WASHINGTON — The House passed a broad trade bill Tuesday night that would benefit companies making denim apparel in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that has been losing orders because of a punitive provision in a U.S. trade preference program.
The multipronged bill could also help domestic textile producers boost their cotton fabric exports to the Dominican Republic. Additionally, it gives more flexibility in the use of third-country fabrics to U.S. apparel manufacturers that produce certain cotton bottoms in the Dominican Republic.
The Senate could take up the bill this week before Congress adjourns for a month-long recess.
“This bipartisan bill helps reaffirm our commitment to trading partners and strengthen our existing trade preference programs,” said House Ways & Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.). “These provisions will help create incentives for the purchase of U.S. goods, supporting businesses and workers here at home while also providing valuable benefits to workers and companies abroad.”
The bill would eliminate a stipulation in the African Growth & Opportunity Act that requires U.S. apparel importers to use a minimum of 30 million square meter equivalents of African-produced fabric in their apparel or lose a benefit allowing them to also use denim fabric from other countries, such as China, and import to the U.S. duty free.
Importers, concerned they would lose the third-country fabric provision because the U.S. International Trade Commission determined in July they had only used 21.1 million SMEs of African denim fabric in fiscal year 2007, started cutting back jeans orders in many African countries this year, according to Paul Ryberg, president of the African Coalition for Trade, a nonprofit association of African fabric and apparel producers and trade groups.
Ryberg said denim apparel imports from the region fell 20 percent in the first five months of the year. For the year ended May 31, apparel imports from the region totaled $1.2 billion, or 332 million SME, down 9.3 percent from the previous year.
“There has been a dramatic drop-off in U.S. jeans orders since the ITC issued its determination this month,” Ryberg said. “It became obvious that eliminating the provision was the only option at this point. Even African denim producers agreed because they started losing all of their business.”
Julia Hughes, senior vice president of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, said, “If the Senate acts, I think we could very well see some of the companies who had held back placing business think again about putting orders back into Africa.”
Another aspect of the legislation establishes a pilot program in the Dominican Republic to encourage manufacturing of cotton bottoms by U.S. firms by allowing more third-country fabric usage. The U.S. and the Dominican Republic are partners in the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
The bill also extends through December 2009 the Generalized System of Preferences, a trade program that promotes economic growth in developing countries and gives duty-free entry to 4,650 products, including jewelry, from 131 countries and territories. It does not include apparel imports.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast