Brands and retailers

Inside fashion’s quest to make sustainable clothes fit: Americans love what they wear – until it’s time to throw it away. Each year, we generate 21 billion pounds of discarded clothing, amounting to 70 pounds per person. Now, as the world finally begins to address climate change, is there a business case for the fashion industry to invest in sustainability? Lindsey and Jenny talk brands including H&M, Levi Strauss and Timberland about what they’re doing to make their products greener. With apparel at the beginning of its transformation, customers will need to demand improvements to help spur change (02 May). Note: This is a Bloomberg podcast.

Quebec-based sustainable fashion line Gaia & Dubos launches: A new Quebec-based sustainable fashion brand is about to hit the market. Pioneered by designer Léonie Daignault-Leclerc, Gaia & Dubos is gearing up to launch its first sustainable and ethical high-end garment collection for women on May 5 (01 May).

Putting power in hands of garment workers: Maeve Galvin of C&A Foundation argues that phone technology could transform conditions in the apparel supply chain if data is public and allows workers to have a voice (28 Apr).

H&M Canada recognised as among top 50 best places to work in Canada: H&M has been recognized for the third consecutive year as one of the best workplaces in Canada. New for H&M this year was also making the list of top employers in the country for part-time staff (27 Apr).

Reformation’s Yael Aflalo shows off eco-factory: Reformation’s operation aims to be increasingly environmentally sustainable. Some plans for the future; the factory is on course to install solar panels on its roof, and will supply 75 percent of the factory’s energy needs. There’s another plan to recycle energy to power the factory (27 Apr).

Is fast fashion a class issue? ““Don't let Zara and Uniqlo educate you on the price of a garment because that’s not fashion. That’s McDonald’s.” With this one pithy comment, Virgil Abloh – the brains behind one of the most lauded street style brands, Off-White – inadvertently touches on an issue that haunts every panel discussion and every magazine article about fast fashion and price points: Are ethically produced clothes a privilege for the wealthy? Should people with limited disposable income really be expected to pay more for clothes just to avoid buying cheap stuff that’s bad for the planet? And after all of these questions, are we left with one unavoidable one: Is fast fashion a class issue?” (27 Apr).

Fashion student wins KappAhl sustainable design contest: Fashion student Kim Linghoff has won the KappAhl sustainable design contest 2017, hosted by Kappahl, a leading fashion chain in the Nordic region. Her winning entry is based on the idea of making use of excess yarn from clothing production to create modern knitted garments. Linghoff will develop her solution together with KappAhl’s design team (27 Apr).

What fashion buyers and retailers can do to help the planet, H&M’s China sustainability chief explains: “From yarn spun from shoreline waste to fabric made from recycled bottles, fast-fashion chain H&M is pushing sustainability, says Hanna Hallin, and we can do our bit by asking stores how clothes are made and using them for longer” (27 Apr).

Anaak’s luxurious, artisan-made collections are as sustainable as it gets: Anaak is the rare fashion label that’s elegant, beautifully made, easy to wear, and sustainable, too; from organic fabrics to the women artisan groups Marissa Maximo employs around the world. Most of the pieces are handmade in small batches by women artisan groups in India (27 Apr).

Women’s sweaters recalled by FatFace due to violation of federal flammability standard: The product is a women’s overhead and zip-up sweaters, which have been recalled because they fail to meet federal flammability standards for clothing textiles, posing a risk of burn injuries. FatFace received one report of a burn injury (26 Apr). More from the company here.

Hugo Boss joins ZDHC Programme and Safer Chemical Management:  The newest contributor in the Signatory Brand category to the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals program is Hugo Boss (26 Apr).

From marketing ploy to mainstream players, sustainable fabrics come into their own: Feel free to leave your quips about hemp-clad hippies at the door: If sustainable fashion is still viewed as a niche product, it won’t be for much longer. Once the purview of independent designers, “green” clothing has muscled into the mainstream. Brands mentioned include: Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, H&M, C&A, Topshop, Zara, Adidas, Outerknown, G-Star Raw, and Levi Strauss & Co (25 Apr).

Bestseller to make supplier factory information publicly available: “Bestseller will begin the process of making information about our supplier factories available in 2017,” says Sustainability Manager Katrine Milman: “We are already now sharing various supplier information with e.g. the Bangladesh Accord and other external business partners, and we are now looking forward to getting further into the process of making more information publicly available down the road.” (25 Apr).

