Covid-19 Garment Stories: What we're hearing from the garment industry

We want to give you an insight into how different actors within the garment industry are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the coming weeks, we will keep updating this page with stories from brands, suppliers and garment workers, showing how people along the supply chain are coming together in these unprecedented times.

See Fair Wear’s full Covid-19 dossier, including guidance for brands and garment-producing countries, here.

If you want to share a short story about how Covid-19 is impacting the garment sector, please write about it on social media and use the hashtag #Covid19GarmentStories. Please also tag the appropriate Fair Wear account for each channel.

24 April 2020: Leader brand Deuter commits to their supplier

On Fashion Revolution Day, Fair Wear Leader brand Deuter made a commitment not to cancel any orders already in production, as well as to pay all outstanding invoices. Deuter has a very close relationship with its supplier. The two are mutually dependent on each other to get through this crisis. Read the press release here.

10 April 2020: The EU created a 5 million euros emergency fund directly to workers in Myanmar

The EU will offer cash transfers to workers in one of our production countries Myanmar as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. The Myan Ku (Quick Assistance) Fund, an emergency cash fund of 5 million euros (7.9 billion MMK), is meant to support garment workers during this crisis directly. There are three different kinds of support which the EU plans to offer:

  • Workers in crisis support: Cash transfers of an expected average of 75.000 MMK monthly for one to three months for 30.000 to up to 80.000 workers in crisis who lost their jobs or face eviction from their homes;
  • Illegal termination support: Cash transfers of 125.000 MMK for workers whose contracts were illegally terminated;
  • Workforce retention support: Cash transfers to workers in small and medium enterprises that agree to retain workers and continue cash or in-kind payments like accommodation and meals.

The fund will initially be available from April to December 2020 and is financed through the EU’s Humanitarian Development Peace Nexus Response Mechanism. Read more in their press release.

9 April 2020: Member brand Kuyichi

Kuyichi is a sustainable denim brand who became a member of Fair Wear in 2020. They aim to fight for a positive change in the fashion industry. Kuyichi released a statement asking to unite during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis to fix the system. According to their statement they see opportunity for brands to not cancel orders, spread deliveries, stay close to suppliers, stick with the natural seasons and try to avoid an early sale season. Read their statement here.

6 April 2020: Member brand Stanley/Stella uphold orders

As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, many brands have decided to cancel orders with suppliers, forcing factories to close and leaving garment workers without work or wages. In Bangladesh, the toll on the garment industry is particularly staggering. So far, over 1000 factories have been forced to close, affecting 2 million workers. Fair Wear member brand Stanley/Stella has committed to upholding all open orders placed with its five factory partners in Bangladesh. Read more in this statement from the company’s CEO.

30 March 2020: Garment workers in India face hunger during country-wide lockdown

One of our partners in Tirupur, India, anticipates workers of the garment industry will face hunger due to a shortage of food. The 21-day lockdown in India puts migrant workers at risk in particular. They have less support from employers, contractors and the Indian government. They currently fear running out of money and food from their daily earnings in just one week.

Our partner organisation SAVE has been in touch with migrant workers in the garment industry and heard stories about non-payment of wages and contractors acting hostile. They are now abandoned in temporary shelters with no means to travel. Through its emergency fund, SAVE was able to take care of some basic needs – such as food provisions – for families, but they expect the needs of these families to increase in the coming days.

27 March: 150 Tunisians self-isolate in factory to make masks

On the 29th of March Tunisia went into lockdown, which is why 150 workers decided to isolate themselves in order to produce medical mask and other protective medical gear. They are determined to help prevent the further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and produce enough gear for the health sector at home. There are separate dormitories for 110 women and 40 men with enough supplies to stay in for a month. “We have a designated area for all kinds of exercise and dancing for the women, and the men have a football and basketball area,” said one of the employees to the BBC.

27 March: PennState publishes research report on the impact of Covid-19 on workers and businesses at the bottom of the global garment supply chain

According to PennState the situation for the global garment supply chains are going to get worse. Partial and complete shutdown in thousands of factories in producing countries will leave millions of factory workers at home without pay. This illustrates how fragile this system is when faced with a global pandemic and has little ability to provide support to workers and the industry. Read more responses from employers in Bangladesh on Covid-19.

