Made in U.S. and Not from U.S.?
A quick guide to where your shoes and clothes come from
Translated from: 美國進口不是「美國」進口？服飾業的產銷履歷
Many of you who regularly shop at the local supermarket should have heard about the produce traceability now offered by the entire agricultural supply chain. The produce traceability is an initiative by both the governmental and non-governmental organizations calling for product transparency throughout the farming, harvesting, reprocessing, packaging, and delivering processes. So, produce traceability seems quite well-understood. What about “fashion traceability”? Or, to put it differently, have you ever taken a further step to learn about the origins of your outfits, such as where it was designed, manufactured, processed, packaged, and from where it was delivered to your door?
Pietra Rivoli, an American economist, wrote in 2005 in her book called The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade, that the ordinary T-shirts we wear must each travel to at least three countries before it reaches our doorstep: the cotton grown from local Texas farmers, followed by a scene of Chinese factory workers, then eventually, the flea market retailers from Tanzania selling the second-hand clothes to domestic buyers (Rivoli, 2005). Thus, Rivoli argues that the value of each attire is far more the worth than its original price tag (Rivoli, 2005).
The curriculum vitae for clothes 10 years back may sound quite complicated at the time, but with the rising tide of globalization, the apparel in the modern era possibly generates a more sophisticated resume than those of the past. Take Nike’s Converse shoes for example. The Taiwanese OEM company manufacturing Nike’s shoes, Feng Tay, may first order a bolt of cloth from a worldly famous textile company, Everest Textile, and some other textile-related materials from China. At the same time, Feng Tay’s procurement department purchases the plastic components to be used for shoe-making from the Vietnamese industrial company, Ever Tech, the rubber soles from German-owned production plant, Framas, in South Korea, and finally the shoelaces from Paiho which is situated in the central part of Taiwan. Finally, once the manufacturing components have been sent to Feng Tay’s factory plant in Vietnam and the company workers finished putting together the pieces, Nike will then market them through different channels worldwide.
Note: Today, international brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Zara are all making their supply chains more transparent by publicizing their products’ traceability.
Zara is one other great example of a globalized supply chain. Irrespective of the “Made in Morocco” tag on each product, the fashion wears may not come entirely from Morocco. For instance, the raw material of a Zara pink dress shirt may come from Austria, while the Egyptian labors spin them into yarns, from which the Chinese factories weave into fabrics that will then be transported to Spain for further dyeing. After all these making and waiting, the well-colored fabrics will be shipped to Morocco where they receive final tailoring that make them suitable for sale (Hope, 2017). According to Inditex, the clothing retailer owning the Zara brand, the brand’s clothes are now manufactured by 7,235 factories worldwide with another 1,866 material suppliers (Inditex, n.d.). It is assumed that the members of the supply chain will increase sometime soon.
The rapid growth of globalization with the surging rise of human labor cost among economic superpowers as well as the disparities in tariffs and expenditures for production resources between countries all verily contributed to the transnational odyssey of our clothes. Together, as NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and IGOs, namely the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (aka. OECD), all actively promote the rights of labors and a sustainable use of natural resources, international brands are now compelled to be more open about their production lines.
An inclusive traceability system of supply chains helps business partners, governments and consumers quickly identify the source of product, processing methods, logistical patterns, carbon footprints, and etc (Agrawal & Pal, 2019). Meanwhile, it also encourages worldwide brands to strive for values apart from product quality. In light of this, companies worldwide should be more than welcoming of the sustaining results despite the short-term rise in costs.
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