Clothing news March / April 2021

Here we feature updates on the UK fashion industry including recent collapses and a report on what brands are doing about pollution. An upcoming trade bill amendment on genocide and its links to the Uyghur people in China.

Dirty Fashion: Are fashion brands acting on pollution?

A new report, ‘Dirty Fashion: Crunch Time’, ranks fashion brands on how well they are preventing pollution in their supply chain, particularly in relation to viscose.

Viscose, a common fibre used in clothing, is made from trees and plants, and has the potential to be very sustainable. Unfortunately, it is often created using highly toxic chemicals which can find their way into water systems, threatening the health of ecosystems and local people.

The Changing Markets Foundation, who produced the report, responded to the problem by creating the Roadmap to Responsible Viscose and Model Fibre Manufacturing, with support from Ethical Consumer and other campaign organisations. ‘Dirty Fashion: Crunch Time’ assesses the progress of signatories to the roadmap as well as those fashion brands that are yet to sign up.

Some key highlights from the report:

  • ASOS, C&A, Esprit, M&S, Reformation and Tesco were among the most transparent and were found to have “published extensive lists of their viscose manufacturers on their corporate websites, including the names and, in some cases, full addresses of factories”.
  • Both budget and designer brands were given the worst ranking: Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Versace rub shoulders with sports giant Nike and low-cost retailers Costco, Forever 21, TJ/TK Maxx and Walmart.

Poorly performing companies will be marked down under our Pollution and Toxics category.

You can find out more and take action on the Dirty Fashion website.

Cartoon about unethical clothing business deals

#StopGenocidalTrade

Labour Behind the Label is asking people to show their support for a trade bill amendment which would allow UK courts to decide whether genocide was being committed. This could prevent the UK entering trade deals with states even if the UN has not officially recognised their actions as genocidal.

In the Xinjiang region of China, the Uyghur people are being subjected to multiple atrocities, including sterilisation, detention in ‘re-education’ camps and being forced to pick cotton that ends up supplying much of the global fashion industry. Claims of genocide have been brought to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC made a request for further evidence in December 2020 and kept the case open but has not made a ruling yet.

Labour Behind the Label states:

“Human rights groups have said that the fashion industry is virtually complicit in the [Uyghur] forced labour. The upcoming Trade Bill amendment could grant [Uyghurs] the right to petition British courts.”

Ask your MP to support the bill via the Coalition for Genocide Response website.

Major shake-up of UK fashion industry

There is some major reorganising going on in the fast fashion industry with the collapse and acquisition of some big brands.

Debenhams, which had been in trouble for a while, has been acquired by none other than Boohoo in a £55 million deal. Boohoo will not be retaining Debenhams’ stores – resulting in an estimated 12,000 job losses. The takeover will not actually have a huge effect on Ethical Consumer score tables as Debenhams (which was part owned by Barclays Bank) already had a score of 3, just below Boohoo’s score of 4.

Impacts from Covid, on top of a decade of closures and losses, has also seen the sudden collapse of Arcadia Group. It is again an online-only retailer that has snapped up the failing high-street brands, with ASOS acquiring , Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT from Arcadia in a £305 million deal. It is expected to lead to the loss of up to 70 stores and thousands of jobs. Again, this won’t result in a dramatic change to our score tables, with ASOS having a marginally higher score of 8, compared to Arcadia Group’s 6.5.

As we went to press, Boohoo announced it had bought the Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton brands and online businesses from Arcadia with the further loss of 2,450 workers and closure of the high street shops.