25 March 2020: The Ministry of Textiles India appeals to brands to show the world we can do commerce with compassion

India’s Ministry of Textiles appeals to brands not to cancel their orders and instead, to come together.

Recently, the Prime Minister of India announced a 21-day lockdown. In line with these developments, Smriti Irana, Minister of Textiles of India, is asking buying houses and the buyers of the Indian apparel and textile industry to work together. Irana is asking to not cancel a single order that is being placed. ‘Delivery schedules can be reworked. Payment plans can be extended … Let’s show the world we can do commerce with compassion.’ Watch her full statement here.

25 March 2020: IFC increase financing for companies to help fight Covid-19

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is increasing the amount of financing for companies to help fight the outbreak of Covid-19. The Board of Directors approved a total of $8 billion to help sustain economies and protect jobs. The IFC response is part of a $14 billion package being deployed by the World Bank Group.

Chief executive officer of IFC Philippe Le Houérou thinks this will help vulnerable groups to recover their livelihoods more quickly: ‘Not only is this pandemic costing lives, but its impact on economies and living standards will likely outlive the health emergency phase. By ensuring our clients sustain their operations during this time, we hope the private sector in the developing world will be better equipped to help economies recover more quickly.’ Read more about the increased financing here.

24 March, 2020: Sindh government forbids employers to lay off workers during lockdown

Some encouraging news from Pakistan: The Sindh government has forbidden employers to dismiss workers during the lockdown. An alliance of labour rights groups welcomed the decision made by employers and the Sindh government that no businesses would lay off their employees during the 15 day lockdown. Employees’ salaries will continue to be paid during this time. Read more on this story here.

23 March, 2020: The ILO has released a publication regarding the possible impact of #Covid19 pandemic on international labour standards.

The situation of COVID-19 brings both uncertainty and questions regarding labour standards for employers and workers. The international Labour Organization (ILO) released a publication on the key provisions of international labour standards relevant to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. It contains a compilation of answers to the most frequently asked questions related to COVID-19 and international labour standards. ‘International labour standards provide a tried-and-trusted foundation for policy responses that focus on a recovery that is sustainable and equitable,’ says ILO’s Director-General Guy Ryder. Read the publication here.

23 March, 2020: Mammut urging its outdoors-loving customers to stay home now, and continue exploring later

We’re pleased to see some brands using their platforms to convey the important message to help flatten the curve. Fair Wear member brand MAMMUT, which sells clothing designed for those who love the outdoors, posted on social media today, ‘We know that this is an unusual message to come from us but these days it’s super important that we stick together and #stayhome – for the health and safety of everyone.’ Have a look at their video below.

Read the full LinkedIn post here.

Read more about Mammut on its brand page.

19 March, 2020: Medical masks in North Macedonia

A great example from North Macedonia, sent to us by our local Fair Wear team: a garment factory started producing medical masks at its own expense. North Macedonia is in a state of emergency due to the spread of Covid-19. The factory is determined to help deal with the crisis.

17 March, 2020: Joint statement from some of the represented organisations on our board calling for solidarity and leniency throughout the supply chain

Modint, INretail, ANWR-GARANT, CBM, FGHS, FNLS and VIMAGRO are calling upon all actors in the supply chain to support the industry in these unusual and unprecedented and to come together to tackle, divide and compensate the problems and the risks in the supply chain now and in the future. They ask all parties to take action where possible within their individual capabilities. Specifically, the industry should show solidarity and leniency in the following ways:

  • Delivery times and moments;
  • Being cautious to state it’s ‘out of our hands’;
  • Delivering alternative goods;
  • Use of penalty clause;
  • Spreading out regular payments.

This is necessary now, and necessary in the future to provide the costumers and end users the products through a strong and healthy supply chain. Read the full statement here.

14 February, 2020: Vietnamese garment factory switching to mask production

This garment factory in Vietnam switched its focus to masks, producing 500,000 pieces a day. What creative or innovative plans does your company have to support the garment industry in surviving the coronavirus?

To read Fair Wear’s full statement on the Covid-19 pandemic, click here.