Brands in this issue include: Eileen Fisher (buying back its garments), Frank And Oak (sustainable jeans), Mother of Pearl (sustainable fashion), Nike (sued for pay discrimination), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Drug use by apparel factory workers in Southeast Asia?
  • Vegan leather market to hit $85 billion
  • Danish government launches circular economy strategy
  • Chinese police arrest fabric recycling gangsters

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: Wage board mulls wage increase; government approves amendments to the Labour Act to free up union rules (while new study shows 97.5% of RMG factories have no union), and says it will finish RMG remediation work by 2021; number of children in workforce grows; Accord terminates relations with two companies
  • China: government crackdown over Jasic Technology case may not be an isolated incident; garment workers win back pay totalling over $37,000
  • Lesotho: new minimum wage set at $138
  • Thailand: illegal Vietnamese workers must return home to apply to work legally in the country; court dismisses another case against labour activist

Manufacturers in this issue include: Esquel (eco-friendly manufacturing), Jeanologia (promoting zero waste) and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “The most satisfying thing hands down is that it’s cheaper.” Amy Powney, creative director of Mother of Pearl on doing things as sustainable as possible (01 Sep).
  • “[F]actory owners have no attention to improve the working and social condition of the workers.” Bangladesh trade union boss Montu Ghosh, during a meeting where it was revealed 97.5% of garment factories don’t have a trade union, and that 33% of sitting MPs are garment factory owners (30 Aug).

By Stephen Frost, CUHK Business School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.


How Mother of Pearl is redefining sustainability with its new no frills line: “The most satisfying thing hands down,” says Amy Powney, the creative director of Mother of Pearl, “is that [doing things sustainably is] cheaper”” (31 Aug). [Ed’s note: see also, Mother of Pearl: ‘I struggled coming into the fashion industry – I’m not a natural fit’ (02 Sep).]

Nike gets tripped up while trying to change its culture: “Up until recently, sexual harassment claims at Nike Inc. followed a familiar trajectory in the #MeToo era. Women who worked at the company shared information about the abuse they faced at work. Shortly after, a group of executives left. Now four former female Nike employees are suing the athletic apparel giant – not for sexual harassment, but for pay discrimination and limited opportunities for women to win promotions” (31 Aug).

Eileen Fisher wants those clothes back when you’re done: ““We’re trying to take responsibility,” said Eileen Fisher, whose eponymous fashion brand buys back its garments from customers at $5 each and reworks the material into new merchandise, under its Renew brand, at factories in Irvington, N.Y., and Seattle. It bought back its millionth garment in May” (31 Aug).

This startup’s collection of $80 jeans is surprisingly high-quality – and they’re all made sustainably as a bonus: “By teaming up with Hydro-Less Laundry, Frank And Oak’s jeans use 79% less energy, 50% fewer chemicals, and 95% less water than traditional manufacturing techniques” (30 Aug).


Hello, Shadowlands: Inside Southeast Asia’s $100 billion dark economy: [Ed’s note: what interests me about this story is this: “In the cheap form of Yaba (20% of meth and the rest mostly caffeine) it is not only a party drug, it is also a job drug that helps you to do tedious and repetitious jobs. Like driving a truck or working in a garment factory.” Are Southeast Asian garment workers on drugs to get through the day?] (02 Sep).

Vegan leather market to hit $85 billion as fashion bosses innovate: “The global faux leather market is set to hit $85 billion by 2025, according to a 2017 report by business consulting firm Grand View Research (GVR)” (01 Sep).

Where’s that jumpsuit from? It’s a long story: [Ed’s note: inside Africa's second-hand clothing market, via a designer and clothing dealer in Paris who procures most of his wares for his label from second-hand clothing markets in Lomé, Togo. An interesting spin on an old story, from the NYT.] (01 Sep).

Danish government launches circular economy strategy: “The government is launching its Strategy for Circular Economics. With 116 million DKK [$18 million] divided among 15 initiatives, the government is hoping to shift to a more sustainable society, recycling materials and products, exploiting their value to the fullest and minimizing waste. The conversion potentially holds huge gains for both the environment and the economy” (01 Sep – in Danish).

