NEW YORK – Kingpins Show founder, Andrew Olah, has called for major changes to global apparel supply chains which, he claims, have for years been ‘infected’ in the same way coronavirus has infected millions of citizens. The leading denim show organiser, who recently recovered from Covid-19 himself, argues in an op-ed that the global apparel industry has been “unbalanced for years” with a huge excess of supply over demand, “creating an imbalance that forces factories into an unequal relationship with brands.”
In the denim industry, he suggests this sees a scenario where, “each season, hundreds of denim mills fight for every order from a retailer, manufacturer or brand.”
This scenario actually plays out across the apparel industry as a whole. Olah claims there are about 40 per cent too many suppliers, and this has helped drive prices continually lower for decades.
In a strikingly candid piece, Olah suggested the apparel industry needs to become much more transparent.
He added: “People are talking about resetting priorities – their own and their business’ – after Covid-19 is gone. But to truly reset things to achieve the best possible outcome, we would need to eliminate 40 per cent of the suppliers. A future with fewer buyers will only exacerbate the current problem.
“The second problem our industry faces is a lack of clarity about responsible behaviour communicated from the buyer to their suppliers. Suppliers certainly should be held to rules of responsible behaviour, but those rules ought to apply equally to buyers.
“Truth be told, many buyers are essentially abusive to their supply chain, flaunting their power only because they can and, in many cases, because they do not care about all those people throughout the supply chain who rely on them. There is no reset for those people. There is only a need for rules and a need for penalties for breaking those rules. Everyone understands that and surely now is the time to build new structures for the future.”
Olah claims the industry has so far only paid lip service to the issue of transparency. He said: “The reason … companies are not transparent is simply because they choose not to be, which is a frightening position.
“For a true and decent industry, everyone needs to get honest, to stop avoiding the subject of transparency and start backing up their words with facts. If a brand wishes to promote their transparency by saying what they pay for their merchandise, why don’t they share the invoices showing precisely the cost of their goods?
“If a brand wishes to wax on about how clean their cotton is, why don’t they show the environmental impact report on each field of their output?
“If a brand wishes a factory to be super socially compliant, then why won’t the brand ensure that their team handle all orders with dignity and respect, which is the most modest definition of social responsibility?”