The End of Big Chinese Fashion Manufacturers?

Over the past 30 years China has been a key pillar of manufacturing in general and even more of fashion manufacturing, but the last times has put the colossus under pressure.

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Apparel manufacturing workshop in China (Source: additivefashion.com)

Nowadays Italy is the nearest competitor in fashion manufacturing , producing an eight of Chinese average output, but staying far far away from the surprising percentage of China, that yield the 60% of the world’s shoes and the 43% of world’s clothing. However Zhongguo is facing a storm that could lead to the loss of its primacy: the arrival on the scene of cheaper sourcing hubs in Africa and Asia and the always higher production costs, together with long term sustainability’s struggles and workers welfare, are literally squeezing the Chinese firms.

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The map illustrates the new challengers to China’s dominance for textile and apparel sourcing, highlighting the emerging sourcing potential of South and South East Asia (Source: chinasourcingblog.org)

Some of them have reacted investing in technological innovation and quality upgrades, others trying to move up the value chain and becoming more specialized. Firms like KTC, leader in sportswear manufacturing until ten years ago, who figured clients as Adidas, have left the throne of big manufacturers to take part in the world of boutique manufacturers, working on quantities about twenty pieces per style. Now it collaborates with smaller European fashion designers, distributing capsule collections to retailers as Barneys New York and L’Eclaireur in Paris. Focusing on specialization and the developing of particular know-how skills, the company is investing on R&D and it’s taking a huge step behind, leaving a enormous market to conquer a smaller piece of trades. Doing that, to keep a leading position they’re investing in workers, improving the their welfare. Anyway the Chinese supply chains are the best ones in the world and they won’t be replaced in the short term. The value chains are vertically integrated from the very beginning with quality cultures, textile expertise and more than everything massive infrastructures, that are the serious lack of India, its closest competitor. No alarming concern for the coming years, but in the future China should be aware of his leading position in manufacturing and Europe should better pay attention to the competition in terms of quality overcoming from the Great China.

Luca Andriani

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