BRANDS AND RETAILERS
H&M breaks promise, no fair wages for all: Germany’s Der Spiegel newspaper says the promise H&M made four years ago to pay all its employees in its supply chain a fair wage by 2018 has failed (22 Dec – in German). [Ed’s note: Der Spiegel’s claim is based to some extent on a report from Clean Clothes Campaign, published in late November (see here).]
Single piece tailored T-shirts become a reality: Citizen Wolf in Sydney, Australia uses single piece production to make made-to-order T-shirts that are sustainable and ethically sound. “The future is here starting with the not-so-humble tee: zero waste, locally made, fully transparent, perfectly tailored to you and delivered faster than fast fashion,” says Zoltan Csaki, one of the company’s co-founders (21 Dec).
Suit claims Lululemon worker raped by boss after company created ‘perfect environment’ for sex predator: A new lawsuit claims a supervisor at one of Lululemon’s stores in California raped an employee after the workout garb company “created the perfect environment for a sexual predator.” The suit alleges that Lululemon was long aware that supervisor Phillip Silva had a history of being “sexually inappropriate” with female employees – and actually transferred him from one store to another because of that – before he allegedly raped a female worker at his home in April 2016 (20 Dec).
People are loving Zara a little less after its worker pay issues went viral: In early November, shoppers visiting the Zara store in Istanbul discovered little labels attached to clothes that said, “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.” Now Digimind, an agency that analyses consumer sentiment on social media, says the issue has driven negative sentiment about Zara up by 24% month-over-month, with negative mentions going up at a rate of 35% week-over-week (20 Dec).
More online retailers found selling real fur labelled as faux fur: An investigation by Sky News and Humane Society International has revealed online retailers selling real fur advertised as faux. The online retailers named are: TK Maxx, Boohoo, Amazon, Groupon, Miss Bardo, Not On The High Street, and Etsy. The investigation found the companies selling items such as bobble hats, keychains, scarves, shoes and coats advertised as faux fur when laboratory tests revealed them to be real animal fur (from foxes, minks, and rabbits) (20 Dec). Sky News said five of the retailers (TK Maxx, Boohoo, Amazon, Groupon, Miss Bardo) have no fur policies (20 Dec). [Ed’s note: Earlier this year in April, Sky News found four types of animal fur being sold on the British high street, but marketed to shoppers as fake fur. See here.]
Burton releases sustainability goals for 2020: Menswear retailer Burton has announced its sustainability goals for 2020, including an aim to make hard goods create 20 per cent less carbon emissions from cradle to gate by using life cycle assessment (LCA) to target the highest impact areas of improved materials, reduced waste, and energy efficiency. By 2020, its soft goods will use 100 per cent bluesign approved materials, 100 per cent sustainable cotton, 50 per cent recycled polyester and will use only 100 per cent PFC-free durable water repellency (20 Dec).
Patagonia founder rejects ‘disingenuous’ invitation to testify before House committee: Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard last week rejected an invitation to testify before the House Natural Resources Committee, calling it “disingenuous.” Chouinard had been invited to testify before the committee by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) about the Antiquities Act, after Patagonia criticized President Trump’s decision to shrink the size of two national monuments in Utah (19 Dec). See Chouinard’s response here in full.
A look at how denim is made: A tour of Citizens of Humanity’s vertically-integrated headquarters in downtown LA. “Sustainability: One of the most-discussed aspect of denim production (and all apparel production) these days is sustainability. Traditional denim manufacturing is notoriously polluting and wasteful of water (which is particularly ironic given that Los Angeles has been in a drought for years). Indigo dyes also have a large environmental footprint. Citizens of Humanity has a small range of eco-friendly equipment including Jeanologia/LST ozone and laser machines, Tolkar dryers and Smartex washers. The lasers cut down on the amount of Indigo disposed of and the ozone machines and washers create a washing process that requires up to 60 percent less water and less chemicals. Still, most of the company's product is put through a traditional washer which uses up to 300 gallons of water per garment” (19 Dec).
European Outdoor Group tackles microfibre pollution with Outdoor Industry Microfibre Consortium: With its Outdoor Industry Microfibre Consortium the European Outdoor Group tackles the issue of microfibre pollution. Together, major brands and partners are working on a roadmap for more sustainability. Brands involved include Adidas, Asos, Berghaus, Craghoppers, Dare 2b, Finisterre, Fjällräven, Haglöfs, Helly Hansen, Kering, Mammut, Marks and Spencer, Norrøna, Next, Páramo, Regatta, Salewa, and The North Face (19 Dec).
Jimmy Kimmel accuses Reformation of ‘stealing ideas’ from his daughter: Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel has accused sustainable clothing brand Reformation of copying T-shirt designs from his 26-year-old daughter, Katie Kimmel. Reformation has denied copying. The Reformation items in question are part of the company’s ‘Carb Collection’, a reference to reducing carbon emissions as the brand’s “mission is to provide a sustainable way to be fashionable” (19 Dec).
