THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Canada Goose, Arc’teryx, The North Face, Norwegian Wool, Fortress and Huckberry (fur vs faux fur, feathers vs synthetics), Carcel (two stories questioning its use of prison labour), Labfresh (molecular technology to make stain- and odor-repellent shirts), Louis Vuitton (goes sustainable for Oscars), Reformation (CO2 neutral), Tommy Hilfiger (100% recycled denim), Ugg (are they kosher?), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Numerous news stories on the Oxfam Australia report

  • Fast fashion folly: the problems with influencer culture and consumerism

  • ‘Fast-fashion harming planet more than aviation, shipping put together’

  • Brian Wilson: The claim that wool is as cruel as fur is ludicrous

  • Are leather alternatives really all that sustainable?

  • Fur farming may soon be illegal in Ukraine

  • How can new technologies help make fashion more sustainable?

  • How fashion can limit global warming to 1.5°C

  • Once hailed as unhackable, blockchains are now getting hacked

  • New manifesto from the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: numerous stories on the textile chemicals at the heart of the Old Dhaka fire; Sromik Jigyasha app puts legal aid at RMG workers’ fingertips

  • Cambodia: Hun Sen announces free legal aid for garment workers; says stop firing workers as way to end disputes

  • China: China’s factories struggling to find staff as young migrant workers

  • India: nine dead in carpet factory blast

  • Myanmar: over 100 factories saw workers’ protests in January

  • Philippines: global brands respond to allegations of union busting at garment factory

Manufacturers in this issue include: Eastman (post-PV partnership with C.L.A.S.S.), ISKO (fosters awareness with responsible denim), Lenzing (sustainable fabrics for Tintex), Polartec (ncrease recycled and biodegradable materials), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “Fast fashion brands work with fashion Instagrammers to promote their brands. As a result, these influencers’ feeds are saturated with posts featuring cheap, trendy clothing. Cheap, trendy clothing that they want you to buy. They normalize the idea that one should own hundreds of garments and that “outfit repeating” is a cardinal sin.” Lauren Burdsall, on problems of influencer culture (24 Feb).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Stainless and sustainable: a Dane’s quest to make fashion green: “[Kasper Brandi] Petersen’s Labfresh uses molecular technology to make stain- and odor-repellent business and casual shirts. Those who have tested them say you can wear them for a week, sweat and spill red wine on them, and they’ll still look fresh. Because they don’t need to be washed as often as regular cotton shirts, they’re expected to last longer” (24 Feb).

Louis Vuitton and Christian Siriano go eco-friendly at the Oscars: “Laura Harrier and Danielle Macdonald step out in ethical looks as part of Suzy Amis Cameron’s Red Carpet Green Dress initiative” (24 Feb).

Oscars 2019: Laura Harrier explains how her sustainable Louis Vuitton dress for her first Academy Awards was made: “To qualify as an eco-conscious gown, each piece must either be made from sustainable materials, including organic, recycled, or repurposed fibers. Harrier’s dress was made in Vuitton’s Paris atelier and crafted out of a blue crepe silk certified by the Global Organic Textile Standards and hand-embroidered with glass beads, Swarovski crystal shards, and sequins that required over 450 hours of work” (24 Feb).

Tommy Hilfiger fashions the future of jeans at its Amsterdam Denim Center: “The US label is introducing for the first time within the Tommy Jeans range a collection made of 100% recycled denim, featuring a jacket and several jeans models. The label claims this line is a first of its kind and, besides recycled fabrics, it is made using recycled plastic thread, unused buttons from previous collections and labels made with recycled paper” (24 Feb).

Conflicts of prison labor: “As more brands give jobs to inmates, some are becoming wary of business models that rely on imprisonment” (23 Feb). [Ed’s note: focuses on Danish brand Carcel.]

Are Uggs kosher? Rabbis say the boots might violate Jewish law: “Ugg boots might contain both wool and linen, violating the Jewish law of shatnez” (22 Feb). [Ed’s note: Ugg, owned by Deckers, says its products do not contain a mix of wool of linen (in violation of Jewish law of shatnez, see Deuteronomy 22:9-11), but shatnez labs say they do.]

Osklen founder Oskar Metsavaht talks sustainability: “The recent increase in luxury brands going fur-free is another sign of the rise of sustainability” (21 Feb).

