Apparel Sourcing Intelligence - Worldwide

Sourcing in the 21st Century

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Clothesource has been part of clothing manufacture’s moves to developing markets for the past quarter century

This report summarises how we’ve seen its social and political effects change in the crucial fifteen years from 2000 to 2015.


Report Details

Mike Flanagan started publishing articles on sourcing in late 2000, just as rich-country apparel production began moving offshore in earnest.

Since then, I’ve charted the movement of apparel manufacture almost every month. The articles selected here  split into three eras:

  • Offshoring 1.0: before European and American quotas were lifted on January 1, 2005
  • Offshoring 2.0: the years between 2005 and the Great Recession at the end of the decade, when almost everyone though China would take over the world’s garment making, the West’s apparel markets grew rapidly and garment-making job opportunities in most low-income countries appeared to be booming.
  • Offshoring 3.0, as we tried from around 2012 to understand how the industry was reacting to:
    • growing ethical concerns about offshore manufacturing,
    • the realisation that Chinese factories’ share of the market wasn’t going to grow any more,
    • increasing pressure on the profitability of Western brands and retailers
    • Western electorates’ increasing disenchantment with the effects of free trade, and Western governments’ increasing unpredictability
    • China’s transformed economic and political aspirations – and its neighbours’ reaction to that.

This anthology includes articles over the past 15 years that looked at the underlying economics of offshore sourcing. Other articles went into greater depth about the compliance issues offshore manufacturing raised, the changes in the retailing environment back home, the wider political context all this was going on in – and the remarkable contribution garment making was making to higher wages, standards of human rights and reduced pollution in manufacturing countries.

The principles of Offshore 3.0 that have emerged  are very different from what was in my mind when I wrote Chapter 1 in October 2000: the articles in this anthology show how often we all – buyers, manufacturers, governments, journalists, consultants and writers  – completely missed what was staring us in the face.

The biggest single trend, as the Afterword demonstrates, is how by December 2015 prices of almost everything involved with garment making – except the  clothes in our shops and the wages garment and shop workers are paid – were lower than in 2000.


Table of Contents

Foreword: December 2015

  1. Apparel sourcing: the final frontier
  2. Where's the cheapest place to make my clothes?
  3. Bra Wars: are Europe’s retailers to blame?
  4. Inflation takes hold in apparel supply chain
  5. Will rising oil prices boost local sourcing?
  6. Retail slowdown squeezes apparel makers
  7. Apparel sourcing shifts likely to be short-lived
  8. China prices to rise as labour shortages grow
  9. 'Made in China' continues to make sense
  10. What's going on in Bangladesh?
  11. Is India serious about garment making?
  12. Strategies to cope with the end of cheap clothes
  13. Is a Chinese productivity revolution next?
  14. Textile investments keep China's cutting edge
  15. Debunking the garment industry myths of 2011
  16. Bangladesh's surprising fall in garment sales 14 February 2012
  17. What's the real cost of Offshoring 3.0?
  18. Following fashion isn't the best sourcing strategy
  19. Is China's dream becoming a nightmare scenario?
  20. Chaos in the world’s trade agreements:
  21. Afterword 1: what’s happened since: Offshore 3.0.1