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Thursday, January 28th, 2016
Overseas garment manufacturers remain to be the best manufacturers for many established brands. (Overseas garment manufacturers remains the best source of supply base for many top companies in UK, Europe, USA, Australia)
Since the cost of living in nations such as China, Bangladesh and India remain below half of that in the UK, the labour costs in these regions remain the lowest in the world. Through this economic differences, the cost of manufacturing in these countries are half of the same in the UK. For any fashion business, this means a bigger room for growth.
In his 1996 book on the trade, Bradford University’s Professor Christos Kalantaridis called the garment industry and the offshore supply the “exemplifier of globalisation”.
However, the cost-effectiveness of the business has a weak spot: it is easy to exploit and the wound has opened and re-opened time and time again. The problem arises in the form of impossible quotas, extended working hours, low pay, substandard infrastructure and maltreatment of the workers.
Last year’s Savar complex collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 exploited workers was only the tip of the iceberg. Deaths from exhaustion, rape, child labour and factory fires complete the ugly picture.
There is a lot the industry has to improve on. Buyers are in search of cheaper products and manufacturers on volume – but at what price?
Is every hand that works on your product accounted for?
According to the International Labour Organization, of the 168 million child labour workers in the world, 78 million are in Asia and the Pacific.
Lakshmi Challa of Bangalore University cites that many factories in the south of India are “sweatshops” employing children, subjecting them to gruelling work conditions for little money. Incidents of slave-like treatment and sexual exploitation of women are also abundant in similar factories.
To counter the prevalence of these ethical violations and appalling endangerment of human lives, third-party accreditation firms like Sedex (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) and BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) gives recognition to manufacturers that widely practice ethical procedures in their manufacturing.
These types of accreditations will give security over the manufacturers you work with. Each time you decide to work with a sustainable factory, you take a stand against exploitation.
At Estox connect, we strongly support and work with people who follow social and ethical norms. We also aim to support those who are highly skilled and encourage hand looms and small scale businesses with talent and skills.
The diminishing skill
The volume-obsessed and time-crunching ways of the manufacturing industry has given way to a lot of efficient methods.
In factories, each part of the garment is assembled by a separate person on the assembly line, called the batch production system. For example, a sewer sews the collar from pre-cut fabric pieces and he or she passes it to the next person who will sew the left sleeve in, so on and so forth. This process is very mechanical and as time goes by, the sewers learn to do their part faster.
However, this goes against the ethos of quality garments.
Hand-made embroideries, fabric painting and hand-loomed fabrics are struggling to find their place in the current market. In the past, many skilled workers possess outstanding talents creating luxurious handcrafted pieces but the speed required by factories has displaced them for more repetitive design. Because of the decline of skills in many factories, many brands prefer to create easily reproducible clothes. Simple cut and sew pieces with machine-made textile that anyone can create.
However, few factories still hold skill important, hiring workers that are experts in time-honoured traditions and skills in apparel. Many of which are also given training to further develop their skills.
These manufacturers that value expertise often attract luxury brands.
Although the word “artisan” is not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about “manufacturing”, factories that maintain a number of skilled workers gives the advantage of quality and the touch of luxury. Most importantly, this sustains the expertise in fashion which, as an art form, it has built upon.
Garment production requires a lot of resources from the environment. From the harvesting of cotton to the wastes produced from bleaching and dyeing, irresponsible manufacturers can easily destroy the environment they are in.
Eco-fashion, unfortunately, is one of those valuable ideas that can easily be reduced to a marketing ploy. Can apparel manufacturing really be environmentally-friendly?
To make sure a company has its environmental impact under control, relevant third-party accreditations are put in place. For example, ISO 1400 accreditations stand for satisfactory Environmental Management and is awarded by the International Standards Organization. More specific initiatives like the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) ensure that the materials, dyestuff and other compounds used to treat products comply to internationally-recognized sustainability and safety standards.
Sure about going offshore?
While there are still many issues surrounding the offshore garment manufacturing industry, it is still a valuable business strategy.
Since its inception, many responsible companies has been providing stable income to communities, promoted exponential growth in their local economies and, at the same time, giving great products to buyers and brands.
The offshore garment industry is an early-adapter when it comes to garment technologies to provide both quantity and quality. Many factories still holds unmatched expertise in specific garment categories and has infiltrated the luxury market because of their workmanship. There should be a voice to support renowned experts and artists making unique pieces made from handlooms, hand paints, hand embroideries and hand crafted works.
With due diligence, the industry is still a great option for those who want to increase their profit or accommodate bigger market demands.
Everyone should take responsibility
By utilizing competitive labour markets, the worldwide garment industry remains a paragon of the rise of globalisation. Offshoring, when done right, allows businesses to increase their returns and reach goals at an unprecedented speed.
Globalisation is defined as international cooperation in many aspects of society. The issues around offshoring are products of non-cooperation, where a party exploits the system for their own, exclusive good. By being more responsible and actively policing the processes involved, manufacturers and brands alike have on their hands the chance to keep the benefits of outsourcing available for all.
We are proud supporters of ethical trade and we do so for the benefit of all. With our key role in the industry, we are able to open up new connections, support fair practices, entice growth and help keep the industry free from exploitative entities. Supporting the fashion industry, keeping it alive and growing means starting from the ground up. Make sure that the person who closes a seam, or installs a button, is accounted for.
Note: Estox connect, trading under Adam and Alice Ltd, is a UK-based company dedicated to making offshoring as simple as possible. Estox connect has longstanding relationships with top-notch, ethical and socially-sound garment manufacturers in India. We offer design management, offshore production set-up, complete logistic solutions and third-party quality monitoring for companies in Europe, USA and Canada.