Why this LA fashion brand went carbon neutral and wants customers to as well: “Reformation is telling customers not to buy clothes – but wind energy and climate credits. In their latest campaign, “Carbon is canceled,” the hip LA retailer known for their free-flowing dresses made in nearby downtown LA with sustainable materials is using their platform to educate customers about a less sexy topic: utility bills and carbon offsets” (21 Feb).

The race to make the warmest winter clothes: [Ed’s note: a long and interesting piece covering (among much else) fur vs faux fur, and down feathers vs synthetic fabrics. Brands mentioned include Canada Goose, Arc’teryx, The North Face, Norwegian Wool, Fortress (& Aeris) and Huckberry.] (20 Feb).

NEWS & REPORTS

Global Purchasing as Labor Regulation: The Missing Middle: “Do purchasing practices support or undermine the regulation of labor standards in global supply chains? This study offers the first analysis of the full range of supply chain regulatory efforts, integrating records of factory labor audits with purchase order microdata. Studying an apparel and equipment retailer with a strong reputation for addressing labor conditions in its suppliers, we show that it persuaded factories to improve and terminated factories with poor labor compliance. However, we also find that purchase orders did not increase when labor standards improved. If anything, factories whose standards worsened tended to see their orders increase. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, this “missing middle” in incentives for compliance appears unrelated to any cost advantage of noncompliant factories. Instead, lack of flexibility in supplier relationships created obstacles to reallocating orders in response to compliance findings” (Feb 19) [Ed’s note: academic paper.]

Made in poverty: The true price of fashion: “Based on hundreds of interviews with workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam, this research lays bare the fact that the widespread payment of pittance wages in the garment sector is trapping workers and their families in a cycle of poverty … The report also examines the pressures placed on factory operators and owners by Australian-based brands to keep costs low — and in turn, keep wages at levels that deny workers and their families’ decent lives” (25 Feb).

  • Chameli earns 51¢ an hour making clothes for Australia’s $23 billion fashion industry: “A landmark Oxfam Australia investigation, the first of its kind into the lives of workers in supply chains of Australian brands including Big W, Kmart, Target and Cotton On, has revealed they sometimes go hungry and without basic healthcare. Oxfam is urging the retailers to ensure factory workers are being paid a living wage that is enough for basic essentials including food, healthcare and housing” (25 Feb).

  • Australian fashion brands operating 'shocking' conditions, reports Oxfam: “In a number of cases in Vietnam, interviewees reported buyers insisted on the installation of automatic fire extinguishers for rooms where finished clothing was stored, but did not require the same for the sewing floors where hot machines could also ignite” (25 Feb).

  • 100% of workers not paid a living wage, report finds: “She said some of the findings of the research in Bangladesh were that 100% of workers interviewed were not paid a living wage. Some nine out of ten could not afford enough food for themselves and their families until their next monthly pay, while seven out of 10 could not pay for medical treatment when they were sick or injured. In Vietnam, 99% were not paid a living wage and seven out of 10 women interviewed felt their pay was not enough to meet their needs” (25 Feb).

  • Clothes sold in Australia made by workers surviving on "poverty wages" in Bangladesh and Vietnam, according to new Oxfam research: “An Oxfam investigation has found widespread payment of "poverty wages" among garment industry workers in Bangladesh with nine out of 10 workers interviewed there saying they were forced to regularly skip meals and eat inadequately or go into debt as a result” (25 Feb).

Fast fashion folly: the problems with influencer culture and consumerism: “Social media influencer culture has slowly become one of the most pervasive forms of advertisement. There are multiple perspectives that one can take when analyzing the complexities of influencer culture. While they are all valid, one perspective that seems to go unnoticed is how influencer culture promotes unsustainability and unethical consumption” (24 Feb).

‘Fast-fashion harming planet more than aviation, shipping put together’: “Synthetic fibres are being found in the deep sea, in Arctic sea ice, in fish and shellfish, says UK House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee Report” (23 Feb).

Brian Wilson: The claim that wool is as cruel as fur is ludicrous: “There is nothing more sustainable than wool. In an age of fast fashion and environmental concerns about oil-based synthetics, it is the natural fabric for the socially responsible consumer, writes Brian Wilson” (23 Feb).

