EU Textile and Apparel Industry: Discussion Questions from FASH455

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#1 Given the economic and political changes that have occurred in the past year, such as Brexit, the new presidency, and conflict in the world, how do you think this will affect the intra-region and extra-region EU trade relationships, specifically in the textile and apparel sectors?

#2 Will it be a missed opportunity for the textile and apparel industry if the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiation fails?

#3 With one of the greatest challenges facing the EU textile industry in developing new textile and clothing being competence, such as fewer young people showing an interest in entering the textile and clothing industries, what can the EU as well as other countries do to encourage the next generation of engineers and innovators to come into the textile industry? How can the industry appeal to the next generation? How can schools and universities educate and excite students to be a part of it?

#4 Digitization has taken off in the EU textile and apparel industry, giving them the opportunity to change their products with the touch of a button. Digitization is something that will speed up the value chain a lot and even cause some retailers to stop producing in countries like Bangladesh, and start bringing production back to Europe. Do you think this is something that developing countries should fear for the future? Why or why not?

#5 Many developed EU members remain leading apparel producers and exporters. What lessons can the U.S. apparel manufacturing sector learn from its EU counterpart?

Please indicate the question # in your comment.

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

15 thoughts on “EU Textile and Apparel Industry: Discussion Questions from FASH455”

  1. #3. I think that a major problem for why people do not want to enter textile engineering is because large majorities of engineering students or those going into engineering focus more on the mechanical aspect. They might not know the possibilities that engineering can connect with the textile and apparel world. I think that countries and universities should show incoming engineers all the direction that it can take them down, and how innovative and needed they will be if they chose to go down the path of textile engineering. Also universities in the EU can create a competition for students to create new textiles in innovative ways in order to excite and introduce them to the industry as well.

  2. #2. It most definitely will be a missed opportunity if the TPP negotiation fails because many companies rely on trade with in the countries in the region for exports of textiles and imports of apparel. If the U.S. no longer has free trade with these countries they will have to turn elsewhere for cheap and specialized labor that we at the moment do not have. It could potentially put some companies out of business. Not only in our country is it a concern but in others as well. For example the founder and president Tardashi Yanai of Uniqlo a fast fashion Japanese company that has made its way to the U.S. will no longer be able to afford being in our country if they have to manufacture their apparel here instead of where it usually does in Asia.

    1. TTIP refers to the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is a free trade agreement under negotiation between the United States and the European Union. T-TIP intends to cut tariffs and non tariff barriers for products and services traded between T-TIP members.

  3. #3
    I think the EU needs to create at the elementary level a program for all students that explores the textile, clothing industry that is more on the engineering aspect of the fashion industry. Kids are like sponges and absorb everything and think almost everything is interesting if you spin the information in an exciting way. I think if the EU could create a program that could engage kids in elementary school and continue to offer this program throughout the rest of the academic years until University if could create a really successful outcome.

    I also think the EU but also the US should get more fashion brands and companies to promote this side of the spectrum. We utilize social media so much, why not advertise it in a cool campaign for the company. Have seminars and forums in places that specialize mainly in the creation of textile and apparel to spread the awareness of this side of the spectrum. By doing this it could spark more discussion about the T&A industry.

  4. #3. I think the stigma around the word “engineering” intimidates fashion students, and the word “textiles” will scare away engineering students. There is really no good hybrid program that clearly indicates how these skills can be integrated into real jobs. Talking to people who work in this part of the industry will also help them with a clear vision. Creating a clear vision for these students about what career path they can take in the real world will be a good way to spark excitement about these fields and draw awareness to them. One problem I see is that fashion is not introduced usually until college level experience, and by then people may already be set in their ways. One way to combat this is to introduce them at elementary, mid-level, and high school level programs. That way, students will have awareness of the industry from a young age.

  5. I absolutely agree that developing countries should fear for the future. Digitization is undeniably coming to the forefront of everything we do, not just in the fashion industry. People want everything in their hands, right then and there with no lag time. We see this with the new grocery store delivery systems that come to your door, same day delivery for the latest lipgloss you order and of course the digitization of apparel. This brings us back to the point that because production is now going to be so instant and in-house, it appears that eventually there will be a decreased need for factories and production lines…thus leading to developing countries (like Bangladesh) to lose out on their jobs. It is quite said because these countries already have such a disadvantage and because our world is ever so evolving, they barely stand a chance to keep up.

