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04.21.2014

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April 28, 2009 3:38 PM

Fashion, Retail

They're All Gonna Need Clothes

As someone who has spent much of my career figuring out or writing about how to make clothes, it was encouraging to see the stiff-upper-lip attitude from a theater full of more than 130 manufacturing executives at the WWD Sourcing...

csr_source.jpgAs someone who has spent much of my career figuring out or writing about how to make clothes, it was encouraging to see the stiff-upper-lip attitude from a theater full of more than 130 manufacturing executives at the WWD Sourcing & Supply Chain Forum.

Certainly the speakers were brutally honest about how difficult it is out there. It's tough to find a stable place to manufacture their merchandise, given the political instability around the world. It's hard to negotiate the right price, given the volatility of labor conditions in places like China and Pakistan and the global economic turmoil that affects currency rates, shipping costs and credit availability. It's also risky to employ factories in countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, where poverty and climatic conditions threaten production on a regular basis.


Uncertainty was a running theme of the day, from the state of the economy to the Obama administration's trade platform to the mind-set of the consumer, and executives seemed more anxious than ever to soak up any kernels of intelligence. But these executives are forging ahead to make apparel for their companies in the most high-quality and expeditious manner possible, and providing value to cash-strapped consumers is the ultimate goal. The industry leaders have also embraced the concept of corporate social responsibility as a way of life, a part of doing business in today's new world.

It might seem a bit silly to call apparel executives courageous, but if the definition of courage is to come through under pressure, thrive while others fail or keep your head above water in the face of adversity, then it could be said the sourcing executives at the forum were showing some bravery.

The industry has long ridden the roller coaster of economic cycles, political upheaval and boom times, but obviously the survivors managed to adapt and expand even as manufacturers and retailers have consolidated. I have no doubt it will survive this latest recession. After all, as a commercial for Barneys New York once said, "They're all gonna need clothes."
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