Brands and retailers

‘Faux fur’ found in high street shops actually from animals: Real cat fur labelled as fake has been found on sale in a popular high street shop, it has been alleged. An investigation by animal protection charity Humane Society International (HSI) claimed to have found cat fur on a pair of Missguided shoes. The charity’s own investigation in partnership with Sky News also claimed to have found real animal fur including rabbit, raccoon dog and mink being sold as faux fur in one of the concessions in department store House of Fraser (11 Apr).

CFDA challenges costly, complicated US immigration system: A new report outlining the US fashion industry’s key immigration concerns has called for the reform of a system that currently prohibits businesses from attracting and retaining ‘essential’ foreign talent. “If we want to lead the world in fashion innovation, we need immigration policies that embrace talented foreigners that want to come here and build and grow” (10 Apr). [See story immediately below for alternative view.]

NY fashion industry outsources elite jobs to H-1B contract workers: 22 fashion leaders on the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) board have asked for enough visas to import 406 H-1B contract workers since 2013, according to federal data. Michael Kors has asked for 39 H-1B visas to import foreign contract workers since 2013. Tory Burch asked for 30 contract workers, Ralph Lauren asked for 138 contract workers, J. Crew asked for 106 contract workers, and Calvin Klein sought 37 foreign workers, all to take desirable US-based jobs sought by young American professionals (09 Apr). [See story immediately above for alternative view.]

WWF teams up with industry for 100% sustainable fashion: It is not a brand synonymous with style, but WWF, the world’s biggest conservation organisation, is teaming up with a London-based online fashion community to produce what it claims will be the world’s first 100% sustainable clothing range. Big-name stores including Selfridges and Harrods are being lined up to sell the range in the UK, but WWF wants to make this a global project. It is determined to prove to the fashion industry that it is possible to design and produce clothes with zero impact on the environment (09 Apr).

Ivanka Trump will not sell her fashion label despite ethical concerns: The First Daughter announced in January that both she and her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, would divest from their various businesses. However, Ivanka still retains ownership of her eponymous fashion label (06 Apr).

Target initiates new forest products sourcing policy: Target has announced its newest sustainability initiative of sourcing all forest and forest-derived products responsibly. The company says this applies to all Target and target-owned brands, including Spritz, PillowFort, and Threshold. The three will become entirely sustainable within the next five years. Spritz will be sustainable in 2018, PillowFort in 2020 and Threshold by 2022 (06 Apr).

Customers react as Farmers holds back ethical clothing info: A social media skirmish has broken out between New Zealand retailer Farmers and ethical clothing fans. Two days ago Kylie Richardson of Christchurch asked Farmers on Facebook how she could find out more about the manufacturing ethics behind its clothing brands, particularly for children. Farmers replied: “Thanks for your question. This information is commercially sensitive so we are unable to comment” (06 Apr).

Timberland’s 2016 CSR report highlights progress toward 2020 sustainability goals: Last year, Timberland set a new goal to have 100 percent of apparel cotton come from organic, US-origin or Better Cotton Initiative-certified sources by 2020. In 2016, the company reached 58 percent. 2016 results for polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free footwear remained flat at 98 percent. In 2016, 84 percent of Timberland footwear included at least one material containing recycled, organic or renewable (ROR) content (06 Apr).

Just don’t do it: Former Nike garment worker speaks out against sweatshops: Sophorn Yang, a former Nike garment worker and president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), spoke in Smith Hall on Tuesday as the last stop of her nationwide United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) tour (06 Apr).

Louis Vuitton workers on strike over pay: According to reports, leather workers from some of Louis Vuitton’s ateliers in France went on strike last week to demand a pay increase. Employees gathered in front of their production facilities in the morning to make a statement. The protest comes just one day before the brand’s annual salary negotiations were to conclude (06 Apr). Talks were extended on Thursday, and both sides have agreed to prolong discussions (06 Apr).

H&M Foundation grants top Global Change Award prize to ‘Grape Leather’ invention: The H&M Foundation has awarded the top prize for the second edition of its Global Change Award to the makers of an innovative vegetal leather dubbed "Grape Leather", which is made by using leftovers from winemaking (06 Apr).

Rei debuts 'Force of Nature' gender equality campaign: Seattle-based outdoor retailer Rei is taking a stance for gender equality with a new campaign entitled “Force of Nature” that highlights the roles women play in exploring the outdoors (05 Apr).

10 best sustainable and ethical men’s clothing brands: According the UK’s Independent newspaper, they include: Thought, People Tree, Rapanui, Finisterre, and Absolutely Bear (05 Apr).

Forever 21 facing discrimination suit: Forever 21 is facing yet another lawsuit. Spanish speaking employees of the brand are claiming Forever 21 has been blatantly discriminating against them. The employees state that they were verbally harassed for speaking Spanish to Spanish-speaking customers (05 Apr).