Workers at Chinese factory used by Ivanka Trump’s clothing maker endured long hours, low pay: Workers at a factory in China used by the G-III Apparel Group, the company that makes clothing for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line and other brands, worked nearly 60 hours a week to earn wages of little more than $62 a week, according to a factory released Monday.  (25 Apr).

The best companies to work for in fashion: They are, based on survey responses from 2,600 industry professionals, representing more than 190 leading fashion companies from around the world: Adidas, Berluti, Calvin Klein, Cotton On Group, Farfetch, Galeries Lafayette, Gap Inc., Gucci, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Loewe, Nordstrom Inc., Tommy Hilfiger, Warby Parker, Zalando, and Zara (24 Apr).

Cheap Monday aiming to be the most sustainable brand on the market: Cheap Monday’s new Spring/Summer 2017-2018 collection boats an even higher levels of organic cotton. The Stockholm, Sweden-based jeans brand announced that it is determined to make itself the most relevant and sustainable brand on the market (24 Apr).

Most sustainable outdoor gear? German brand a ‘quiet leader’: With a huge line of products and 900 retail stores around the planet, Germany-based Jack Wolfskin is making waves in sustainable practices. With supply-chain transparency, Fair Wear Foundation membership, organic cotton use, a stance against fur and nanotechnology, and responsible down certification (to name a few), Jack Wolfskin evaluates nearly all stages of production (20 Apr).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

A novel set in Bangladesh sweatshops: I discovered this book, which I thought might interest some of you: A Harvest of Thorns, by Corban Addison. From the blurb: “In Dhaka, Bangladesh, a garment factory burns to the ground, claiming the lives of hundreds of workers, mostly young women. Amid the rubble, a bystander captures a heart-stopping image-a teenage girl lying in the dirt, her body broken by a multi-storey fall, and over her mouth a mask of fabric bearing the label of one of America's largest retailers, Presto Omnishops Corporation. When the photo goes viral, it fans the flames of a decades old controversy about sweatshops, labour rights, and the ethics of globalization.” I have not read it, but I thought the premise was intriguing. (Note: headline link is to Amazon.)

Ethical fashion designers work with PETA India, show the way to cruelty-free glamour: Designer sisters Meg and Komie Vora, based in the US, are creative directors of a PETA India campaign named Fashion Fauxever. The sisters, themselves into vegan design, talk about the future of ethical fashion (03 May).

Brands are a lot more responsible for terrible factory conditions than they want you to think: “Jenny D. moved to California in 2012 on a tourist visa, intending to take a job as a domestic worker. Her employer, who brought her from Malaysia, promised to pay her $1,000 a month. Instead, Jenny (whose name has been changed because of her immigration status) was made to clean both her employer’s home and office and received $200 every 35 to 38 days. Frustrated with these conditions, she ran away to Los Angeles. Jenny now operates a coverstitch machine making yoga clothes in a factory in Los Angeles. She has been employed as a garment worker for almost four years, working 55-hour weeks from Monday through Saturday. She earns $400 a week, an improvement from before, albeit well below California’s minimum wage of $10.50 an hour” (02 May).

Tomorrow’s denim will be ecological and high tech: Visitors to the Paris Event Centre on 26th and 27th April were treated to an exclusive glimpse of the denim industry of tomorrow, as the 19th edition of the Denim Première Vision trade event showcased ten high-tech developments and technological innovations which could potentially change the face of the industry (02 May).

China’s high-fashion players are hungry for sustainable design: On a local level, eco-friendly efforts have been gaining momentum in the country. Across China, a growing number of high-end designers are working to promote sustainability throughout the fashion cycle, from the drawing board, to encouraging conscious purchasing decisions by the smart modern shopper. At the forefront of these efforts is the world’s largest sustainable fashion competition, the EcoChic Design Award (30 Apr).

Fairtrade in talks with groups in India, Bangladesh: It has been one year since the Fairtrade Textile Standard and Programme was launched with an aim to make textile production fairer and improve wages for workers. Though certified products have not yet hit the market, Fairtrade has been on job talking to Indian and Bangladeshi NGOs, Indian union representatives, and Don Bosco Vocational Schools (30 Apr).

