The clothing industry has been playing a major role in the process of economic development. Britain and other European countries got huge wealth from wool that was spun by workers at home in the Middle Ages.
It played a vital role in the industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th century with imports from Asian countries, mainly imported from Great Britain. Although the clothing industry evolved across the world at the same time, it was up to 1800 before it evolved in third world countries especially in Asia and Africa. Asian countries contributed immensely to the development of processes in most valuable fabrics and textile.The European textile industry competed with its eastern competitors. Many European countries, eg, the Netherlands, produced more clothing as a result of industrialization.
Asia led the industrial revolution which swept across the world in the second half of the 20th century. Textile production in Europe decreased by 32%, while production in Asia increased by 98%, between 1980 and 1995. Developing countries, are leading in production with the top four (China, Turkey, Bangladesh and India) together taking large percent of the trade. In Nigeria, Aba town in Abia State has taken the lead in clothes and apparel production. To cut cost, the Western countries are outsourcing to countries with lower wages, to sew these clothes. The Netherlands produces only very complex clothing that requires a lot of specialist knowledge, such as work wear and bridal wear.
There have always been shifts in the in the history of textile and clothing industry. For example, before the industrial revolution of middle of the 18th century which caused the West to become the most important producer, clothing production was widespread throughout Europe and Asia.
But the rate at which other parts of the world got involved in clothing production in the second half of the 20th century was never before seen.
The main causes:
*Motivation and bonuses for foreign firms by the governments of rival production countries
*Minimal cost of logistics.
*Casual workers and low labor costs.
*Low cost and fast new communication technology
These factors, have led clothing stores and brands developed into international companies that outsource the less profitable parts of clothing production (such as buying materials, sewing, packaging) to plenty suppliers and producers. This is done through complicated global chains of production.
Huge growth in the bottom of the number of countries and producers that can deliver to these companies, have led to the high consolidation of market shares in the hands of several major stores and brand which makes them retain top of the chain. Clothing retailers and brands have a lot of purchasing power, which they use to demand lower prices and delivery times due to this inequality. The impact these requirements have on producers are mainly devoted to clothing workers, in the form of poor working conditions, longer working days and lower wages. The majority of garment workers in Bangladesh earn little more than the minimum wage, set at 3,000 taka a month (around $36 ), far below a decent living wage. Judging from the current globalization model in the clothing industry, the situation of workers has not improved.
In clothing retailer for European stores, China takes the lead, followed by Turkey, Bangladesh and India. Exports of textile and clothing products, is a major source of income for a large number of developing countries, including some of the world’s poorest countries. According to eNCA Africa, apparel exports from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda amounted to a combined $337 million in 2013.
Textile and clothing products takes a huge share in total exports of industrial products:
Haiti – 85.2%
Bangladesh – 76.6%
Cambodia – 70.4%
Lesotho – 64.1%
Macao China – 63.0%
Globally, not less than $ 1 billion is spent yearly, of which about one-third is in the EU, one in North America and a quarter in Asia. According to WITS, Italy 2015 Import Partner Share, China took the lead with a trade value of $5,306,709.77 and share of %22.57, trade value with Turkey was $1,423,399.28 with a share of 6.05%. The number of internet purchases of clothing is growing rapidly. According to Chron, USA is home to about 100,000 retail clothing stores, which reap annual revenues of $150 billion annually. This tally results in a per store revenue average of $1.5 billion.
Small number of large companies, dominate the clothing market. These companies are mainly engaged in sales in the profitable part of the clothing industry, while production is being outsourced to countries around the world. Viyellatex factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, produce clothes for Marks & Spencer. The money big clothing companies spend on advertising is 27 times more than wages for workers.
Companies are making more and more profits; In the first quarter of 2016, revenues for Nike,Inc rose 8% profit to $9.1 billion, up 10% on a currency-neutral basis. A Zara short sleeve floral midi length casual dress cost $32.95 on ebay, an Ideal Casuals short sleeve casual shirt cost $16.39 (N5k).
The structure of the production chain may vary between two extremes; at one extreme, all operations of the chain may be concentrated in a single firm in one place. At the other extreme, each function of the chain may be performed by independent geographically dispersed firms.
The current model of global production, has made it possible for clothing to be made in a different part of the world and it sold worldwide. The clothes find their way within a complicated network of agents, subcontractors and suppliers. This part of the industry is so fragmented that even the companies that commission the clothing production do not always know exactly where and under what circumstances their clothes are made.
Increased trade between industrialized and developing countries, was due to increasing ability to ‘slice up” the production chain, thus, reinforcing the shift toward a new international division of labour. The production of clothing is usually outsourced to a purchasing company or factory, and then outsourced to another factory. This leads to a broad production base, many suppliers and clothing production by home workers who are paid per piece and have no labour rights. In Cambodia, garment workers at a source factory for global fashion brands including H&M said they are being paid Cambodia’s minimum wage of $140 per month. These amount can’t maintain a normal living standard in Cambodia.