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.
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."