The problem with fashion brands that call themselves “sustainable”: “It seems as though every week a press release lands in my inbox announcing the launch of an exciting (!) and revolutionary (!) sustainable fashion brand. And it’s because these words – sustainability, eco-friendly, socially and environmentally conscious – are, at the moment, some of the buzziest in the industry – they give both emerging and established labels a newfound do-good, feel-good purpose that goes beyond simply selling clothes and raking in a profit. But really, what does it all mean? One emerging brand can claim itself as sustainable for harnessing the talent of artisans around the world to create handcrafted pieces in lieu of employing labor from a factory; another, for sourcing organic cotton or recycled materials, even as a fast-fashion giant. They’re different, yet they're both sustainable. Is one better than the other? And who determines that?” (28 Apr).

Copenhagen Fashion Summit calls for ‘commitment to change’: This year’s overarching theme for the Summit is ‘Commitment to change’. One of the expected outcomes of the 2017 Summit is the signing of a concrete call to action put forward by Global Fashion Agenda to create a unified effort among fashion brands and retailers in accelerating the fashion industry's transition to a circular system (28 Apr).

Trump’s ‘Buy American’ push ruffles some fashion feathers: ““It’s America first, you better believe it,” President Trump said, standing over a tool cabinet at the Snap-On Tools headquarters in Kenosha, Wis., where he signed his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order this month to favor American companies for federal contracts. And with that, Mr. Trump staked claim to an issue that has become a pet cause for a group that, generally speaking, would just as soon wear a Power Rangers helmet as a “Make America Great Again” hat: the urban beards-and-selvage-jeans set who transformed the “Made in U.S.A.” clothing label into a men’s wear status symbol over the past decade. In any other year, having the president as an ally might be considered a coup. With this president? Well, for brands that have staked their identity on “Made in U.S.A.” chic, it is complicated” (27 Apr).

From field & factory to shop floor, the journey of your clothes: “It is said that prior to the Industrial Revolution, a shirt made from locally grown fibre, handwoven, and hand-sewn, would cost around the equivalent of £700 today”, Clare Lissaman, Director of Product & Impact at Ethical Fashion Forum tells me. According to research carried out by Fashion Revolution, the minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is 5,300 taka (£45) per month. While today’s technology means it wouldn’t cost as much as £700 to create a 100% ‘Made in England’ shirt in 2017, the disparity between that figure and the amount international workers are paid to make our clothes now is haunting” (27 Apr).

No pineapples are harmed to make Pinatex: “At 63, when most people would be happy to sit back and relax, Dr. Carmen Hijosa chose to go back to college to work on her PhD. After five years of doctoral research, she developed Pinatex – a totally new fabric which is strong, versatile, breathable as well as soft, light and flexible. Pinatex can be stitched, cut and printed on. Resembling leather in appearance, the new material has caused a buzz in the fashion industry as it can be dyed, printed and treated to produce a variety of textures in different thicknesses. It can then be turned into shoes, wallets, bags and furnishings. But the kicker came when Hijosa revealed that Pinatex was derived from recycled pineapple leaves” (27 Apr). In related news, Dr. Hijosa’s company, Ananas Anam, has completed a new round of financing of undisclosed amount. “Following this fundraising, Spark China Limited Director William Lu will join Ananas Anam’s Board of Directors, which also includes entrepreneurial VC and former Director at Unilever Ventures Dr. Lisa Smith and the Chairman of the Irish Stock Exchange Padraic O’Connor.” See that story here (28 Apr).

Peckham launches apprenticeship programme: Peckham, a non-profit community vocational rehabilitation organisation, has launched a new Master Craftsman Sewer Apprenticeship programme for sewing machine operations, the first such programme at Peckham. The programme is registered with the US Department of Labour (DOL) and already 13 Peckham clients have enrolled for the first graduating class (26 Apr).

Is deadstock the future of sustainable fashion? “It seemed like everywhere I looked – whether scrolling the #ethicalfashion tag on Instagram, sifting through PR pitches in my inbox or browsing sustainable e-boutiques – I was coming across proud assertions from brands about their deadstock fabric usage” (26 Apr).

