WASHINGTON — Gap Inc. plans to produce apparel at two factories in Myanmar, making it the first American retailer of note to enter the market since the U.S. lifted a nine-year ban on imports from the country last year.
The retailer made the announcement at a signing ceremony in Yangon, Myanmar, on Saturday, launching a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide assistance and opportunities for women in the country. Gap’s apparel made in Myanmar, previously and often still referred to as Burma, will be available in stores this summer.
“This is a historic moment for Burma and we are committed to working with the U.S. government and local government, alongside local and international nongovernmental organizations, to help create the economic opportunities that the citizens of Burma so richly deserve,” said Wilma Wallace, vice president of global responsibility, business and human rights at Gap. “By entering Burma, we hope to help accelerate economic and social growth in the country, and build on our track record of improving working conditions and building local capacity in garment factories around the world.”
Several major apparel and retail firms were forced to pull out of the country in 2003 when the U.S. imposed a ban on imports after a military junta began repressing human rights.
The U.S. began taking steps to renew economic ties with the country in 2012 after the government made some reforms, including the release of political prisoners, enactment of labor laws permitting the formation of unions and passage of foreign investment laws. In November of that year, the Obama administration said it would allow most imports into the U.S. from Myanmar and the U.S. officially lifted the import ban in August.
Since then, U.S. retailers and brands have been exploring the new opening in the country, which could be a potential fresh apparel-sourcing destination for companies that have been grappling with rising labor costs in China and turmoil in other Asian countries. However, many industry officials have said investment and sourcing will be a slow-moving process because serious concerns remain about workers’ rights and safety. Apparel imports to the U.S. from Myanmar were $5.6 million for the year ending April 30.
A Gap spokeswoman said the company placed the orders for outerwear for its Old Navy and Banana Republic factory stores a few weeks ago with two established South Korean-owned factories in Myanmar employing roughly 4,000 workers.
“In the months leading up to this decision, we researched the opportunities and challenges of doing business in the country,” she said. “As one of the first retailers to begin sourcing garments from Myanmar, we understand the responsibility we have to ensure the vendors we partner with provide a safe, healthy and fair workplace for garment workers.”
She added that Gap had “frank discussions” with multiple stakeholders, and also hired Verité, an independent NGO, to perform assessments of the two factories, as well as structural safety engineers and fire-safety experts to “provide a safe working environment at all of its approved vendor factories.”
The company said it is applying its best practices in the country, including the independent audits, “to ensure internationally recognized human rights and labor standards are upheld in the factories from which the company is sourcing.”
As part of its commitment with USAID, Gap will partner with CARE International in Myanmar to launch its women’s advancement program — Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement, or PACE — in the factories where it contracts by the end of the year. The program provides opportunities for female garment workers by giving them “life skills” education and technical training.
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)
Breaking News: @hedislimane joins @celine as its new artistic, creative and image director. One of fashion’s preeminent image-makers and trendsetters, Slimane is to join the LVMH brand on Feb. 1 and unveil his first fashion proposition for men and women next September during Paris Fashion Week. It marks a major homecoming for Slimane, who cemented his reputation – and influenced men’s tailoring for more than a decade – as the designer of Dior Homme between 2000 and 2007. He went on to reinvent and ignite the house of Yves Saint Laurent, which he rechristened Saint Laurent, between 2012 and 2016 – all the while maintaining a close relationship with the Arnault family, which controls LVMH and Dior. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
“Personally I believe the Eighties have been the richest and more vivacious period for international fashion,” Giorgio Armani said when asked what his favorite decade of fashion is. It was a moment of disruption and experimentation and only thinking back to the first years of that decade is always an emotion for me, for what they have meant to me and my work.” The influence is clear in @giorgioarmani spring 2018 collection, pictured here, which was full of bright colors and unexpected prints. Read more about which decades designers loved most on WWD.com #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
For Lady Gaga’s only Italian show on her “Joanne World Tour,” the singer wore a range of @versace_official outfits. The standout piece: this custom-made bodysuit inspired by the brand’s spring 2018 collection. #wwdfashion (RG: @ladygaga)
@_camillaruth_ is expanding on the wellness-craze concept with @westbourne – a new NYC restaurant that’s both a healthy-minded café as well as a business that gives back to the community. Marcus works with the Robin Hood foundation to give back to The Door, a non-profit providing youth development services, and also hires employees through The Door. Read our full interview with Marcus on giving back through food on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)