With the recent announcement of a pay hike for garment workers in Bangladesh, I got to thinking about how labor costs affect the price of clothing, as well as how the global expansion of textile and apparel production has brought jobs to many thousands of otherwise unemployable people. In turn, the global expansion of textiles and apparel hastened the demise of traditional manufacturing in the United States, Europe, Japan and other developed countries. There are two sides to globalization – a winning side and a losing side. Change brings about winners and losers. Those who adapt will survive; those who do not will perish. It may sound harsh, but it is the economic reality of our times.
The Current Industry: A Model To Behold
It is curious for me to consider the current state of sourcing in the global industry. Consumers around the world now enjoy low-cost clothing featuring a wide range of fabric designs, finishes and styles. Not all that long ago, that was not the case. In fact, there was a time when the global trade in textiles and apparel was restricted to such a degree that product innovation and consumer choice were second to the edicts of textile mills. Whereas today, the true power of the industry has migrated closer to the consumer, there was a time when the middle of the textile supply chain dictated what apparel brands and retailers were able to off to consumers. Moreover, such control of textile output was reinforced by a system of quotas that not only clamped down on the availability of products, but also hindered product innovation and helped to keep prices for textiles and apparel artificially high.