H&M boss Karl-Johan Persson says they don’t set out to destroy local fashion industries: Fast fashion isn't to blame for the death of Australian businesses, but the boss of one of the biggest international chains accepts some responsibility for causing massive disruption in the industry. H&M chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said he takes no joy in seeing companies close in markets where the Swedish giant operates (05 Apr).

H&M releases sustainability report: Among commitments listed are a switch to 100% renewable electricity. In 2016, 96% of the company’s global electricity in its own operations came from renewable sources.  The report also mentions that H&M in 2016 was named the biggest global user of cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative. When it comes to recycling and reuse, the H&M group is continuing to drive an ambitious development plan. Since the start of the global Garment Collecting initiative in 2013, the H&M group has collected 39,000 tonnes of unwanted textiles. By 2020 the company aims to collect at least 25,000 tonnes of textiles every year. The report also shows that the work to scale-up the H&M group’s industrial relations and fair living wage programs continues with good progress (04 Apr).

Reebok “growing” plant-based footwear: Reebok has announced its “Cotton + Corn” sustainable products initiative, which will bring plant-based footwear to the market later this year. Cotton + Corn is an initiative developed by the Reebok Future team to create shoes “made from things that grow.” The first release will be a shoe that has an upper comprised of organic cotton and a base originating from industrial grown corn (a non-food source) (04 Apr).

Puma serves Forever 21 with a lawsuit over bootleg Rihanna shoes: Puma has served Forever 21 with a design patent, trade dress, and copyright infringement lawsuit over Rihanna’s Fenty Creeper, Bow Slide and Fur Slide design emulations (03 Apr).

Germany’s Kik reduces emissions in transport from Turkey: Kik has reported a 57 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by expanding environmentally friendly transport options for containers shipped from Turkey (03 Mar – Article in German).

C&A to launch C2C Gold certified t-shirt: C&A will launch the first ever t-shirt certified to the Cradle to Cradle Gold standard in June 2017. The plain, 100 per cent organic cotton t-shirts have been produced in conjunction with Indian suppliers Prathiba Syntex and Cotton Blossom. Around 500,000 units will initially be sold at C&A stores in 19 EU countries as well as in Brazil and Mexico, retailing “for between €7 – 9”(03 Apr – Subscription required to read full article).

German brands s.Oliver and Gerry Weber targeted by protesters in Indonesia: Two Indonesian trade unions organised a protest in front of the German Embassy in Jakarta on 30 March. Protesters brought attention to the responsibility that German brands s.Oliver and Gerry Weber have for thousands of workers who lost their jobs when Indonesian supplier Jaba Garmindo closed down in 2015 (30 Mar).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

How one NGO is addressing Shanghai’s textile waste problem: China dumps 70,000 tons of textile waste per day! RE:FORM, Green Initiatives new program, is not simply a clothing drive, but instead it focuses on working with businesses in Shanghai to tackle the root of the problem. While Dani believes the need to keep recycling shouldn’t be ignored, he expresses his concern with basic collection boxes, stating: “Some of these initiatives miss out on educating the public. Just putting the collection boxes out can sometimes give the message that we are giving you a license to buy more things so you can recycle more, just like plastic bottles. The fundamental question is do you even need to have a plastic bottle in the first place? There are other options” (07 Apr).

Looking good can be extremely bad for the planet, says The Economist: “Style is supposedly for ever. But the garments needed to conjure up eternal chic are spending less time on shop racks and in homes than ever before. Global clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2014, as apparel firms’ operations became more efficient, their production cycles became quicker and fashionistas got more for their money. From just a few collections a year, fast-fashion brands such as Zara, owned by Spain’s Inditex, now offer more than 20; Sweden’s H&M manages up to 16” (08 Apr).

Jordan’s garment alliance to support Syrian refugees: A new garment sector alliance in Jordan aims to create economic opportunities in the country, improve the lives of refugees caught up in the Syrian crisis and help their host countries. The initiative, led by partners from the international community, was first set in motion at last year's Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London (06 Apr).

How humanitarian law is serving as a feeder to sustainable fashion: Much like Wall Street financiers becoming aspiring fashion designers, after spending several years in finance building their skills and amassing funds before starting a business, there’s an emerging trend of lawyers and human rights advocates making the switch to fashion (06 Apr).

Small American businesses are struggling against a flood of Chinese fakes: China’s Alibaba runs the world’s largest online marketplace. As it expands in the US, small businesses say their products are being counterfeited at an industrial scale (05 Apr).

CmiA defends development aid in African cotton: Cotton made in Africa has defended development aid initiatives to support Africa cotton growers after it was claimed they have failed to increase yields over several decades. International cotton expert and former ICAC head Terry Townsend recently claimed that huge amounts of development spending has been pumped into Africa's cotton sector in the past 15 years from the European Union, World Bank and a host of other development organisations – all with little reward in terms of increased yields (04 Apr – Subscription required to read full article).