  6. #4 Digitalization has been something that has been on the horizon for the last 10-20 years. Ever since computers and smartphones took over and Amazon has become the biggest retailer in the country it has been evident that pretty much every industry has started too or is fully investing in it. Within the textile and apparel industry, digitalization has been huge, more so in textiles though. As far as the apparel industry goes right now, because it is so labor abundant I do not think that there is anything to fear within the next 5 years. But I am sure that eventually, someone will produce the technology that has the ability to take over for manual labor. This is why it is so important to not just bring jobs to third world countries but also educate the people so that they have the ability to move up in the chain of command and eventually graduate to something that is beyond labor intensive. While I visited a textile mill in China, just beyond the border of Hong Kong, I was shocked to see so little people. They were only there too oversee the machines work and verify that everything was working correctly. But saying that, it was a huge mill that is currently in the process of expanding and for those 1000 people it provides them with income. And 1000 people supervising machines still contributes to those families getting the money they need to survive. Even though if I had visited this mill 30 years ago there probably would have been 3 times the amount of people, there are still people who are contributing and working along side the machinery. Digitalization is going to happen no matter what, and no one can stop that. But it is up to us to ensure that we work along side it rather then be scared and try and fight the increase in digitalization.

  7. #3 I think that education is the best way to get younger people to be interested in the textile and clothing industries. I don’t think that engineering majors are often told about the T&A industries when searching for job opportunities. At universities, freshman students should be learning about all of the interesting parts of the industries to show them just how unique and exciting it is. It can also be marketed as way to combine technical and creative skills. Also, not just engineering students, but Fashion students should be educated on this. As fashion majors we are not told about possible careers as engineers in the textile industry. I think if more fashion students were educated about this kind of career they might want to take that road instead of working for a retailer or vendor.

    The textile and clothing industry is ever changing. Its becoming more technological and there is room for much more innovation. Presenting the industry to students as exciting, adaptable and creative would make students more interested.

  8. #1 – Given the current political climate in the US, Brexit in the EU, and the contentious election cycle currently happening in France, I think it’s very likely protectionist attitudes will impact nearly every sector of trade, including textiles and apparel. The president can’t necessarily dismantle all our current trade arrangements, but strained relationships with trade partners and attitudes which embrace “America first” and various other euro-centric philosophies will likely result in upheaval.

  9. #2: I think this will be a missed opportunity for the US textile industry is the T-TIP negation fails because this could open up a new market for US consumers, as well as European ones. Since many countries in the EU specialize in luxury goods and textiles, this could provide more accessibility for US consumers to get these goods at a cheaper price. With the US’ strong position in the textile industry, this could provide free trade for cheaper textiles/ goods for European consumers, especially those who are price-sensitive and are looing to save more money on textiles.

  10. #4 I think digitalization is an exciting and overall positive thing for the textile industry as a whole. Inevitably, the way our society is moving with technology, it is evident that digitalization will eventually be a norm for the textile industry. Although these technologies are new and slowly growing, I don’t think that developing countries should be worried right now about future advancements in digitalization. I think a while down the way, yes, digitalization will eventually take over manual labor and then there should be some concern. I think it is important to ensure that developing countries have a plentiful of jobs to keep their economy on track and perhaps eventually teach them the newest technology.

  11. #4 There are new technological advancements everyday. At a discussion panel that I attended, a woman from Adidas mentioned how 3-D printing will bring a factory to the back of a store instead of manufacturing a product across the world. Of course it takes time for technology to perfect itself but these advancements are groundbreaking. I think that developing countries should be worried because soon there might not be a need for them especially if companies/retailers can cut costs in freight costs and manual labor. I think technology can be detrimental to the workforce in developing countries because now there will be no need for them.

  12. #5- In class we watched a few videos on how European countries manufacture some goods. There are many differences in the way that Europe and the U.S. manufacture their items. While many American countries are outsourcing to third world countries for cheaper labor, European countries are producing their goods at home (in their own countries). However, producing their own goods is not the only thing that they are doing. They are also using the newest and most updated technology to produce their goods, to stay on top of the production curve. Also, they are using luxurious and high quality fabrics. America is very much focused on saving money and producing goods at the fastest and cheapest rate possible. Maybe America should follow suit and produce higher quality goods at a slower rate.

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