Detoxifying the Supply Chains: Production Networks
of Slow Garment Factories in South-Eastern Europe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
WenYing Clarie Shih and Konstantinos Agrafiotis
Detoxifying Luxury and Fashion Industry: Case
of Market Driving Brands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Ivan Coste-Manière, Hamdi Guezguez, Mukta Ramchandani, Marie Reault
and Julia van Holt
Integrating Sustainable Strategies in Fashion Design
by Detox 2020 Plan—Case Studies from Different Brands . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Detoxifying the Supply Chains: Production Networks of Slow Garment Factories in South-Eastern Europe
WenYing Clarie Shih and Konstantinos Agrafiotis
Abstract An aspect of the detoxification processes of supply chains can be attributed to the reshoring of clothing production within the European Continent. Empirical evidence suggests that regional manufacturing networks operating in the South-Eastern fringes of Europe, after a devastating decade of diminishing orders, have recently started to produce specialized clothing for western European medium-sized niche fashion companies. These South-Eastern European manufacturers currently possess the experience in higher quality production. They also demonstrate some forms of sustainable production practices, and employ workers who are paid at least fair wages. Moreover, a certain sense of socio-cultural affinity emerges where all actors involved in the production and distribution acknowledge a loose interpretation of European solidarity which is translated into orders and subsequently into job retention within European borders. The theoretical underpinnings of this chapter lie in the concept of global production networks where commercial transactions among network members together with non-economic actors, such as civic associations and states can play an influential role in transnational production arrangements. The authors adopt the qualitative approach for this study based on the interpretivist methodology. In a single case study of a production network operating in the Balkans, the authors explore all major variables pertaining to the detoxification parameter of reshoring production. The findings broadly confirm that reshoring currently occurs in Europe as well as that all actors engage with sustainable practices which can form a viable and simultaneously competitive manufacturing strategy.
Keywords Nearshoring _ Detoxification of the supply chains _ Production networks _ Sustainable production _ Socio-cultural affinity
The detoxification of clothing supply chains can take many forms as all these relate to sustainable development which currently constitutes a pressing issue in the fashion/clothing industry. An aspect of detoxification pertains to reshoring production back to the original locations of manufactures or near to the original locations.
Reshoring, a new term denoting that clothing production holds the potential of returning to European shores has gathered momentum in the recent past (Groom and Powley 2014). The European Parliament has commissioned research on the topic as it is particularly interested in remaining jobs in the sector and also exploring the possibilities of generating new jobs. The rationale for reshoring, in addition to the concerns regarding sustainable practices, can also be attributed to the so-called Total Landed Costs which have risen in other clothing manufacturing countries, such as China. This brings forth the notion of some production returning within European borders after decades of neglect (European Parliamentary Research Service 2014). Realistic benefits include the improvements in quality, certainty, production efficiencies and the made-in-Europe “label” with its heritage, quality, labor and environmental sensitivities that it connotes (Za 2014).
The theory of Global Production Networks (GPNs) helps to explain the reshoring flow of production in its European dimension. It is based on transnational relational networks which engage with production arrangements. Furthermore, the theory incorporates the so-called non-economic actors in the networks’ configuration. For example, the role of the EU and its regional policies can induce and subsequently enhance the networks’ performance and competitiveness. Other non-economic actors include civic associations which concern the environmental sustainability as well as the issue of workers’ wages (Coe et al. 2008).
Due to the migration of production especially to China, peripheral Southeastern European networks after a devastating period seem to recover some production capacity as specialization, quality and proximity factors prevail in the reshoring logic (Pickles and Smith 2011). This can also be attributed to a loose interpretation of European solidarity as Western European quality brand owners have acknowledged the cachet of “made in Europe” production. This can also be attributed to mounting pressure induced by civic associations as customers want to know where their clothes are made and under what conditions (Friedman 2010).
In a single case study of a three partner company have recently formed a European cross-border production network. The authors explore the issues of reshoring and specialized quality production within European borders. Sustainable practices performed include slow fashion principles in the production processes, transparency in the supply chain, resource productivity in terms of economization of resources and machinery upgrading as well as labor conditions and wages. EU’s regional policies are also addressed as they shape the manufacturing landscape and influence its competitive outcome. All actors involved in the case study namely, brand owners, the manufacturing company and EU’s policies point to the direction that sustainable development features high on the production agenda as it forms a major concern in the detoxification of European supply chains in the Textile and Clothing sectors. The case also demonstrates that nearshoring more than reshoring to the original country of origin in this part of Europe. Nearshoring can be a viable strategy among manufacturers producing for upper-middle fashion brands as all parties involved are interested in keeping production within European borders, demonstrate sensitivities for the environment and also present convincing evidence of sustainable actions to their end customers. The thorny issue of living wages as opposed to fair wages is still debatable although the companies in the study have taken some corrective measures but still these are far from becoming reality for all garment workers in the region.
2 The Issue of Sustainability in the Fashion Industry
Sustainability in the fashion industry forms a fraction of the far bigger picture of sustainable development. However, it is widely recognized that the clothing industries including textile production are possibly the second most polluting industries after petrochemical companies worldwide (De Brito et al. 2008). Currently, the Earth’s sustainable carrying capacity is at risk because of population growth, unethical business practices, rising affluence and patterns of wasteful consumption, all of which have prevailed across both developed and developing countries (Remy et al. 2016; Smitha 2011).