Industry faces restrictions in drawing water from Cauvery, Bhavani Rivers in Tamil Nadu: With several areas in the western districts staring at shortage of drinking water supply, drawing of water from the Cauvery for industrial use by private units has been halted. Similarly, industries using water from the Bhavani have been asked to cut it down just to meet essential use. Officials in Public Works Department said last week that for almost two months now, private industries have been asked to draw just 10 per cent of their need from the Bhavani River (07 Apr).

Sri Lanka export industrial zone short of water: Sri Lanka's export industrial zone near the main airport in Katunayake is short of water and cannot accommodate water guzzling industries and is planning a location in the East near an estuary for such industries. A representative of Sri Saravana Spinning Mills (Pvt) Ltd of India told an ‘Ease of Doing Business’ forum at Sri Lanka’s finance ministry that their application to set up a textile factory on a 20-acre land that is now used as a garbage dump had been stuck due to a lack of water (06 Apr).

The Supply Chain

What's life like for Bangladeshi garment workers? “A thin, grey mist spreads throughout the morning air in Akran, a small neighborhood in the manufacturing suburb of Savar, just outside of the city of Dhaka. It winds its way through the streets, climbing buildings, depositing tiny dewdrops on windows, leaving faint wet splotches on the awnings that cover nearby market stalls. The mist presses onward to the outskirts of town until it reaches a residential area full of large, single-story stone dwellings” (10 Apr).         

Boiler explosion at unregistered Cambodian garment factory kills two: Authorities are investigating a boiler explosion at an unregistered garment factory that killed two and injured four others in the capital’s Meanchey district on Saturday, the second fatal boiler incident in a garment factory in the capital in less than three weeks (10 Apr).

Nigerian textile union appeals to government to reopen moribund factories: The Nigeria Union of Textile Garment Workers (NUTGW) has appealed to the Kaduna State government to urgently put measures in place to ensuring the reopening of closed textile industries and payment of workers gratuity(10 Apr).

Stakeholders explore working conditions in Bangladesh RMG sector: Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) held its second stakeholders and buyers’ forum in Dhaka last week to explore progress made by BWB, challenges remaining and ways to further improve working conditions in garment factories while increasing their competitiveness across the country (07 Apr).

What’s life like for Cambodian garment workers? “It is the first Saturday of July 2016, and the streets of Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district – an area concentrated with garment factories – are relatively calm. It is late morning, and food vendors are preparing for the busiest time of the day: lunch. They put small helpings of rice, vegetables, and fish into little plastic bags, hastily organizing their offerings on top of their pushcarts for easy perusal. Their work is rhythmic: pack, tie, and place, pack, tie, and place. In front of them, motorbikes weave past each other, a scene of organized chaos with the mid-pitch hum of tiny engines as the soundtrack (05 Apr).

ILO initiative for improving workplace cooperation in Bangladesh begins: The Bangladesh government and the International Labour Organisation started a joint programme to increase the capacity of government officials to promote workplace cooperation and handle grievances in the country’s readymade garment sector. Under an ILO project called ‘Improving Social Dialogue and Harmonious Industrial Relations in the Bangladesh RMG sector’, a five-day training programme started last week to establish a pool of 30 master trainers comprising officials of the Directorate of Labour and Industrial Relations Institutes (03 Apr).

Dialogue will help garment sector solve Bangladesh crisis, says expert: Bangladesh needs to hold effective dialogues with the union leaders and senior officials from the European Union and the International Labour Organisation to resolve the crisis of the garment sector and improve relations with the EU, an expert said. “The dialogues will help resolve the crisis in the garment sector as all the stakeholders will have equal rights to express their opinions,” said Christian Ewert, director-general of the Foreign Trade Association (FTA), a Brussels-based organisation (03 Apr).

Labour issues to be top on TICFA meeting agenda in Bangladesh: Workplace safety and worker rights issues would be high on the agenda for the 3rd meeting of Bangladesh-United States Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement to be held on May 17 in Dhaka, commerce ministry officials said. According to senior officials of the commerce ministry, Bangladesh would brief the US authorities about the progresses it has made in line with the action plan provided by the United States Trade Representative in 2013 for the restoration of the generalised system of preferences (02 Apr).

Bangladesh company embraces robotic tech to raise standards: Bangladesh’s apparel manufacturers are increasing the use of modern technologies to boost productivity, deliver products on time and meet demand for finer products from global retailers and brands. Some local fabrics manufacturers have even gone one step further, as they are using robotic technology and machinery. Envoy Textiles Ltd (ETL) is one such denim fabrics manufacturer which is using robotic machinery to raise output and improve the quality of products. (02 Apr).

(Image, Michał Grosicki, CCO)