The Industry’s Complex Uyghur Cotton Problem

As China continues its brutal crackdown on the Muslim-majority Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, apparel sourcing in China is becoming increasingly fraught. In early December, the Trump administration unveiled its tightest restrictions on the country’s cotton and textiles yet, citing a desire to prevent U.S. complicity in human-rights abuses in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has…

Why Pangaia Doesn’t Believe in Hogging Breakthrough Materials

For Pangaia, a London-based startup that combines street-style elan with tree-hugging sensibilities, materials play a starring rather than supporting role. It’s part of its philosophy of “high-tech naturalism,” taking materials abundantly found in nature and augmenting them with science and technology to solve the apparel industry’s most pressing social and environmental problems, such as animal…

Fake Meat Has Gone Mainstream. Can Biofabricated Fashion Follow Suit?

What’s in a name? When it comes to biomaterials—think yeast-engineered silk or mushroom-root leather—quite a lot. And like the trend itself, confusion about how they differ, how they’re made and what they offer is growing. Buoyed by burgeoning ethical concerns from consumers, fashion brands are seeing the promise of lab-developed materials as functional alternatives to…

Why Less Might Be More When it Comes to Factory Audits

In a globalized supply chain where clothing production is typically outsourced to developing nations with low-wage labor and shaky social and environmental protections, audits have become a non-negotiable means of managing risks and protecting brands from potential scandal. With multiple, often disparate standards for assessing compliance, however, it isn’t unusual for one supplier to field…

Leather Lowdown: Fruit, Fungi and a Focus on Planet-Friendly Processing

News of traditional leather’s demise has been greatly exaggerated. Despite spiking demand for vegan and other eco-friendly alternatives—a trend that tracks with the growing consumer predilection for plant-based diets—cowhides, a byproduct of beef and dairy consumption, have continued to conduct brisk trade. This is especially true of the luxury sector, where high-quality leather remains synonymous…

Xinjiang Confidential: What Auditor Exodus Means for Apparel Sourcing

A number of supply-chain auditing firms say they will no longer conduct inspections in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of northwestern China, where state-sponsored efforts to coerce and assimilate predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities have rekindled questions about the limits of corporate self-regulation and business-driven social compliance initiatives, particularly in hostile environments ruled by fear….

Higg Index, Without Transparency and Incentives, is a ‘Scale Without a Diet’

For the apparel sector, which has traditionally struggled to measure, let alone manage its burgeoning environmental footprint, the Higg Index has been nothing short of transformational. Certainly this was the case in 2011, when the Walmart- and Patagonia-founded Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) rolled out the suite of assessment tools to allow brands, retailers and facilities…

Is Lost Stock Helping or Hurting Bangladeshi Garment Workers?

By many accounts, any attempt to bail out struggling Bangladeshi garment workers facing starvation and ruin amid the COVID-19 pandemic would be a good thing. And for the most part, Lost Stock, a U.K. scheme that repackages jettisoned garments from canceled Western orders as “mystery boxes” for resale, appears to be a brilliant way to…

Rethinking Materials for a Circular Supply Chain and ‘Systemic Shift’

Before material innovation can save fashion, sustainability must save material innovation. And not just any broadly sweeping definition of sustainability: In today’s climate-sensitive milieu, cutting-edge and breakthrough materials made from agricultural waste, biodegradable plastic or mushroom roots must not only tread less heavily on the environment at the outset, but also avoid becoming landfill or…

‘Virtually’ All Apparel Industry Is Complicit in Uyghur Human Rights Abuses

The world’s fashion brands need to confront—and abandon—their complicity with human-rights atrocities being perpetuated against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of northwestern China, a coalition of more than 180 human-rights groups announced Thursday. With Xinjiang producing more than 80 percent of Chinese cotton, according to Washington…

While Fashion’s Struggling for Survival, Will Sustainability Pledges Stick?

Sustainability can be a hard sell even in the best of times. With brands and retailers scrambling to keep their bottom lines from cratering amid shuttered storefronts and plunging consumer spending, however, the financial pain inflicted by COVID-19 could complicate hard-fought efforts to keep the fashion industry’s massive environmental footprint in check, if not derail…