The Year in Fast Fashion, 2017: 11 key development from the world of fast fashion courtesy of The Fashion Law blog. Issues range from women in supply chains (including workers fainting in Cambodian factories supplying to Nike, Puma and VF), H&M’s recycling accusations, and the rising price of fast fashion (Forever 21, Topshop, Zara) (19 Dec). [Ed’s note: As always, Julie Zerbo is worth reading.]
Bestseller announces action points on post-consumer textile waste: Bestseller has published strategic action points on post-consumer textile waste as part of the Global Fashion Agenda’s Call To Action. By 2020, all Bestseller designers and buyers will have completed a training module on circular fashion design, and will offer and promote a used garment collection channel to consumers in selected markets together with relevant partners (18 Dec).
Eight Nordic apparel brands leading the way on textile-to-textile recycling (PDF): The Nordic Council of Ministers published a report in early December on how ten Nordic brands are leading the way in transition of the textile industry towards a circular economy, and specifically adopting textile-to-textile recycling where the raw material for new products is sourced from worn out garments and other textiles. Eight of the companies surveyed are apparel brands (two produce carpets and duvets/pillows). The eight apparel brands are: Elsk, Filippa K, H&M, Houdini Sportswear, Lindex, Peak Performance, Pure Waste, and Touchpoint (04 Dec). [Ed’s note: the report is about 50 pp. long, and focuses on use of recycled materials, designing for recycling, and closed loop approaches, using the companies listed as case studies. See also Stimulating Textile to Textile Recycling (PDF), a companion report, which covers the same eight brands].
REPORTS, GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS
Egypt aims to replace Asia as cheap clothing king: As costs in Asia rise and consumption patterns change, Egypt tries to position itself – and Africa - as the next cheap clothing hub. “We don’t need to build sweat shops like in Asia, but learn from their mistakes and do it right,” said Jaswinder Bedi, Chairman of the Export Promotion Council of Kenya (22 Dec).
Nordic reports identify need for chemical recycling breakthrough: Textile recycling efforts are hampered by a lack of chemical recycling techniques, according to two publications released by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Several initiatives have emerged for chemically recycling textiles. However, these are mainly for materials containing a single fibre type. Many consumer textiles are made from blended materials, consisting of two or more fibre types. The reports say there is a need for breakthroughs that will “allow recycling of mixed fibre products and allow the materials in clothing to be recirculated over many product generations” (21 Dec). The two reports mentioned here are: i) Textile to Textile Recycling: Ten Nordic Brands that are Leading the Way (see here); and ii) Stimulating Textile to Textile Recycling (see here).
Lab-grown luxuries: Celebrities such as Stella McCartney are helping push a boom of high-quality, synthetic materials such as cruelty-free silk and leather used by luxury goods firms. Producers mentioned include Bolt Threads, Mountain Meadow Wool, and Modern Meadow (21 Dec).
Is China ready for sustainable fashion? There were three articles this week asking the question.
1. Textile brands get behind China’s green shift: Consumers are willing to spend more on eco-friendly clothing and products, says this article. Companies mentioned: Wobabybasics (children’s clothing), Esquel (the world’s largest shirt maker), and Far Eastern Group (a Taiwanese conglomerate that manufactures polyester and synthetic fibre). “A record number of eco-friendly manufacturers showed up at the 2017 Intertextile trade show in Shanghai, although they’re still a niche in a very large market” (21 Dec).
2. Despite brands ditching it, China’s shoppers are eager for fur: While sales of real fur have slumped lately in some Western markets, such as Germany, they’re still comparatively booming in China. In 2015, the most recent year with full data available, retail sales of fur in China were $16.9 billion, according to the International Fur Federation (IFF), which represents a variety of member associations in the fur trade, from trappers to auction houses to designers. By contrast, sales in 2015 didn’t pass $1.5 billion in Germany, Russia, or the US, which are some of the world’s other big fur markets (21 Dec).
3. Will sustainable fashion crack China’s luxury market in 2018? Sustainable fashion became something of a mantra in the luxury fashion world this year. Fashion brands in Mainland China and Hong Kong are also setting up their own sustainable fashion initiatives, but do Chinese consumers care? (20 Dec).
New report on improving practices in footwear: NGO Labour Behind the Label has released a new report exploring business & labour practices within footwear supply chains, and presents a short review of the better practices in the shoe industry. The report focuses on improvement in five key areas: i) Improving working conditions in all parts of the production supply chain (from tanneries to factories) including employment contracts, protection of vulnerable workers, working time etc.; ii) occupational health and safety (OHS) for workers in all parts of the production supply chain (from tanneries to factories); iii) freedom of association – including collective bargaining, cases of good industrial relations, effective resolution of industrial disputes, and support for trade unions and workers’ rights; iv) environmental issues including the use of toxins, water and waste treatment etc.; iv) transparency and traceability of the supply chain – including public reporting of audits, suppliers, grievance mechanisms, wages etc. The report it titled How to do Better: An exploration of better practices within the footwear industry, and you can download it here (PDF). Good practice case studies include work by Ethletic (supply chain and payments), Veja (material sourcing and wage disclosure), Sole Rebels (local sourcing and Fair-Trade), Po Zu (materials and waste), Nisolo (wages, gender and impact), Pentland (mapping supply chains and homeworkers) (19 Dec).
