BRANDS AND RETAILERS

Kowtow is the label making sustainability an everyday practice: Kowtow was founded in 2007 with the intention of designing minimalist pieces that are made with ethical and sustainable practices, from the planting of the first cotton seeds to the end life of the garment. All of the brand’s garments are certified by non-profit internationally recognized organizations, while the custom fabrics take 12 months from design to production. (30 Dec). [Ed’s note: the article is an interview with the founder, Gosia Piatek.]

Shoe brands to map ‘invisible’ shoemakers in south India: Thomson Reuters Foundation reports on Pentland, Clarks and the AstorMueller Group meeting with ‘invisible’ homeworkers in southern India in a bid to improve conditions in their supply chains (29 Dec).

The future is ethical fashion: Marie Claire profiles Australian women bringing sustainability into style: Jackie Ruddock, CEO of The Social Outfit; Laura Wells, marine biologist and model (designed her own range of swimwear made from eco-friendly fabrics); Kit Willow, designer and founder, KITX; and Lucy King, sustainability manager at Country Road (29 Dec).

Walmart to buy more in Cambodia: Walmart will increase orders of Cambodian garments and footwear products in the upcoming year and will also start buying travel goods manufactured in the kingdom, according to a company statement. The American retail giant’s positive announcement comes amid an escalating diplomatic row between Cambodia and its Western partners (28 Dec).

Celebrities running businesses that give back: 1. Rosario Dawson: social enterprise Studio One Eighty Nine, sells clothes that challenge the idea of cheap, mass produced, fast fashion with the garments handmade in Ghana with a focus on African patterns and fabrics while paying a decent wage to the people who create them; 2. Pharrell Williams: social enterprise Bionic, which takes plastic, shreds it, heats it and spins it into two types of yarn used to make everything from jeans to roof linings and car seat covers (26 Dec).

Bestseller unveils action points on textile waste: Bestseller has unveiled strategic action points on post-consumer textile waste as a response to the Call To Action put out by Global Fashion Agenda in 2017. The action points are crucial for transition to a circular fashion system (25 Dec).

REPORTS, GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS

Old Spitalfields Market in London bans sale of ‘vintage’ fur: Old Spitalfields Market, in east London, has asked traders not to sell fur products from the start of 2018. The sale of new and vintage fur, any part of vulnerable, exotic and endangered species, bone horn shell or teeth are also included in the ban. Mike Moser, the chief executive of the British Fur Trade Association has hit out at the ban, claiming that banning fur could lead to calls from “ideological” animal rights campaigners to protest against the sale of leather, silk and sheepskin from the capital’s market stalls (02 Jan).

Some Australian retailers aren’t ready for slavery laws: Some of Australia’s major retailers are woefully unprepared for new laws likely to be brought before parliament that will force them to show how they ensure their products are not made with slave labour. A joint federal parliament committee last month called on the government to introduce a Modern Slavery Act, including mandatory supply chain reporting for large companies (01 Jan).

Fashion trends of 2017 all about female empowerment: Looking ahead to 2018, we can expect to see the rise of luxe conscious consumerism (“popular culture is careening toward a sense of wellness. Coupled with the rise of handmade and sustainable goods, it’s safe to say the trend of conscious consumerism will continue to flourish”) (31 Dec). [Ed’s note: from CBC-Radio Canada.]

Fashion predictions for 2018: From Caroline Issa: Fashion will find its conscience (led by technology such as new fabrics); and Values matter (mission and value-based brands will take a bigger slice of the pie (30 Dec). [Ed’s note: from The Telegraph.]

Biggest fashion moments of the year: Luxury brands bid goodbye to fur (“now more than ever, sustainability and ethical practices are slowly becoming the diktat. In line with this initiative, some of the biggest fashion houses decided to go fur-free”) (30 Dec) [Ed’s note: from Verve.]

Vintage clothing ban in Rwanda sparks US trade dispute: Second hand garments are stifling the country’s fashion industry, officials say, but the ban has dismayed local traders – and reportedly imperils 40,000 US jobs (29 Dec).

Vietnam’s chance to become a leader in sustainable fashion manufacturing: The world’s fifth biggest textiles and garment exporter, Vietnam is cracking down on polluters, while foreign investors are building new factories to higher standards and using more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes (28 Dec).

Push for provincial factories planned for Cambodia: The Cambodian government plans to push for more factories in the provinces in order to offer employment opportunities to local workforces rather than having labourers leave their hometowns to travel to the capita (28 Dec).

Grow your own clothes: Fashion designers and biologists are weaving together their talents to create a new sustainable fibre that is biodegradable and wearable (28 Dec).

Bangladesh again denied GSP: Bangladesh’s trade privilege in US markets has been again denied as President Donald Trump’s administration enforced the trade preference programme's eligibility last week. The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility for Bangladesh was suspended in June 2013 after the Rana Plaza building collapse in April, the reasons cited being poor labour rights and unsafe working conditions in factories (28 Dec). [Ed’s note: The GSP is a 1970s US trade deal providing manufacturers in developing countries tariff-free access to the American market. Trump’s support for the GSP has been lukewarm and he has indicated a desire for reform.]

