Brands and retailers

More US retailers probing phony Egyptian cotton: On the back of last week’s revelations that Welspun India had defrauded Target on the provenance of its cotton bedsheets, reports have emerged that Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart (as reported last week) and JC Penny are investigating the situation, with Macy’s saying it is monitoring the situation. IKEA said it will continue to do business with Welspun until the manufacturer concludes its own investigation (24 Aug 16). See more here on Egypt’s declining cotton output (25 Aug 16).

REI's newest distribution centre is a model of sustainability: Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the new facility incorporates 280,000 square feet of solar panels, recycling systems, and water conservation features both inside and outside the building. REI expects the building will earn LEED Platinum certification (22 Aug 16).

PACT’s new ‘Skidmark’ campaign draws attention to fashion’s ‘gross’ side: First, watch the video (NSFW; it features models in tighty whities with, yes at the 15-second point, obvious skidmarks). PACT (organic cotton, decent factories, etc.) asks, you think that’s gross? “You wouldn't believe how gross the fashion industry can be – it’s one of the dirtiest industries on the planet” (23 Aug 16). All in the name of raising awareness about cleaning up fashion.

“Consumers turn blind eye to the dark side of fashion”: Sabrina Maddeaux, an award winning Canadian writer on style and culture, has lambasted H&M for what she ‘questionable practices’:

“H&M is particularly talented at diverting attention away from its questionable labour practices to focus on high-profile designer collaborations and “sustainability” initiatives that can most generously be described as ironic. While fashionistas … around the world pat themselves on the back for shopping [at] H&M’s Conscious collection, a new book alleges that the company contracts factories that violate child labour laws” (23 Aug 16).

Putting people first in the apparel industry: Through its Worker Well-being Initiative, Levi’s work with factories to identify the needs of workers – who are primarily women – then implement long-term programs to meet those needs. Not only does this improve workers’ lives both inside and beyond the factory walls, it’s also a good investment. The company says that for every dollar invested in Worker Well-being programs, it creates $3 to $4 in return (26 Aug 16).

Nike chemist joins Hohenstein Institute: Nike’s senior director of Chemistry, John Frazier, has joined the Hohenstein Institute America (associated with the Hohenstein Institute in Germany) as a senior technical director. He will work to help drive innovation in green chemistry, textiles and materials (23 Aug 16).

Brands at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week highlight ethical clothing: The week-long event, which started on 26 August, saw Manning Cartell, Carla Zampatti and Bianca Spender turning the spotlight on sustainable and ethical clothing to raise awareness (24 Aug 16).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

The Influence of Lifespan Labelling on Consumers: Although this was released in March this year, I only saw it a couple of days ago and suspect this might be the case for others, too.

Based on a sample of 2,917 participants across four different European regions (France, Spain, Czech Republic and Benelux), the study aimed to analyse whether lifespan labelling on products might influence consumer purchasing decisions. On average, sales of products with a label showing a longer lifespan (regardless of the price of products) than competing products increased by 13.8 per cent, but when it came to clothing that figure increased to 15.9 per cent. Awareness of or involvement in environmental matters had no discernible effect. At over 100 pp., the report contains interesting findings and is based on sound methodology. You can see the full report here (downloads as PDF).

Twelfth annual Fragile States Index released: The Fragile States Index focuses on indicators of risk and is based on thousands of articles and reports (Aug 16). The full report can be downloaded here (as PDF). Heat map is available here.

Cambodia’s migrants changing Phnom Penh’s socio-economic landscape: An interesting research project by two academics in Phnom Penh, looking at how migration is changing, particularly related to those coming into the city to work in apparel factories. The flow back and forth between rural areas and the city, the rising costs in Phnom Penh, the rise of an economy catering to migrant workers and so on are all examined. Worth looking at (25 Aug 16).

Study shows that luxury shoppers are the worst: “The worst what?” you might ask. A recent study found that shoppers outside high-end retail stores are less likely to stop to help a stranger in need compared to people in places devoid of haute couture. Researchers at Paris Descartes University and University of Southern Brittany report that the mere presence of luxury goods seems to make passers-by uncharitable (28 Aug 16).


TWD launches antimony-free polyester yarns: TWD Fibres, an integrated filament yarn producer from Germany, has launched a range of antimony-free polyester yarns. Antimony compounds in textiles are a health hazard because they can be absorbed via the respiratory tract or skin, causing irritation to eyes, skin and lungs, especially for sensitive people, although the amounts of antimony in clothing is small and poses minimal risk to most workers or consumers (22 Aug 16 – requires paid subscription to read full article).