Interview with Ma Jun, Director, Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE), China: The biggest problem with addressing environmental issues in China’s vast textile industry is not simply about money or new technology – it’s about lack of motivation according to Ma Jun, Director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) (25 Apr – subscription required to read full article).

Will Gen Z help the fashion industry clean up its act? Four years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, a burgeoning collection of cool but ethical brands have launched to target the socially conscious young consumer. But there is still a long way to go (25 Apr).

Put people over profit to stop fashion slavery, says campaigner: The struggle against modern-day slavery in the fashion industry is being hampered by public relations spin and companies that still put profit not people at the heart of their business models, said a leading ethical fashion campaigner. But Simone Cipriani, head of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, sees huge potential for change as long as everyone - from brands to consumers - takes responsibility to address the exploitation of workers in global supply chains (25 Apr).

26 billion pounds textiles dumped in U.S. every year: Over 26 billion pounds (11.79 billion kg) of clothing and textiles is dumped every year in landfills, and as per a recent report, 95 per cent of it can be reused or recycled. About 54 per cent of people surveyed said they still throw out used clothing instead of donating it, while 62 per cent threw out used items as they did not think that a donation centre would accept them (25 Apr).

EU backs €45m sustainable garment projects: Worldwide, millions of workers, communities, and businesses are involved directly and indirectly in the garment value chain. A garment product typically passes through the hands of dozens of stakeholders across different continents before reaching the final consumer. Ensuring that economic growth and development go hand in hand with social justice, decent work and environmental protection in the complex and fragmented production networks of the garment value chain is a desired outcome. It is in line with key objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Three main thematic priorities and three intervention areas have emerged on the basis of ongoing activities. The three thematic priorities are: women’s economic empowerment; decent work and living wages; and transparency and traceability in the value chain. Several recently approved development projects are presented, amounting to new grant funding of around EUR 45 million (24 Apr).


‘Demand for green chemicals has increased’: There is an increase in the number of textile companies demanding green chemicals. Many of these companies export to European Union nations. Aiming to establish itself as a company delivering textile chemical innovations and creating social impact, Infinium Polychem, a client-oriented outfit, also uses renewable energy as much as possible (02 May).

Tavemex second in world to install Monforts Eco Denim Line: Tavemex SA de CV of Mexico has become the second denim producer in the world to install a Monforts Eco Denim Line, and the first to use the technology for finishing denim fabrics of up to 300 g/sqm. Early this year, the company completed the installation of the Eco Denim Line which reduces the usage of water by 80 per cent for denim finishing (01 May).

Scivera to implement new GreenScreen Certified product assessments: Scivera, a provider of chemicals management solutions for the global consumer products industry, announced last week new Product Assessment services to support global textile chemical manufacturers in reaching GreenScreen Certified and their efforts toward documenting product chemical safety achievements. The GreenScreen Certified program is a new initiative of Clean Production Action and will support the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Waste (ZDHC) consortium of global footwear and apparel brands and their efforts to improve supply chain performance (26 Apr).

Six supply chain partners join ZDHC Programme and Safer Chemical Management:  Joining as Value Chain Affiliates of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals program are: Dr. Petry Textile Auxiliaries, TFL and UL Consumer & Retail Services. Joining as Associate are: the Association TEGEWA, ETAD, and The Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF) (26 Apr).

How textile industry reduces its water footprint: New manufacturing yarn processes and finishes are pushing to a more sustainable delivery with the reduction of water (25 Apr).

KEMI calls for tighter REACH regulations: The Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) has called for EU regulators to raise the quality threshold for applications to register chemical substances. The agency made the call as the European Commission this spring conducts its five-year review of the REACH chemical legislation which is carried out by EU member states, the EU Commission and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). This is REACH's second review since it came into force in 2007 (24 Apr – subscription required to read full article).

The Supply Chain

Activists call on brands to do more to stop child labour in India: Companies have been told to create and sustain child labour-free zones by mapping supply chains and working in communities to boost school enrolment. India has an estimated 5.7 million child workers toiling on farms and in factories. While most firms do not directly employ children, work is often subcontracted. The Stop Child Labour Coalition of charities recently launched a campaign with guidelines for companies to help ensure that children living in ‘labour hotspots’ finish school (02 May).

Cambodian garment industry split on sexual harassment report: A report on the rate of sexual harassment in Cambodia’s garment industry and the financial impact it causes has sparked a mixed reaction in the sector. The report by poverty-reduction NGO CARE last week provided research showing nearly one third of women in the garment industry had experienced sexual harassment in the last 12 months. CARE’s research also suggested the financial cost of sexual harassment due to loss of productivity totalled around $89 million. Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation backed the report’s findings, saying the government needs to tackle the issue in an industry that makes up almost a third of the country’s GDP. However, GMAC secretary-general Ken Lou disputed the findings, saying sexual harassment incidences were not as prevalent as the research suggested and the financial loss was based on assumptions. “We don’t agree the occurrence is as high as the report claims,” he said (01 May). The CARE report, ‘I know I cannot quit.’ The Prevalence and Productivity Cost of Sexual Harassment to the Cambodian Garment Industry, can be found here in full (PDF). Or in a summary here (PDF).

Thai Workers urge bankrupt factory to pay up: Laid-off workers at a garment factory in Samut Sakhon have demanded their ex-employer speed up compensation payments after the textile company, which went bankrupt last month, said it will pay them in six months. A total of 107 workers, employed at British-Thai Synthetic Textile Co Ltd in Samut Sakhon's Krathum Baen district, were shocked when the company announced without notice that it would cease operations, citing financial losses (01 May).

Bangladesh’s Hasina blames some labour leaders for attempts to ruin industries: Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday criticised what she said as so-called labour leaders for their repeated attempts to destroy the country's industrial sector through complaining to foreigners. “There’re some labour leaders ... I don't know which industry they belong to but they call them labour leaders. There’s a vested quarter and their job is to just send messages abroad against Bangladesh,” she said. Hasina made the comments on May Day (01 May).

Call for Bangladesh workers regain power: “This year on May 1, Sammilito Garments Sramik Federation, along with other labour activists and union leaders, will hold a rally to mark the struggle that workers of our nation face, and the demands we have for living wages, for safe working conditions, for our internationally recognised and ratified labour rights, particularly the right to decent work, freedom of association, and the right to strike. We will not be heard by the elite class that pocket the profits from our labour, to whom Labour Day is another convenient public holiday that may ease the traffic in our densely populated capital city” (30 Apr).

88 workers died in Bangladesh garment factories in 2016: The state minister for labour Mujibul Haque said about 20,000 inspectors would be needed to inspect some 8.3 million industrial units across the country and this would require much time (27 Apr).

Inside the secret lives of women garment workers in Myanmar: “When Ma Wutt Ye followed her doctor’s orders to take medical leave from her garment factory job in northern Mingalardon industrial zone, her boss took no sympathy. She was immediately dismissed from her position” (27 Apr).

Foreign buyers paying less for green factory apparel made in Bangladesh: International buyers are not paying enough for apparel and garments manufactured in eco-friendly factories in Bangladesh, according to Tofail Ahmed, commerce minister of the country. Investments have been made to make the factories eco-friendly, however, buyers have not increased the prices. On the contrary, they have been cutting prices. The minister said this during a meeting with the delegation of Germany’s Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, which was led by its vice-chairman Michael Sommer (26 Apr).

Bangladesh garment factories could see $7.0 million cost savings a year on energy projects: At a presentation last week, Stephan Skare Enevoldsen presented findings from energy assessments that showed the potential for annual energy cost savings of almost USD 7 million in 42 factories, which is equivalent to an average energy savings of 21 per cent or around USD 150,000 a year (26 Apr).

No Rana Plaza survivors jobless, says BGMEA in rejection of ActionAid claim: The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association or BGMEA has rejected ActionAid’s claim that 42 per cent of the survivors of 2013 Rana Plaza collapse are still jobless. The owners’ body says the victims have been compensated and employed duly. But according to ActionAid’s report published on 22 Apr, 44 per cent of the workers who sustained injuries in the deadly industrial disaster are still jobless four years on (25 Apr).

Bangladesh trains judges on labour standards: The training on ‘International Labour Standards and Labour Legislation’ was jointly organised by the International Labour Organisation and the Judicial Administration Training Institute (JATI) to equip 30 judges and judicial officers with better knowledge of international labour laws (25 Apr).

(Image, Teddy Kelley, CCO)