The fashion industry is at a crossroads, and the pressure is on. Clothing manufacturers can no longer conduct business as usual and expect to thrive. To move forward in times of COVID-19, the running of an apparel factory will need to change. A daunting task, but since the outbreak, the fashion industry has pretty much been paralyzed, which has resulted in adverse effects on manufacturers whose business is to supply products to western apparel companies.
Zooming out, it is easy to see that the reaction has caused a domino effect that has resulted in orders either being put on hold or worse, canceled. This chain reaction first occurred in March 2020 and has yet to see much change since. Clothing manufacturers based in countries like Bangladesh are still finding themselves battling fashion companies making last-minute purchase changes because of falling sales.
Let’s Make It About Recovery Strategies and Responsible Business
The national lockdown of garment manufacturing in countries like China and India has had a knock-on effect that has affected many aspects of the supply chain, including workers’ rights. It is a disruption that has led to apparel manufacturers having to deal with large orders being canceled or suspended. Although some fashion brands have pledged to honor their contracts, unfortunately, this was not a common response. Shouldering the financial burden of not just orders but also labor, some garment manufacturers have found themselves suffering to a point where they have had to close their factories.
So far, it’s reported that a million Bangladeshi garment workers have been fired or furloughed, many without pay. On this, Mostafiz Uddin, Owner & Managing Director of Denim Expert Ltd., shared on a social media platform: “Now, more than ever, the apparel manufacturing community needs the support from their buying partners. One of the ways that the apparel industry can survive the crisis is by resorting to responsible business rather than solely imposing the liability on the manufacturers.”
Uddin’s message is clear; we need to support each other, which means finding a solution and making a profit secondary. By choosing to honor payment, apparel manufacturers will be better positioned to protect the livelihood of the garment workers. If the industry as a whole shift towards more responsible business practices, fashion manufacturers will be able to recalibrate their supply chains to protect their workers. Additionally, some factories might also be able to change production to manufacturing personal protection equipment (PPE).
As some physical stores remain closed, apparel manufacturers, with money tied up in-stock products, fabrics, and trims are still hitting the panic button. With a vested interest in challenging the status quo, now is the time to revolutionize the industry as a whole. The pandemic will not be ending anytime soon, which means that we need to start looking for seeds of opportunities and start to create a future where risks are spread more equally in the supply chain. This kind of approach will give everyone a sense of ownership when it comes to putting recovery strategies into motion that introduce structural changes fairer to everyone, now and post COVID-19.