Are leather alternatives really all that sustainable? “So, is vegan ‘leather’ really better than the real stuff? Many brands have gained Insta-fame for their applauded use of vegan alternatives. But I’m not sure we’ve derived the best from our clothing manufacturers just yet. With all these claims of sustainability and high ethical standards, an in-depth investigation is well-deserved. Here’s my two-second breakdown for those low on time but high on interest” (22 Feb).

Fur farming may soon be illegal in Ukraine: “Thirty-six Ukrainian MPs introduced a bill to ban fur farming in early February, the organization reports. With support from Unique Planet – a Fur Free Alliance member – the bill was initiated by MP Andriy Pomazanov” (22 Feb).

Virtual Clothes – A Step Closer To Sustainable Fashion? “Can virtual fashion take the industry a step closer to becoming sustainable? Fashion has become a serious problem; it consumes fresh water, already scarce in some parts of the world, it is responsible for around 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and now it has become a top-three producer of waste and pollution in the world” (22 Feb).

How can new technologies help make fashion more sustainable? “[A]ccording to a 2018 report released by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the apparel industry produces 20 percent of global water waste and 10 percent of global carbon emissions, while 85 percent of textiles — 21 billion tons — are sent to landfills each year. Consumers are purchasing more clothes, and keeping them for half as long, driven by fast fashion, fast marketing and a digitally driven thirst for newness.” (21 Feb).

Milan Fashion Week and fashion law trends: sustainability and green claims: “After that last September Lady Gaga walked the Venice Film Festival red carpet in a pink feathered Valentino gown, next season will be all about feathers. But where do feathers come from? Are they compliant with sustainability claims and animal welfare regulations?” (20 Feb).

How fashion can limit global warming to 1.5°C: “It’s ‘climate crunch time’ and everything we care about (and rely on!) is now under threat. It’s time to go beyond the usual conversations around supply chain issues, textiles recycling, buying less and buying better – focusing instead on how fashion can halt its contribution to global warming, drastically and quickly” (19 Feb).

Once hailed as unhackable, blockchains are now getting hacked: “More and more security holes are appearing in cryptocurrency and smart contract platforms, and some are fundamental to the way they were built” (19 Feb).

New manifesto from the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion: “It is our view that concerned fashion and clothing researchers can no longer remain uninvolved or complacent and that as researchers, we need to conduct ourselves in new ways. We call on fashion researchers to unite for concerted action and leadership over the use of scientific and artistic knowledge that is more relevant to and commensurate with the multiple crises we face” (01 Jan).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Old Dhaka fire: Numerous reports noted the presence of chemicals used in the apparel and textile industry in the fire in Old Dhaka, which took the lives of 67. Here is a selection:

  • No chemical warehouse found nearby: “As the call for relocating the warehouses of chemicals and inflammable goods from Old Dhaka gets louder, an industries ministry probe committee claimed that there was no chemical factory or warehouse at the scene of Wednesday’s devastating fire in Chawkbazar” (24 Feb).

  • Old towners say enough is enough: “A long-time resident of Churihatta in Chawkbazar, Nasir added, “I have never seen any government take action against the chemical warehouses.” Pointing to the 2010 Nimtoli fire that claimed about 124 lives, another resident, Faruk Ahmed, said, “The government had started to take action. I don't understand why that stopped...”” (24 Feb).

  • New body formed as old one sinks into oblivion: “The government has again formed a committee to prepare a list of factories which use flammable products and chemicals in Dhaka and operate without having licence as the previous committee failed to do the same job in four years” (24 Feb).

  • All chemicals being removed from Wahid Manson: [Ed’s note: This video shows chemicals being shifted from Haji Wahed Mansion in Churihatta of Dhaka’s Chawkbazar. Observe distinctive yellow/black bags of Printex carbon black by Orion. Carbon black is primarily used as a dyeing agent in the textile industry.] (23 Feb – 2:06-minute video).

  • Bangladesh’s fire safety record must be improved: “A number of the apartments in last week’s fire were residential but were being used to store chemicals and dyes for the garment industry” (23 Feb).

  • Nimtoli to Chawkbazar: “According to media reports, there are more than 25,000 chemical warehouses in Old Dhaka, of which around 15,000 are in residential buildings. Fire service officials said only around two percent storehouses have permission from the city corporation. Most of the warehouses store chemicals and dyes, largely used in readymade garment (RMG) and textile factories” (22 Feb).

