Textile Industry Review & Outlook - July 2021

As we enter the third fiscal quarter of 2021, we can better understand how the textile industry has fared over the first half of the year. Sustainability is still a huge focal point for many fashion businesses. We look over how brands are achieving their sustainability pledges and making efforts to go green. There has also been a change in the global leaders of the ready-made garment industry, and we look at what the future could look like for these countries.

Sustainability efforts continue worldwide

For some time, sustainability has been a hot topic in the textile industry, exacerbated by the pandemic and a shift in consumers' wants and beliefs – and this trend shows no sign of slowing down. Throughout July, we continue to see sustainability efforts in the fashion and textile industry. Companies have taken different approaches to this through recycling, reselling, producing sustainable collections, or creating innovative new materials.

For example, after establishing its position in the B2B world for its nylon made from recycled waste, ECONYL has launched an online platform. Consumers can purchase products directly while offering educational content to enhance users' understanding of sustainability topics. Leading fashion brand Marks & Spencer has switched to organic cotton across their entire school uniform collection, making for their most sustainable school uniform to date. A new sustainable swimwear brand, F and Wild London has launched a collection of swimwear made entirely from plastic waste taken from our oceans.

Brands are hitting & updating sustainability Goals

Halfway through the year, many brands have also published updated sustainability goals based on their current performance. For example, fashion brand Zara has updated its plans to be a net-zero waste company by 2040, ten years earlier than its previous 2050 target. Similarly, US footwear brand Crocs has pledged to be a carbon-neutral company by 2030. Armani has also announced that it aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, using its 2019 figures as a starting point.

Many brands have released promising figures and revealed targets that have already been hit. For example, from September 2019 to August 2020, ASOS has reduced its CO2 emissions by 21%. In addition, weird Fish has already exceeded its target for this year of making 20% of all products more sustainable. It is now on track for 25% of all products to be more sustainable by the end of the year. New Zealand company Icebreaker has also released the fourth segment of its annual report, having achieved 91% of its impressive goal to become a plastic-free brand by 2023.

Vietnam overtakes Bangladesh in textile exports

In July, we have seen a shift in global clothing export leaders of ready-made garments (RMG). According to the latest figures released by the World Trade Statistical Review 2021, Vietnam has overtaken Bangladesh in its industry position. The country's exports increased by 6.4% in 2020 to a value of 29 billion dollars. However, Bangladesh saw its figures drop by 6.3%. This puts Vietnam in the second largest RMG exporter worldwide, while Bangladesh is the third-largest. The only country to overtake the two is China, whose exports have a market value of 142 billion dollars.

The switch between the second and third positions is thought to be fuelled by the pandemic. Bangladesh greatly suffered from many factories closing and western companies canceling their orders. Yet thanks to a trade deal between the European Union and Vietnam, the country fared better throughout the COVID-19 pandemic despite forced factory closures. Being located closer to China, it is also easier for Vietnam to source raw textiles and machinery needed for production.

However, how long this new ranking stands for is uncertain. COVID-19 cases have recently surged in Vietnam. According to reports, between 30% and 35% of clothing factories in the South-East Asian country are closed due to the rising cases. According to VITAS, vaccination rates for factory workers are also low, exacerbating the issue in Vietnam. Due to its market-leading position, this could see huge ripple effects throughout the entire industry.

Investments into the textile industry

Many countries leading in textile production have received generous investments in July. China has recently invested 6 million dollars into a lingerie factory in Bangladesh. The factory will create 24 million lingerie items each year, which is set to create 2,000 jobs for workers previously lost due to COVID-19. This will help the country regain some of its lost market shares back from Vietnam. Bangladesh isn't the only country that is seeing great investments come their way. Online fashion retailer Musinsa is set to invest 12 million dollars in fashion start-up companies in South Korea. South Korea's online fashion market is seeing massive growth recently, and this latest investment could help bolster the industry further forward.

Many investments are also being made into sustainable brands, which should be no surprise given the current push for sustainable fashion. At the beginning of July, Adidas announced investing 3 million euros in a sustainable textile company from Finland, Spinnova. In addition, Gucci has invested in a sustainable supply chain with Intesa Sanpaolo bank. Bestseller, a Danish retailer, has also announced that it will be working with a trio of sustainability start-up companies – Circular Systems, Nature Coatings, and Evrnu. By making these investments, Bestseller hopes to work towards its mission of becoming a "climate positive" business.

As you can see, sustainability is arguably the leading driving force in the fashion and textile industry to date. Businesses are constantly taking steps to become greener and having a lesser impact on our planet, people, and communities. July revealed some promising statistics from the industry and a positive direction for this sustainable approach. Unfortunately, we've also seen changes in textile market leaders in July, thanks to the impacts of the pandemic, investments, and trade deals. How governments and brands deal with these uncertain times and fluctuations leaves the industry's future questionable – but more sustainable.