WASHINGTON — Strikes, protests and political instability in Bangladesh and Cambodia appear to be sending producers back to China, which posted the largest increase in combined U.S. apparel and textile imports in November.
Retailers and brands have been diversifying their sourcing to become less dependent on China, particularly as wages rates nearly tripled in that country in recent years. But recent worker unrest in other supplier countries could once again change the sourcing paradigm and shift more production back to China.
Overall, apparel and textile imports to the U.S. rose 5.2 percent to 4.4 billion square meter equivalents in November compared with a year earlier, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel. The U.S. trade deficit narrowed to a four-year low, according to IHS Global Insight, falling to $34.3 billion from $39.3 billion in October.
Apparel and textile imports to the U.S. from China jumped 14 percent to 2.2 billion SME in November compared with a year earlier. Apparel imports from China increased 6.2 percent to 778 million SME, while textile imports gained 18.5 percent to 1.4 million SME.
“I think this mad rush to get out of China [has stopped],” said Nate Herman, vice president of international trade at the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “People have realized they can’t pull as much out of China as they were hoping and they also have found that other countries don’t have the same capability yet that China does. Secondarily, wages and political turmoil [in Bangladesh and Cambodia] are a factor. China is a very stable place to operate, at least for the moment.”
Julia Hughes, president of the U.S. Fashion Industry Association, said, “Clearly, China is viewed as a safe haven,” noting it still controls a 41 percent share of the U.S. apparel market.
Combined apparel and textile shipments from Bangladesh, which has been beset by labor unrest over wages and working conditions following two factory tragedies that claimed the lives of more than 1,240 workers in the past 14 months, rose just 0.2 percent to 131 million SME. Apparel imports, which comprise the majority of Bangladesh’s imports to the U.S., fell 2.2 percent year over year, after posting a dramatic increase of 42.5 percent to 152 million SME in October.
“The larger political situation has made it difficult to get product made there and out of the country,” Herman said.
Combined imports from Cambodia were up 4.8 percent to 84 million SME in November, but companies are keeping a close eye on the country, which has also seen violent protests.
Another area of concern for fashion firms is Pakistan, which posted a 20 percent drop in year-to-year combined shipments to 178 million SME in November. Herman said Pakistan has had “major problems” with electricity in recent months.
From overseeing America’s fastest-growing speciality retailers to codifying cool, WWD talked to the women who are leading the way for the future of beauty. Check out our Instagram Stories to see how these women built today and are creating tomorrow. (📸: @hannah_khymych) #wwdbeauty
For @laperlalingerie's spring 2018 show, the brand chose to host their event at @thevenetianmacao. With Chinese megastars @bingbing_fan and @hubing in attendance, La Perla debuted a rock ‘n’ roll-inspired collection. The show marked the start of Sands Macao Fashion Week, which runs from October 19 to 24 — the city’s first such event. Pictured here are models backstage with glimmering eyes. #wwdfashion (📷: Cheuk-Yin To)
Trending for spring 2018: top stitch design. Gone are the days of stitch just for seams — designers are using the once-minimal detail to create strong decorative elements. (📷: Paola Testa; Styled by @andrew_shang) #wwdfashion
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)