USDL recovers $1.6 million in back wages and damages for garment industry employees in 2017: Investigations in Southern California by the U.S. Department of Labor have found $1.6 million in back wages and liquidated damages due to 1,377 garment industry employees since January. Those amounts resulted from violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) found in 94 percent of 129 Wage and Hour Division investigations of garment facilities in the region during that period (27 Dec).

Mill worker deaths fuels employment concerns in India garment sector: Thomson Reuters Foundation reports the death of a 21-year-old woman working in a garment factory in south India has reignited concerns among rights campaigners over the working conditions of low-paid textile workers in the multi-billion dollar industry. A report into the woman’s death by the Rights Education and Development Centre (READ), a charity working with textile workers, said migrant workers “were not being paid minimum wages and were unregistered” (27 Dec).

First apparel factory in a prison opens in Bangladesh: Bangladesh’s first-ever garment factory in a jail opened last week. Some 300-400 prisoners will be trained by the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) to work in two shifts. The manufacturing facility is called Resilience Garments Industry and Jamdani Production Centre and is in the Narayanganj District Jail in Dhaka (27 Dec). [Ed’s note: other articles indicate the Centre will initially sell products through Aarong, a social enterprise established by BRAC (the country’s largest development NGO), which sells “ethically made handcrafted products.” It is planned the Centre will eventually export products. See here and here.]

India may bring back proposal to allow fixed-term employment: The Indian government is exploring the possibility of bringing back a controversial proposal to allow industries to hire workers on fixed-term contracts. The move, if given a go-ahead, will allow industries to employ workers for short assignments and terminate their services once the projects are completed. The government approved a special package for the footwear, leather, and accessories sector on 15 December, which included allowing fixed-term employment in these sectors “in order to attract large scale investments at global scale” (27 Dec).

IWTO debates wool’s counterintuitive sustainability ratings: The Brussels-based International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) recently discussed the unfair classification of wool by powerful organisations promoting petroleum-based fibres at its annual Wool Round Table in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Experts said it was counterintuitive to rank wool and other natural fibres below synthetic fibres in sustainability ratings (27 Dec).

MANUFACTURERS

Crystal Group bets on human workers over sewbots: Crystal Goup, the largest textile manufacturer in the world, is betting on human labour in the face of automation in order to obtain more contracts from customers such as Marks & Spencer, Uniqlo and H&M (03 Jan – in Spanish). [Ed’s note: The article was originally published in the Financial Times.]

Two LA textile importers plead guilty to laundering money for Mexican drug cartels: Morad “Ben” Neman and Hersel Neman, who own Pacific Eurotex Corp., admitted in court documents that they failed to report to federal authorities the receipt of bulk cash divided up for frequent bank deposits that were less than $10,000 to avoid a bank-reporting requirement that would have tipped off law enforcement. The Neman brothers have agreed to forfeit to the United States nearly $3.18 million, which includes the narcotics proceeds they received and deposited in structured cash transactions (27 Dec).

Pratibha Syntex wins environmental sustainability award: Pratibha Syntex, a vertically integrated, sustainability oriented manufacturer of knitted textile products, has won an award for environmental sustainability. Pratibha has been introducing sustainable fibre and fabrics in its range, and has worked with 33,000 farmers of around 450 villages about organic and sustainable farming techniques, which entail less water and energy use. At the factory level, Pratibha has undertaken initiatives to save energy and conserve water (27 Dec).

Textile factories under suspicion over chemical waste stench in Istanbul: Prosecutors have launched an investigation into a stench from illegally dumped chemical waste that hospitalized 60 people in Istanbul's Tuzla district, announcing the chemicals secretly dumped were commonly used in the textile sector (and by metal foundries)(26 Dec).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Myanmar increases daily minimum wage by 33 per cent: The National Committee on Fixing the Minimum Wage has decided to set the daily minimum wage at 4,800 kyat (US$3.55). The committee has decided to apply the same daily minimum wage in all regions and states to all businesses with 10 or more workers. The current minimum wage is 3,600 kyat (30 Dec). [Ed’s note: In early December, the Myanmar Garment Entrepreneurs Association, told the media that employers were only in a position to pay a daily minimum wage of between K4,000 and K4,200.]

52 garment workers lose life during 2017 in Bangladesh: 2017 was as deadly as the previous year for workers, with at least 1,242 workers killed across the country due to a lack of occupational safety in the workplace, according to a report from the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE). The report notes that 52 workers in the apparel sector lost their lives during the year. Boiler blasts were singled out as a significant threat to safety (30 Dec).

Safety, compliance, welfare ruled Bangladesh garments sector: “Decisions to amend relevant laws, restart 13 closed mills, cover garment manufacturing-exporting units under the labour ministry’s welfare fund, adopt standard operating procedures of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), map all garment factories and act on workplace safety and compliance marked the year in Bangladesh’s textile and garments sector” (29 Dec). [Ed’s note: A good short summary of developments in the Bangladesh apparel sector for 2017.]

Despite Arbitration Council ruling in Cambodia, garment factory dispute rolls on: The Arbitration Council ruled last week that embattled footwear factory Pou Yuen Enterprise Ltd. must give long-time workers unlimited duration contracts – even though workers have received letters informing them that the factory has shut down.The decision, which came one day ahead of schedule, orders Pou Yuen to give unlimited contracts to workers employed for more than two years at the company (27 Dec).

(Photo by darkmoon1968CCO)

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