  • Huge storage of flammable chemicals found at Wahed Mansion’s basement: “Huge storage of flammable chemicals found at Wahed Mansion’s basement. The fire service officials have found hundreds of containers and packets of flammable chemicals kept illegally at the basement of Haji Wahed Mansion, the building from where the fire reportedly broke out in Dhaka’s Chawkbazar on February 20 night” (22 Feb – 0:46-minute video).

  • Hundreds of chemical containers in Waheed Mansion in Chawkbazar: [Ed’s note: clear pictures of drums of Pigment Orange 25 PCT imported by M/S Sofi Textile with expiry date of 20180815 shown at 04:08 minutes.] (22 Feb – 5:22-minute video).

Sromik Jigyasha: Legal aid at RMG workers’ fingertips: “BLAST [Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust] launched Sromik Jigyasha last year. It was funded by C&A Foundation, an organisation working to ensure better working environment for garment workers” (22 Feb).

Cambodia

Prime Minister Hun Sen announces free legal aid for garment workers: “Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Wednesday that factory workers will have access to legal representation free of charge once his volunteer group of his lawyers is established, while civil society groups say the government should instead improve labour law enforcement” (22 Feb).

PM: Stop firing workers as way to end disputes: “Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on factory owners to stop dismissing workers as a way to end disputes. Instead, he urged dialogue and instructed the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to ensure all legal mechanisms are followed to avoid protests.” (21 Feb).

China

China’s factories struggling to find staff as young migrant workers seek ‘freedom’ in services sector: “Garment factories in Guangzhou offering over US$1,000 a month with free accommodation but unable to find enough skilled pattern cutters” (25 Feb).

India

Two ministers leave for Malda as 9 craftsmen die in UP factory blast: “The blast took place in the afternoon today at Bhadohi, which is about 45-km from Varanasi. Several national news outlets have quoted Uttar Pradesh police as saying that the carpet factory, where the blast took place, doubled up as a cracker manufacturing unit without requisite licence” (23 Feb).

Myanmar

Over 100 factories saw workers’ protests in January: “Workers' protests occurred at more than 100 factories in January this year, according to sources released by the Labour Department on February 21. Such labour disputes and protests occurred mostly at garment factories and shoe factories in industrial zones. Some also occurred at hotels and departments” (22 Feb).

Philippines

Global brands respond to allegations of union busting at garment factory: “Workers at Pulido Apparel Company Inc - a Philippines subsidiary of the U.S based leather gloves and fashion accessories manufacturer, Fownes Bros & Co. - allege that Pulido Apparel has engaged in union busting and has blacklisted union officers and members from its San Luis factory in Batangas. Pulido Apparel supplies global brands including UGG (part of Deckers Brands), North Face and Timberland (both part of VF Corp) and J. Crew” (25 Feb).

MANUFACTURERS

Tintex partners with Lenzing on naturally advanced textile innovation: “With a 20-year pedigree of crafting high quality, natural jersey fabrics, Portugal-based Tintex has taken a leadership role in producing innovative, sustainable fabrics for the contemporary fashion, sports and lingerie markets” (22 Feb).

Eastman announces post-PV partnership with C.L.A.S.S. to support ‘circular economy’: “Global specialty materials provider Eastman, the maker of sustainably-sourced Naia cellulosic yarn, announces a new partnership with Milan-based C.L.A.S.S. (Creativity Lifestyle And Sustainable Synergy) in the wake of Première Vision Paris (PV), the international apparel textile exposition, where Naia  showcased over 100 new on-trend fabrics from over 20 partner mills. Naia joins C.L.A.S.S. to support the fashion industry's shift toward the "circular economy," the economic model characterized as a collective awareness of social and environmental values throughout the fashion ecosystem” (21 Feb).

EPA continues cleanup of cancer-causing chemical in Cheraw indefinitely as lawsuits mount: “Cancer-causing PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were dumped in a creek by Burlington Industries in Cheraw [South Carolina] up until the 1970s. No one knew about the danger there until 2016.  Now, more lawsuits are being filed over health concerns and property damage linked to the contamination” (21 Feb).

Polartec to increase recycled and biodegradable materials across entire product line: “Building upon its Eco-Engineering process, which produces high-performance sustainable fabrics, Polartec has launched a new campaign to utilize recycled and biodegradable materials throughout its entire product line” (21 Feb).