Chinese police arrest fabric recycling gang: Police in Hangzhou have arrested nine suspects in an illegal garment waste recycling operation. The criminal gang established its business by threatening garment factories with harassment and violence to hand over fabric waster for free, which it then processed for profit (31 Aug – in Chinese).

The Impact of Temperature on Productivity and Labor Supply: Evidence from Indian Manufacturing: “We show that the effect of temperature on labor is an important part of the explanation. Using high-frequency micro data from selected firms in India, we find that worker productivity on hot days declines by 2 to 4 percent per degree celsius. Sustained heat also increases worker absenteeism. Using a national panel of manufacturing plants, we find similar temperature effects on output and show that these can be fully accounted for by reductions in the productivity of labor” (29 Aug). [Ed’s note: academic working paper from U of Chicago. See also: Study finds climate change causes lower economic output in countries: (30 Aug).]



RMG wage board asks workers, owners’ reps to review proposals: “The factory owners’ representative formally proposed Tk 6,360 as the minimum monthly wage for RMG workers, while the workers’ representative proposed Tk 12,020” (04 Sep).

Govt eases trade union rules: “The government yesterday approved a draft of the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act, 2018 to make it workers-friendly in line with the suggestion of the international communities. Under the proposed law, workers' participation required to form trade unions at factories will be reduced to 20 percent from the existing 30 percent” (04 Sep).

Govt to set action plan to finish factory remediation by June ’21: “The government is going to set a time-bound action plan for completing remediation work in the readymade garment factories which were inspected under the government-led and International Labour Organisation-supported initiative” (03 Sep).

Unremitting child labour: “According to a survey conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 3.45 million children have been found engaged in active labour -many of them in hazardous jobs. It notes the number of children in labour market has in the recent years increased by 250,000” (02 Sep).

Experts ring alarm bell as female participation in RMG sector dips: Study of RMG factories shows: 97.5% have no trade union; number of women down to 53.2% in 2016 (58.4% in 2012); monthly employee turnover 5.3% (31 Aug).

No trade unions in 97.5pc Bangladesh RMG factories: CPD: “In Bangladesh's readymade garments sector, 97.5 per cent factories don't have trade unions. A comprehensive survey on RMG sector conducted by Centre for Policy Dialogue also found out that the workers' organisations continue to remain in either weak or non-functional in the garment factories” (30 Aug).

Accord terminates business relations with two companies: The Bangladesh Accord has released statements on the termination of business relations or ineligibility to do business with Accord company signatories of “all factories of Supertex Group” (for failing to implement workplace safety measures) and “SB Knitex Ltd.” (for its failure to submit a Corrective Action Plan) (28 Aug).


Jasic not an isolated case: rare spike in arrests and violent police intervention to dissolve worker protests across China: “The harsh police response to the ongoing Jasic Technology workers’ campaign in Shenzhen seems to coincide with a recent surge in swift police intervention to dissolve workers’ collective actions in the past month, and this new phenomenon is not geographically confined to Shenzhen or Guangdong province” (03 Sep).

Workers paid wages owed totalling $37,598 in Sichuan: 60 workers at a garment factory in Naxi (near Chongqing) have recovered 257,000 yuan ($37,598) of 350,554 yuan withheld illegally. The factory has promised to pay the remaining $13,636 by 10 September (29 Aug).


Lesotho workers get $138 as new minimum wage: Textile workers in Lesotho get 62% wage raise (from $85/month to $138) after threatening to close down the industry (which employs 35,000 workers, 80% of whom are women) (31 Aug).


EU, ILO and UN Women join hands to end violence against women migrant workers in ASEAN/Myanmar: “The EU, ILO and UN Women are organizing a national Consultative Dialogue on women migrant workers’ rights and opportunities. The consultation will introduce the new ILO and UN Women “Safe and Fair” Programme to key partners and identify activities which could be undertaken in Myanmar building on the on-going efforts by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Settlement to promote safe and fair migration practices, including to promote the labor rights and end violence against migrant women” (30 Aug).