C&A Foundation calls for proposals on circular economy: C&A Foundation has announced a request for proposals into innovative ways to bridge the gap in the implementation of circular business models in companies at all levels of the apparel value chain. The foundation has a budget of EUR 1.5m for this call (maximum budget for one grant proposal is EUR 300k). The proposal may be part of a larger collaboration or programme and leverage other funds. This request for proposals is open from December 18, 2017 until February 18, 2018 (19 Dec).
Fashion Positive launches Innovators Hub: The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s Fashion Positive initiative has launched an Innovators Hub, where brands and innovators can access critical resources to drive circular materials development in accordance with the principles of the Cradle to Cradle Certified product standard (19 Dec).
The power of circularity: ‘Let’s raise the level of ambition’: Dame Ellen MacArthur (of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation) challenges the fashion industry, where less than 1 per cent of garments are recycled, to work together to implement a circular economy (30 Nov – free subscription required to read article). See the video here on YouTube. [Ed’s note: This talk was given in late November as part of Business of Fashion’s Voices, but was not freely available. It is now. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation teamed up with Stella McCartney to tackle waste fashion at the end of November.]
Textile plants among those responsible for Indian river with highest levels of chemicals: A government-funded Anna University study has found that the Cauvery, one of India’s major rivers, carries the highest level of toxins, 600 per cent more than the Ganges. Several textile, dyeing, cement and chemical industries located along the river course discharge tonnes of harmful effluents (23 Dec). [Ed’s note: Pollution in the Cauvery has been in the news for several years; see here for previous FSWIR stories.]
District admin to hold meet on water pollution in Tirupur: Following a barrage of complaints from farmers at Ganapathipalayam claiming groundwater in the area was polluted by waste released from dyeing and textile units, the district administration has planned to convene a tripartite meeting to discuss the issue. The administration also directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to study the allegation and file a report on it (22 Dec).
Universal Robots launches Bangladesh operations: Universal Robots, the leading manufacturer of advanced, light weight collaborative robotic arms, said their introduction of “collaborative robots” will help boost productivity of the Bangladesh industry “by ensuring minimisation of downtime and up-skilling of labour” (20 Dec).
Welspun develops technology to track source of cotton: Welspun has become the first global textile company to patent a fibre-tracking technology, turning adversity into opportunity. The Mumbai-based terry towel producer, the second largest in the world, developed the technology after Walmart and Target terminated contracts following mislabelling of the provenance of fibre in certain consignments. Welspun has partnered with global forensic science company Oritain to develop the solution, Wel-Trak, using RFID and customised software (19 Dec). [Ed’s note: We covered this issue in FSWIR August to November in 2016; see here.]
THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Machines threaten Bangladeshi garment workers’ jobs: Rapid automation of production, closure of some noncompliant factories and the emergence of some other high-potential sectors have shrunk the total number of workers employed by the garment sector by 0.80 million over the last five years. In 2013, the total number of garment workers in Bangladesh stood at 4.4 million, which fell to 3.6 million now, said Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, executive director of the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies. “Automation is mainly responsible for the shedding of workers.” One machine can make at least 10 workers in a factory redundant, according to Ahmed (25 Dec).
Bangladesh garment workers say labour law is regularly violated at workplaces: Workers from five garment factories have claimed that that they still had to face various irregularities and gross violations of labour law at their workplaces, even though the law came into effect in 2006. They made the claim during a daylong workshop for garment workers organized by Bangladesh Shrama Institute (Bashi) in Dhaka’s Mohammadpur, according to a press release. (23 Dec). [Ed’s note: the five factories were not named.]
Cambodian PM dares landlords to get any rent hikes for garment workers from him: Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated his demand for the owners of garment worker housing to freeze rents in 2018 last week, telling the leasers to come to him personally if they disagreed with the order (21 Dec).
Boiler safety training rolls out in Cambodia: A team of garment and footwear industry experts have begun a programme to train workers and employers in boiler safety. The scheme is a collaboration between the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, the Industry and Handicrafts Ministry and the Ministry of Labour (21 Dec). [Ed’s note: at least three workers have died and over 20 have been injured in boiler explosions this year alone in Cambodia.]
Cambodian garment workers continue factory blockade: About 300 garment workers from Gawon Apparel blocked the road in front of the factory again last week to prevent the factory moving any machinery to a new location. This is the third time in a month that workers have blocked access to the factory (19 Dec).