ISKO fosters awareness with Responsible Denim event: “Turkish fabrics producer ISKO hosted a Responsible Denim event in Paris last week to share knowledge and experiences on the development of an integrated field-to-fabric approach all along the value chain. “When it comes to responsible denim, ISKO is the go-to place. Since the start, the world-leading ingredient brand ISKO has focused on providing high-quality standards while raising environmental awareness and supporting a responsible culture,” the company reports” (19 Feb).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                          

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

26 February, Mexico City: SAC & ZDHC Manufacturer Forum: “All interested industry stakeholders and supply chain partners are welcome to participate in this manufacturer-focused event.”

26 February, London, Fashion’s Big Fix: “How do we fix the mess of the fashion industry?”

26 – 28 February, Phoenix, AZ: GreenBiz 19: “Premier annual event for sustainable business leaders.”

28 February, London: The Nature of Fashion: “The panel, which will include Edwina Ehrman and Kate Fletcher, will explore how to use fashion as a pro-environmental force.”

28 February: London: Sustainable Fashion and the SDGs: “The fashion industry touches upon several of the Sustainable Development Goals – so join us for an evening discussing sustainable fashion!”

* 07 March: Los Angeles: Sustainable Fashion Forum: “A one-day conference focused on sharing digital and tech-based solutions so fashion designers, manufacturers, factories, and retailers.”

14 March, London: Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2019: “Brings together the most sustainable brands and retailers, trailblazers and unicorns, disruptors, progressive thinkers and pioneers.”

14 March, Hong Kong: Sustainability in the Leather Supply Chain Hong Kong Conference 2019: “Focus on emerging risks to the leather industry and how these may be addressed through innovation and sustainable solutions.”

14 March, The Hague, Netherlands: Learning Seminar for Garment and Textile Brands: ‘Sourcing responsibly in Turkey. How to do due diligence?’: “Organised by the Dutch Agreement for Sustainable Garments & Textile (AGT) in cooperation with Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), supported by the AGT Turkey Taskforce.”

21 March, Melbourne, Australia: The Australian Circular Fashion Conference.

08 – 11 April, Budapest: 4th Global Sustainable Fashion Week: “press conference, international conferences, workshops, eco fashion shows and cultural programs.”

09 – 10 April, Amsterdam: Sustainable Apparel and Textiles Conference: “How brands can transform factories, increase transparency and implement circularity in fashion and textile supply chains.”

17 April, Northampton, UK: Half Day Understanding REACH Training Course: “Understanding the differences between the Candidate List, Annex XVII and Annex XIV.”

23 – 26 April, Northampton, UK: 4 Day Practical Leather Technology Training Course: “Ideal for those who are heavily involved with leather, such as supply chain staff, tannery staff, leather buyers, footwear technologists or those who need to top up their leather technology knowledge.”

02 May, Dhaka: Bangladesh Fashionology Summit: Transparency through technology, technology for decent work and environment, future skills development.

15 – 16 May, Copenhagen: Copenhagen Fashion Summit: “Join us this May when fashion’s most visionary and innovative minds gather to discuss the most critical issues facing our industry and planet.”

03 – 06 June: Detroit: SB’19 Detroit: “Navigate your brand’s sustainability journey to deliver business success,” by Sustainable Brands.

10 – 12 June, London: Ethical Corporation’s 18th Responsible Business Summit Europe: “It’s time to Lead: Innovate, Engage and Collaborate.”

12 June, Northampton, UK: 1 Day Chemical Compliance and Product Safety Training Course: “On this chemical course, our in-house chemical expert will guide you through the various legislations and chemicals in a simple step-by-step process, ensuring that you are aware of your obligation and how to comply.” (For the leather industry.)

18 – 20 June, Minneapolis, USA: Circularity 19: “Circularity 19 will bring together more than 500 thought leaders and practitioners to define and accelerate the circular economy.”

22 June, Barcelona: Planet Textiles 2019: “The 10th edition of Planet Textiles will be a seminal event on sustainability in the textile manufacturing sector and will see an unrivalled gathering of experts from the entire fashion value chain.”

08 September, Dhaka, Bangladesh: GOTS Bangladesh Seminar 2019: For sponsorship or speaking opportunities Sumit Gupta at the link.

15 – 18 October: Vancouver: Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference: Textile Exchange call for breakout presentations.

(Photo Brady Bellini on Unsplash, CCO)

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.

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