Thai court dismisses criminal complaint against two Myanmar migrant workers and labour rights activist: [Ed’s note: not directly related to apparel factories, but an important decision with the potential to affect responses to labour abuses in Thai facilities. A court in Thailand has dismissed a criminal complaint against two Myanmar migrant workers and a labour rights activist in relation to the allegation of labour abuses in Thammakaset farm for allegedly stealing timecards from the farm owner to present to labour inspectors as evidence for their alleged labour abuses complaints. The court found there was lack of merit to proceed with the case.] (03 Sep).

Illegal Vietnamese workers in Thailand must return home: “Illegal Vietnamese workers have to return to Vietnam first and if they wish to re-enter Thailand, they must apply for work permits, said a local official. In an attempt to attract migrant workers from Vietnam to Thailand, the Thai government has approved a proposal to provide work permits for illegal Vietnamese labourers” (02 Sep).


How Dee Poon is building a greener future: “[T]he real magic will be happening behind closed doors at the manufacturing operation, where many of Esquel’s scientists and engineers will be working on boundary-pushing experiments to make manufacturing more eco-friendly. “We’re working on reindustrialising natural dye, so we can move away from chemical dyes. And we’re working on recycling and upcycling at every level”” (01 Sep).

Jeanologia introduces “sustainable-ization” to the textile industry: Using a combination of technology, Jeanologia aims to set 5.Zero finishes (zero waste, zero manual scraping, zero potassium permanganate spray, zero stone wash and zero bleach) as the standard in the denim industry, improving the look and product quality with a neutral cost (01 Sep).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

05 September, Hong Kong: Manufacturer Forum: The first SAC & ZDHC Manufacturer Forum in Hong Kong.

04 – 06 September, Munich: Munich Fabric Start 2018: Three days of exhibiters and seminars focussing on sustainable textiles.

06 September, Hong Kong (livestreamed): Redress Design Award 2018 Grand Final Show: Redress will be live-streaming the Grand Final Show or the Redress Design Award 2018 on its Facebook page at 6.30 p.m.

06 – 07 September, Hong Kong: Fashion Summit (HK) 2018: Asia’s sustainable fashion event.

* 07 – 08 September, NYC: Wear your Values Panels & Pop-up: “Remake and the Human Rights Foundation [host] a series of panels.”

10 September, San Francisco: The Future of Design Workshop: A workshop teaching the SAC’s Higg Production Tools to apparel and footwear designers.

10 – 12 September, Chemnitz, Germany: Sustainable Textile School: “Formation of a marketplace for innovation and further education with a focus on sustainability in the textile industry.”

12 September, webinar: SDG Leadership Forum for Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production: “As part of our ongoing series of online dialogues, the SDG Leadership Forum for Goal 12 … offers an opportunity to explore how we can accelerate our transition to a circular economy” (co-hosted by C&A Foundation).

14 – 15 September, Lüneburg, Germany: C2C Congress 2018: Special track: Fashion and Textiles.

19 September, San Bruno, California: Impact Sourcing – Economic Inclusion through Procurement: “Leading companies are no longer just approaching sustainable procurement to mitigate risk. They are maximizing opportunities and generating business benefits and lasting social impacts.”

20 September, Adelaide, South Australia: Redress Design Award Fashion Academy: “A free-to-attend sustainable fashion event for students, emerging designers and educators.”

20 – 25 September, Milan: Fashion Film Festival Milano: For the 2018 edition a particular invite is extended to the representatives of Sustainable Fashion: A roundtable, a European preview and a new category, “Best Green Fashion Film.”

26 September, Amsterdam: Unpack Impact: “Four successful impact enterprises [circular fashion] will be unpacked.”

26 – 29 September, Koudougou, Burkina Faso: 4 days focussing on organic and Fairtrade cotton in West Africa.  International Cotton & Textile Conference (SICOT).

27 – 28 September, Raleigh, US: 2018 Footwear Materials and Innovation Summit: “[F]ocused on helping professionals better understand current and emerging materials and material developments at an in-depth technical level.”

