Updated: Jan 19, 2021
The year 2020 may go down in history as an inflection point, a time of significant change when so much went so wrong. But from out of the wreckage of what was holds the promise of what can be: things may get better. Perhaps the world will roll on -- but on a new trajectory.
Of course, the global pandemic weighed heavily on everyone. It didn't matter where you lived or what you did for a living. Covid-19 wreaked havoc. Many people died of it, so many more were sickened by it, and many more lost their jobs and livelihoods. Fortunately, vaccines give us hope that during 2021, the pandemic will finally crest.
The pandemic's economic costs tally in the trillions of dollars, a staggering sum to be sure. More so, the pandemic seemed to accelerate changes already seen around the world; what had worked before the pandemic seemed to lose resilience once the pandemic took hold.
Globalization, for instance, was already under pressure. Many in the textile and apparel industry questioned whether the globalized business model embarked upon since the formation of the World Trade Organization some three decades ago was running out steam.
The old model assumed that globalized supply chains would provide ever-cheaper and more varied products for consumers in the developed world while at the same time creating jobs throughout the developing world. Mass consumption was in; sustainability was an afterthought. After all, there was money to be made.
And guess what? In this sense, globalization succeeded, only with considerable costs to the environment, workers worldwide, and companies both big and small. There's never a free ride. But these costs set the stage for change from within the industry -- and the pandemic, it seems, has only accelerated that change.
Of course, the great question in front of us is how extensive the change will be and if the industry will inevitably find its way back to the old model. After all, this industry has an unenviable history of favoring cheap products and exploiting labor. Why will it be any different this time?
Well, there's nothing to say that the apparel industry won't go back to its old ways of doing business, but there's also nothing to suggest it won't turn a page in its history and adopt a new business paradigm. Indeed, there's a new generation of consumers and industry advocates who want to see things change. There's always the possibility that things may change for the better.
But defining what is "better" will be the critical challenge facing the industry in the post-pandemic world. And nothing will help determine what is or is not better than the struggle between fast- and slow-fashion: source global or source local?
So with this as an introduction, welcome to my new blog: From Field to Shelf. As the name says, this blog will cover topics from cotton through to finished apparel. I had an old blog (which is now gone), but after facing so many personal hardships in 2020, I felt it was time for a fresh start.
Most of my blog posts are articles I write for just-style.com, one of the premier publications in the global textile and apparel industries today. I've also included a few older posts from my old blog (some go back five or more years), or I wrote way back when just for the hell of it. I include these not to see what I got right about the industry so much as to understand what I've learned since then.
In any case, I hope you find this new blog useful -- easy to navigate and understand. I don't pretend to have any unique insight into the global textile and apparel industries. So, please feel free to leave comments publicly, but you'll have to sign-up (it's free), or you can drop me a line via the contact form or email listed on the blog.
Thanks for stopping by!