Brands and retailers

Patagonia’s circular economy strategy: Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario explains the company’s environmentally-responsible business model as it wins an award at the World Economic Forum in Davos (16 Jan 17).

American Apparel is closing all of its 110 American stores: American Apparel will close its Los Angeles headquarters and all of its remaining 110 US store locations by the end of April. The closures will most likely result in the loss of 3,400 American factory positions (14 Jan 17). See related article, Why we should regret the end of American Apparel, which argues that although the company was mired in controversy, at its heart was a desire to produce clothing that did not harm and exploit the people who made it (16 Jan 17).

PETA buys stake in Louis Vuitton: Animal rights pressure group PETA has bought shares in Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH) in order to pressure it to stop selling bags and other products made from exotic animal skins. The stake in the French luxury group will give PETA the right to attend shareholder meetings and question the board in front of other shareholders (13 Jan 17).

Louis Vuitton cuts ties to crocodile farms criticised by PETA: Luxury good maker LVMH said its Louis Vuitton brand had ceased all trading with Vietnamese farms which animal rights activist group Peta alleged mistreated crocodiles, whose skins are used to make handbags and other accessories. “The LVMH group and its suppliers ceased all trading in 2014 with the farms named by PETA,” LVMH said last week, adding that it sources its crocodile skins from other Asian suppliers (13 Jan 17).

20 brands send letter to government of Bangladesh over strike arrests: More than 20 brands, including C&A, Esprit, H&M, Primark, S.Oliver and Tchibo, have sent a joint letter to the government of Bangladesh calling on it to take steps to ensure the protection of workers’ rights, with special attention to the legitimate representatives of the workers who were arrested after a wave of industrial unrest in late December. The letter was in response to a call by 23 unions and labour rights groups (including the International Trade Union Confederation, IndustriAll Global Union, AFL-CIO, Clean Clothes Campaign, and the International Labor Rights Forum) to more than two dozen brands to play a role in protecting worker rights in the aftermath of the strikes in Dhaka at the end of December. You can see the original call for action here (opens as PDF) (11 Jan 17).

An inside view of how LVMH makes luxury more sustainable: One luxury leader, LVMH, provides a great example of how to build a robust sustainability program. The company is a €36 billion decentralized collection of valuable brands – which they call houses (or maisons) – covering fashion, wine and spirits, cosmetics, and jewellery. To understand its sustainability journey better, Harvard Business Review spoke with the company’s head of environment, Sylvie Benard, and the CEOs of two of its wine and spirits brands (11 Jan 17).

Liberty Fashion in Bangladesh demands to be allowed to reopen: The owner of Liberty Fashion has claimed that the operations of the RMG unit at Savar, Dhaka, have been suspended since June 2013, following an ‘arbitrary’ report on workplace safety by Medway Consultancy Services (MCS) conducting audits for Tesco (10 Jan 17).

PVH and Tommy Hilfiger join UN’s global sustainability initiative: In December, PVH and its Tommy Hilfiger brand signed on to the UN Global Compact, an initiative aimed at harnessing business’s role in global sustainability (05 Jan 17).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

178 labels participate in Berlin eco fashion show: 178 international fashion labels have participted at the winter edition of the green trade fair for eco fashion, Ethical Fashion Show and Greenshowroom, which began on 17 January. The three-day fashion programme includes fashion shows, presentations and panel discussions on various topics related to sustainability and fashion. (17 Jan 17).

Chinese guys who make bras and underwear: And now for something completely different; a most unusual film on factory life in China. Titled ‘Xiongdi’ (‘Brothers’ in Mandarin Chinese), the 6-minute short follows Qu Maomao and his friends as they attempt to break the monotony of their daily lives through kickboxing. Well worth a look (11 Jan 17).

The high cost of human trafficking awareness campaigns: Efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking are ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. They raise fear and funds far more than help the vulnerable. “In developing nations, a majority of the ‘victims’ of ‘human trafficking’ being ‘rehabilitated’ in such facilities may be at-will sex workers. Rehabilitation consists of job training – usually for the exact same garment manufacturing jobs women may have left in the first place. Then, upon release, women are shuttled back into the garment trade they may be hoping to escape. Given this pipeline, it should come as no surprise that international anti-trafficking facilities are funded in large part by garment manufacturers” (11 Jan 17).

US Department of Commerce awards significant grant to BF+DA: The US Department of Commerce has awarded a $486,000 research grant to Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator (BF+DA), a vital hub for ethical fashion production, to support the link between sustainability, technology, and apparel manufacturing. The BF+DA program will focus on supporting Pratt thesis projects and underrepresented populations in technology innovation (11 Jan 17).

New platform for China’s sustainable-minded designers: Independent Chinese designers want to avoid getting lumped together with the cheap goods that are still largely associated with the “Made in China” phrase in the West. Helping make this differentiation much clearer is a handful of platforms designed to support small-scale designers, creating a space for industry professionals to collaborate and address issues encircling a fashion scene that’s developing at top speed (11 Jan 17).

Bangladesh needs to think beyond apparel, says World Bank economist: Though Bangladesh’s export performance in the apparel sector is impressive, the country needs to think beyond the sector as a part of its efforts for attaining the next phase of growth and poverty reduction. Sanjay Kathuria, the lead economist at the World Bank (for South Asia), made the observation in a write-up which appeared in the bank's South Asia region blog (10 Jan 17).

Pomegranate waste shows promise for dyeing fabrics: African researchers claim to have successfully dyed nylon fibres with pomegranate peel with good levels of dye exhaustion and dye durability. The scientists performed experiments at lab-scale and used soxhlet extraction and methanol to extract pigments from the waste part of the fruit, which is often discarded (06 Jan 17 – subscription required to read full article).


“Adopt eco-friendly dyeing technologies for clean and green environment”, says Indian scientist”: Ms. A. Sharada Devi, Emeritus Scientist, College of Home Science, Agriculture University, Hyderabad, has called upon the textile industries to adopt eco-friendly dyeing technologies for clean and green environment. Addressing the two-day national conference on ‘Emerging strategies in green textiles and sustainable fashion’ organised by the Alagappa Institute of Skill Development last week, she said as the country was confronted with pollution issues, it has become imperative for textile industries to adopt strategies for using eco-dyeing technologies (11 Jan 17).

Start-up gets boost to breathe new life into defective apparel: A new start-up called The Renewal Workshop in Cascade Locks, Oregon, is transforming returned clothing into re-sellable items. The new collaborative project between The Renewal Workshop, Oregon BEST and the Oregon Manufacturers Extension Partnership (OMEP), which includes cleantech support, manufacturing expertise and an entrepreneurial vision, helped the company design and set up a 7,500-square-feet lean manufacturing facility at an industrial park in the Columbia River Gorge. The total cost of the project was US$ 22,500 (11 Jan 17).

The Supply Chain

Garment firms in Myanmar focus on social responsibility: Unions are welcome, and could help garment factories improve their corporate social responsibility functions, a leading manufacturer has said. U Aung Myo Hein, central executive committee member of Myanmar Garment Manufacturers’ Association, has said that many factories in Myanmar had missed out on the global shift toward increasing social compliance over the past eight years (16 Jan 17).

200 workers strike over unpaid wages in Myanmar: Nearly 200 workers from a Yangon garment factory have been striking for the past week, demanding their unpaid wages. The workers, from the Hallmark garment factory, say they were not paid on January 5, the official factory pay day. They also said they were given no notification of why their monthly wages were withheld (13 Jan 17).

(Image, Alejandro Garrido Navarro, CCO)