29 September, Washington DC: Unveiling Fashion: Conversations about Fashion and Sustainability: Keynote speaker: Lauren Fey, Fashion Revolution USA, and many more.

31 October – 01 November, London: Responsible Supply Chains: The future of trade: “[The] event will include analysis of key sustainability trends, the future of business models and leadership and explore new models of collaboration.”

01 – 02 October, Toronto: Wear Conference: “WEAR [provides a] forum to share examples of both local and global leadership, best practices and innovative solutions with the North American apparel and textile industry.”

09 – 10 October, Maastricht, the Netherlands: 34th IAF World Fashion Convention: With a theme this year of “Building a Smart Future for Fashion”, the Convention will “will show many inspiring examples of a smarter apparel supply chain.” 

10 – 11 October, London: 13th Responsible Supply Chain Summit Europe: “Focus on the emerging technologies, innovations and collaborations critical to sustainable, cost-effective supply chain strategies.”

11 – 12 October, Kilkenny, Ireland: Global Forum on Responsible Leather. Hosted by TextileExchange Responsible Leather Roundtable.

15 – 17 October, Shanghai: Yarn Expo Autumn: “Sustainable sources of specialty yarns, fancy yarns and chemical fibres will be the focus at this year’s Autumn Edition.”

18 – 19 October, Milan: 5th Bluesign Conference: “TraceAbility. NetworkAbility. TransformAbility. Stitching the blue way together … gathering of all the Bluesign system partners and broader sustainability community for an opportunity to exchange ideas.”

22 – 24 October, Milan: 2018 Textile Sustainability Conference: United by Action: Accelerating Sustainability in Textiles & Fashion: Textile Exchange’s 2018 Textile Sustainability Conference. (See agenda update here.)

25 – 26 October, Lisbon: Sustainable Retail Summit: Hosted by the Consumer Goods Forum – “Topics on the agenda include plastic waste, migrant labour, consumer health, food waste and transparency.”

31 October – 01 November, London: ‘What’s Going On? A Discourse on Fashion, Design and Sustainability’: “The Global Fashion Conference is a bi-annual international conference, which aims to contribute to a multidisciplinary approach to fashion studies and brings together academia and industry, promoting a more sustainable model of development.”

06 – 08 November, NYC: A New Blueprint for Business: “[An] increasingly complex environment requires a new blueprint for business, with resilient strategies, effective governance models, and new management approaches.” BSR’s annual conference.

13 – 14 November, Los Angeles: Remode: The premier event for disruptive and sustainable fashion: “[H]ear from fashion’s leading innovators, gain access to a collaborative network of relevant people and resources, and leave with an actionable plan for innovation and growth.”

13 – 14 November, San Diego: 2nd Responsible Busin4ess Summit West: “It is imperative to advance ethical leadership in today's age of digital disruption. Failure to do so will result in loss of customer trust, shareholder value and ultimately, profits.” Hosted by Ethical Corporation.

15 November, London: Leather & Sustainability in Retail Conference 2018: “Join BLC, ILM and leather industry professionals at this year’s half-day leather sustainability conference which covers sustainability and innovation around raw materials for leather, uses for waste materials within the leather value chain and circular economy. The conference will also be considering new materials coming to market and look at transparency and traceability of production within existing processes.”

16 – 17 January 2019, Delhi: International Workshop Agreement for the screening of GMOs in cotton and textiles: “The IWA is about a protocol for GMO screening in cotton and textiles.”

24 January 2019, London: 8th Future Fabrics Expo: “Source from 5000+ fabrics, yarns, leathers, trims with a reduced environmental impact from over 150 mills and suppliers.”

(Photo AlexandraCCO)

Disclaimer: The Fashion Sustainability Week in Review (FSWIR) is a twice-weekly roundup of sustainability news items relevant to the fashion, apparel, textile and related industries. The views and opinions expressed in the FSWIR by individual authors and/or media outlets cited do not necessarily reflect the position of GoBlu International or any individual associated with the company.