Current State of Play – Analysis of the Global Apparel Industry

Pandemic or not the changes were inevitable.

The past year and a half have witnessed a continued accelerated shift in consumer behaviour to purchase more online sales. Due to the pandemic and empty malls, plus the continued working at home the consumers buying habits have accelerated to buying more online. The “fashion” trends continue to demand for Athleisure wear and more casual clothing. Get up, pull on the leggings and t-shirt, workout and then a bit of makeup and off to work we go! Then put on a clean top and to lunch with friends. Later, maybe meet friends for a casual dinner wearing the same leggings with a fresh over the butt top.

 These new casual clothing trend and shopping online has also accelerated B2C.  Newly launched brands can now launch their own brand and with the use of good social media promotions and other marketing like Popup stores have gained customer following. This allows for a better mark-up as there is no retailer mark-up of 2.2%. So, if a manufacturer sells the traditional way and sell to a retailer for example $50.00 the retailer will usually mark-up 2.2%, which then turns the $50.00 wholesale price to the retail price of approximately $120.

  But the biggest obstacle that has occurred in the World supply chain is the dramatic shortage of shipping containers, which has also greatly impacted the price demanded to ship goods. From the pre-Pandemic price of $1,200 per container it has now accelerated to over $15,000 per container. This of course impacts the selling prices, plus the shortage will and is impacting supply chain and delivery deadline dates. As retailers are trying to adjust to the many changes in the consumers buying habits it will also be very important for manufacturers to stay on top of their delivery dates. Big box stores are quick to cancel late orders even if they are in transit and particularly if their own inventory is sitting in warehouses. When possible, they have historically chargeback manufacturers for any infractions, and or late deliveries, now it is happening with devastating impacts to manufacturers. This impact of container shortage on offshore manufacturers will need to be addressed transparently and will be very important to keep all communications open with buyers.

Additionally, it has always been important to control inventory build-up, dead stock = revenue loss, but it is even more important to pay attention now during these changing times. Like fresh fruit, old stock goes rotten fast and can destroy profit margins. Those who pay attention to controlling inventory will be the profitable businesses that will survive these fast-changing times! I can’t stress enough the need for all businesses to be proactive and transparent in all business dealings. All types of businesses are trying to adjust and survive to these fast-changing business demands.

Then we have this continued complex demand for sustainable, which incorporates so much that its hard to document. From sustainable fabrics, dyes, washing, finishing, packaging to workers’ rights. The clothing and textile industry is one of the largest polluters in the world, second only to the oil industry. Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of apparel and are following the trends of buying less, buying second-hand, recycled/upcycled, and eco-friendly clothes. Millenniums and G-Z are demanding these changes.

  • • Sustainable and ecofriendly materials.
  • • Sustainable and circular production.
  • • Support of climate positive projects.
  • • Social justice for all workers

Some brands are ahead of the game and have been using recycled and eco-friendly materials like low-impact, biodegradable fibers and aim to reduce carbon footprints, water, and textile usage, and eliminate coal-fired power sources.

  • H&M’s Conscious Collection is made with organic cotton or recycled polyester.
  • H&M claims to use 57% recycled or sustainably sourced fibers with a goal to reach 100% by 2030.
  • Likewise Earth Polo, a Ralph Lauren brand, aims to save 170 million plastic bottles from landfills by 2025.

New ways are discovered to address dyes and finishes like Colorifix.

  • Levi’s WellThread Collection, continuously seeks sustainable denim making approaches. Save water by using oxygenations for the “washed and distressed trend look”.
  • Infinite Fiber reuses textile fiber, cardboard packaging, biodegradable everything, and control of agricultural waste.

Many brands have joined the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Program and signed up the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

Companies are increasingly exploring circular sale models, such as clothing rental, resale, and upcycling, which lengthen the product life cycle and improve sustainability.

  • Rent the Runway, for example, offers clothing rental.
  • Large players, such as & Other Stories, Patagonia, R.E.I., and French luxury department store Galleries Lafayette are all entering the fashion resale market.

Build a Sustainable Brand- Start somewhere! Maybe bio degradable packaging, hang tags and labels

  • Clearly define why and how your brand is sustainable.
  • Work closely with partners and customers, produce authentic marketing strategies.
  • Educate partners, business customers, and end consumers about positive impacts of your sustainable brand as part of your strategy/ marketing to stimulate purchase intentions.

Get Internationally Recognized Certifications

  • E.g. EU Ecolabel, Nordic Swan Ecolabel, Öko-Tex, GOTS, and BSCI.
  • These are strong promotion and marketing strategies. Place on labels and hang tags.