Chhattisgarh focusses on developing green textile park: The Chhattisgarh government in central India has announced it will develop a green textile park near Raipur with elaborate solid waste management practices and rain water harvesting. The project will also comprise of treated water supply system, storm water management and common effluent treatment plant. The proposed park is envisaged to house world class eco system for textile industry (24 Aug 16).

Mushroom leather: Italian textile manufacturer Grado Zero Espace has developed a leather alternative called ‘Muskin.’ It is vegan and made entirely from skin extracted from giant mushroom caps. Lab tests have proven that the material is similar to suede but much softer, breathable and water repellent while still delivering durability performance (27 Jul 16).

Pineapple leather: Carmen Hijosa, who worked in the leather design and manufacture industry for years, has developed a fabric made of stripped and woven pineapple leaves. After some experimentation, she discovered she could use the fibres from the leaves to create a non-woven textile, similar to the method of making felt, and developed Piñatex, a leather-like fibre created as a by-product of the pineapple harvest (29 Aug 16).

New Stahl Neo portfolio complies with ZDHC goals: Netherlands headquartered chemical manufacturer, Stahl, has introduced Stahl Neo, an extensive product portfolio for leather finishing, which not only complies with the Zero Discharge Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) but also targets a wider range of chemical substances (25 Aug 16).

Square Denim plans to achieve sustainability thru high quality: A new factory in Bangladesh says it has built a better workplace for workers to ensure safety in line with the Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC), environmental guideline and Accord and Alliance guidelines to ensure workers’ safety. It also has a biological effluent treatment plant, which has the capacity to treat 70,000 litres of water an hour. The treated water to be used to flush bathrooms in the factory and workers’ dormitory (29 Aug 16).

Sustainable Fashion

Among Equals: Among Equals, started by Australian Caroline Sherman, is a social enterprise in Sydney that sells traditionally woven bags from around Goroka in Papua New Guinea. Profits are ploughed back into weaving communities (24 Aug 16).

Denim Project kickstarter for clothes made from 98 per cent denim waste: Denim Project (a Danish company claiming to be the “most resource neutral denim label in the world”) has launched a Kickstarter campaign (see here) to raise $177,000 for a project that will save 183 million litres of fresh water (24 Aug 16).

The Supply Chain

Rana Plaza court case postponed in Bangladesh: A Bangladesh court scheduled to begin a trial this week related to the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy has postponed hearings for 18 defendants until 29 October. The judge postponed hearings after an appeal on the grounds the 18 had filed a petition challenging their charges with the high court. Mohammad Sohel Rana, the building owner, and a former chief engineer are in custody, but at least five of the accused are on the run (24 Aug 16).

50 hurt as apparel workers clash with police in Bangladesh: A clash between garment workers and police in Chittagong has left at least 50 people, including police, injured. Trouble reportedly started when a supervisor from Ashian Apparels scolded female garment workers for negligence in duty (24 Aug 16).

Kerry calls for safeguarding labour rights: US Secretary of State John Kerry has called for protecting workers’ rights in the garment sector and strengthening workplace safety in Bangladesh. “Bangladesh cannot truly meet the aspirations of its people and share prosperity if its workers are not safe and their rights are not ensured,” Kerry said, referring to the collapse of a building in 2013 that housed five garment factories and killed more than 1,100 people in the country's worst industrial disaster (30 Aug 16).

Unpaid factory workers turn to Cambodian PM for help: Over 300 workers from the Great Honor Textile Factory whose owners closed the facility without paying wages or severance pay have made a personal appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen to expedite the sale of assets (23 Aug 16).

Cambodian factories turning to automation: Garment factories in Cambodia are increasingly looking at automation to produce higher value-added products to compete and counter rising labour costs. The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) says “rising factory worker wages were thinning margins on the production of low-value garments and footwear in the face of fierce global competition” (23 Aug 16).

Baldia factory fire case in Pakistan drags on: Police investigating the September 2011 fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia, Pakistan, which killed more than 250 people, have charged two members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM, United National Movement, a secular political party in Pakistan) of arson, halting the case against 13 others, including the factory owners, for lack of evidence (24 Aug 16).

Some governors are slave masters, says NLC: The Nigerian Labour Congress and its affiliate organizations have protested against the non-payment of salaries in over 20 states across the country. “This protest is to make a point that our governors, some of them, are becoming slave masters. They are no more governors”, said former NLC Vice President and General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, Isa Aremu (24 Aug 16).

Blacklisted workers in Myanmar unhireable, say activists: Factory owners are circulating a blacklist of about 85 workers associated with trade union activity and the organisation of industrial action, workers’ representatives say. Known activists are finding it increasingly difficult to find employment even as employers are ordered to rehire workers dismissed for union-related activity (26 Aug 16).

(Image, Maarten van den Heuvel, CCO)