The eagle-eyed among you may notice that this is my first editor’s comment of 2017, so a belated happy new year to you all.
After arriving back from a fabulous break in Cuba, I headed straight to the Berlin trade shows last week – a shock to the system temperature-wise. The five main Berlin shows seemed to be a hit with UK brands keen to attract German buyers. But, as usual these days, there were few British retailers in sight. This was in stark contrast to Pitti Uomo, which many are saying is back on top form.
Berlin was also quite subdued in terms of evening events, whereas Pitti appears to have taken on Bread & Butter’s mantle as the place to work hard and play hard: not just a place to do business, but somewhere to meet new contacts and form new relationships. UK buyers were seen networking into the early hours.
Trade show season is now in full swing. The Parisian shows last weekend were also praised by buyers as being the best they have been for a number of years. It will be interesting to see how the European shows develop over the coming seasons as buyers become ever pickier about which ones they visit. Looking at this season so far, Berlin seems to have lost a lot of its relevance for the UK market. Many of the same brands can be seen in Paris or at Jacket Required in London.
The other hot topic this week was Channel 4’s Dispatches programme on the appalling practices in some UK clothing factories. Like many of you, I watched with dismay on Monday night as the industry was tainted by the actions of a few, unscrupulous manufacturers.
At Drapers, we are fully aware of the pressures on British firms to compete with the low cost of producing in the Far East. But low-paying factories undermine the efforts of others to raise standards and promote a more ethical approach to fashion. This is a saddening side of the industry and one that must be monitored to ensure standards are met and workers are paid at least the minimum wage.
Our coverage of the programme and its fallout stirred up an interesting debate on our site and social media channels: who should take responsibility for ensuring these practices are stamped out of the supply chain? Customers may be shocked to learn about the standards within some factories, but so many shoppers are used to buying cheap, fast fashion. As inflation starts to bite, ethical production is unlikely to become their number one concern.
In my view, both retailers and suppliers must take responsibility for people throughout the entire life cycle of their product production. Regular checks must become normal practice and harsher repercussions put in place for those not meeting the required standards. Drapers will play its own part, by highlighting the good practice and helping to expose the bad.
On that note, while it’s important to condemn and address unlawful practices, we must also remember that many factories and manufacturers in the UK do adhere to the highest standards. We cannot allow the entire sector to be tarred with the same brush.