Join platform organizations which support sustainability, such as Fashion for Good, ZDHC, and Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

–   Participate in related trainings, audits, and assessments.

Corporate Social Responsibility Gains Importance & Become Key Drivers-

Importance of social fairness and transparency among sourcing criteria for USA buyers as well as fashion influencers.

Increased numbers of different initiatives like Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index that rate apparel companies according to their transparency practices.

Consumer Reactions-

Buyers and consumers are increasingly wanting to know more about how, where and by whom their clothes are produced.

They are also interested in learning what fashion brands do to address social and environmental issues.

Apparel Manufacturer Reactions-

Brands and suppliers need to offer workers fair wages and proper working conditions.

H&M, for instance, stresses its transparency initiative, publishing details of the origin of each garment like suppliers, factories, and materials. More and more USA consumers support brands which are transparent about their practices and the practices of their partners along the supply chain. Fashion buyers are forced to be socially responsible: e.g., supporting local communities, giving back, supporting non-profits has become one of the more compelling branding/marketing strategies.

Incorporating “Give Back” is also great cooperative branding model for businesses.

Cross marketing opportunities!

Examples: With every t-shirt we give a free mask to the under privileged or to the customer. LA Apparel has a stamp picture of the sewer in the back of each garment.


  • Able is found in Tennessee, USA.
  • The brand believes that to end cyclical poverty, you must create economic opportunities for people, especially women, to provide for themselves.
  • The brand is deeply devoted to quality – both in the products and life.
  • Company focuses on train, and educate women so they can earn a living, break the cycle of poverty, and thrive.

Certification: Female artisan-made, fair labor practices, B crop

Product Category: WRTW, denim, shoes, accessories

Amour Vert

  • Amour Vert translates to “Green Love” in French. It is a sustainable fashion brand found in California.
  • Pieces are made in limited quantities to ensure the highest production standards and to eliminate any excess waste.
  • Amour Vert partner directly with mills to develop own fabric. For example, the signature modal is made from sustainably harvested beechwoods fibers.
  • Every T-shirt you buy, the brand is promised to plant a tree in North America Forests.

Product Category: WRTW

Eileen Fisher

  • Eileen Fisher is found in New York.
  • It is the industry leader in ethical and sustainable fashion.
  • The company believes social and environmental injustices are a reason to do business completely differently.
  • The company also had “renew” cloth program, where you bring back your old pieces, and brand will find another home or turn into a new design.

Certification: Certified B Corp, Fair Trade Certified collections

Product Category: WRTW, accessories, shoes


  • Patagonia is found in California. It is one of the earliest fashion retailers practice sustainable fashion.
  • Patagonia implementing their eco footsteps through making their production line transparent to customers.

Certification: Fair Trade Certified, 550+ farmers are part of Regenerative Organix Certified Pilot Cotton program, 100% virgin cotton

Product Category: Active & Outdoor clothes


  • Reformation began by selling vintage clothing out of a small LA storefront in 2009.
  • The brand uses low-impact materials, rescued deadstock fabrics, and repurposed vintage clothing.
  • The products are designed, shot, and shipped at LA facilities.

Certification: Sustainable & regenerative fabrics, safe & fair working conditions

Product Category: WRTW

Good information about the many different sustainable certificates

Worth reading.

The other Links below offer their own certifications.

Speed to Market – Smaller Orders More Often. Another big change that must be recognized by manufacturers is the demand from retails to order smaller quantities more often. They have moved away from ordering 5 times a year to maybe 8 times a year. They have realized that the times have changed and are unpredictable. Rather than projecting big orders they are beginning to play it safer all around. They are also looking for manufacturers who can ship faster and on time to react to customers demands. For new manufacturers looking to sell to US stores they should also be aware that although all manufacturers want BIG unit order stores would rather play it safe on their potentially new suppliers and test their efficiency, quality, delivery time etc.  For the manufacturers they should recognize this new shift and adjust pricing accordingly.

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Understanding Important Steps to Produce the ApparelA Beginners Guide to Producing Apparel

A Beginners Guide to Producing Apparel

This seminar covers all the important steps that should be fully understood when planning to start your own apparel business. A complete step by step guide from concept to consumer.

Key Takeaways:

  • What you need to do in order to get those creative hot ideas to market.
  • What licenses you need and how to get them
  • Compliance & Sustainability Issues
  • What type of funding is needed to start and to support your venture?
  • Do you need a Business Plan?
  • Costing to make a profit
  • Sales & Marketing