacturing locations. It cites two other well known cases: the closure of Stella International’s Dongguan’s shoe plant (at its peak one of the largest in the world); and the fall of Dongguan Xinda Giftware (which produced the mascots for the London Olympic Games). Garment manufacturers are being hit hard, with labour costs in the manufacturing sector accounting for 12 per cent of the cost of goods (compared with 1 per cent in Indonesia, Thailand and India (08 Jun 16).

ILO urges Bangladesh to simplify process of trade union formation: At its 104th International Labour Conference held in Geneva recently, the International Labour Organisation adopted to recommend the government of Bangladesh simplify the process of registration of trade unions at the factory level so that the workers can form the unions easily to enjoy the freedom of association (15 Jun 16).

ILO calls for end to child labour in supply chains: “Acting together, it is within our means to make the future of work a future without child labour,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said on the occasion of World Day against Child Labour. An ILO statement continues: “That child labour has no place in well-functioning and well-regulated markets is evident. But the reality is that today, child labour remains widespread in supply chains. It is unacceptable that there are still 168 million children in child labour, 85 million of whom are in hazardous work. Child labour is found in agriculture – 99 million – to mining, from manufacturing to tourism, producing goods and services consumed by millions every day” (12 Jun 16).

ILO Conference pushes for convention on supply chain labour: An agreement following the ILO ‘’general discussion’’ on decent work in global supply chains was approved last week which sets in motion a process that could lead to a legal standard improving the lives of millions of workers in global supply chains. The ILO estimates the number of jobs in global supply chains in 40 countries increased from 295 million in 1995 to 453 million in 2013. More than one fifth of the global workforce have a job in a global supply chain. Millions more are hidden workers. Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said, “a convention that requires governments to hold companies to account is essential and these conclusions allow this debate to continue” (11 Jun 16).

Rana Plaza murder case charge hearing fixed for July: A Dhaka court has fixed 18 July as the date for hearing the charge of murder against 41 people accused over the Rana Plaza collapse. Sohel Rana, partial owner of the collapsed building, who is the same hearing was denied bail by District and Session Judge SM Kuddus Zaman. The judge passed the order for the hearing on 13 June in response to a time petition from the defence (15 Jun 16).

Dhaka court indicts 18 in Rana Plaza case: A Dhaka court has framed charges against Rana Plaza owner Sohel Rana and 17 others in a case filed for violating building codes in constructing the eight-storey building that resulted in the death of over 1,140 people, mostly garment workers. Dhaka’s Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Md Mostafizur Rahman framed the charges under section 12 of the Building Construction Act 1952 and fixed 23 August to start deposing prosecution witnesses (15 Jun 16).

Bangladesh Accord statement on recent fires at Accord listed factories: There have been four fires in the last month: Tanaz Fashions Ltd. (14 May 16); Alema Textiles Ltd. (16 May 16); Target Fine Wear Ltd. (02 Jun 16); Raiyan Knit Composite Ltd. (04 Jun 16). “There were no reported fatalities or injuries, excepting the injuries to employees who attempted to fight the fires.” The good news is that Accord-mandated provisions for fire prevention or safety were in place at some of the factories, which stopped the spread of flames (12 Jun 16). This article also lists the names and organisational/company affiliations of each of the 18 individuals.

Protesting garment workers burn tyres in Cambodia: More than 200 current and former workers at the Malaysian-owned Global Apparels Limited factory in Phnom Penh have burned tyres and garbage in front of the facility, as part of their ongoing protests to demand severance pay as the company nears closure (15 Jun 16).

Garment factory to be auctioned after owner disappears: Yangon labour officials say Patrick Yan, the Taiwanese owner of the UniPolar factory, has vanished after employees reported him to local authorities after failing to pay overdue wages. The government plans to auction the factory to compensate workers (16 Jun 16).

Garment workers in Cambodia suffering from anaemia in record numbers: So says a new report titled Garment Workers’ Health and Nutrition Status, and Food Provision in Factories: A Study from Selected Enterprises in Cambodia (PDF here). In summary, “eighteen percent of non-pregnant garment workers had moderate or severe anaemia, compared to around 6% of non-pregnant women in the general population. One-third (33.8%) of male garment workers were anaemic. Pregnant workers had the highest rates of anaemia in 2015. Nearly two thirds (61.4%) of pregnant women were classified as anaemic, of which nearly one-third (31.1%) having moderate anaemia, which is around eight percentage points higher than pregnant women in the overall population … Nearly half (46.5%) of all respondents felt dizzy, light-headed, tired, or had cold hands/feet (signs of poor nutrition or anaemia) in the same time period, but less than one percent of workers fainted at work”. 

 (Image, Anton Repponen, CCO).