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The Stitches of Change: The global south's rising share in the fashion industry


The Stitches of Change The global souths rising share in the fashion industry

The term ‘Global South’ encompasses a diverse array of developing countries, primarily in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Traditionally viewed as reliant on raw material exports and basic manufacturing, the economic landscape of the Global South is undergoing a significant transformation.

A shifting landscape

The global south's contribution to global GDP is undeniable. According to the World Bank, in 2023, their share reached 38 per cent, with projections indicating it will surpass the global north by 2030. This trend is projected to continue, with some estimates suggesting that by 2030, three of the four largest economies will be from the global south – China and India leading the charge. This growth is attributed to various factors, including industrialization. Countries like China, India, and Vietnam have become manufacturing powerhouses, attracting foreign investment and generating significant export revenue. Moreover, a youthful population fuels a large workforce, contributing to economic activity.

Major players in the global south

Within the global south, several countries are emerging as major players in the fashion and textiles industry. Here are a few key examples:

China: A powerhouse in garment manufacturing, China is the world's largest exporter of textiles and apparel, accounting for over 30 per cent of the global market share. China's economic influence in the Global South cannot be understated. "China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a major driver of investment in infrastructure and manufacturing across the developing world," explains Yu Yongding, Senior Research Fellow at the Academy of Macroeconomic Research at Peking University. This initiative has resulted in infrastructure development in many developing countries, facilitating trade and economic growth.

Bangladesh: A rising star, Bangladesh has experienced rapid growth in its garment industry, capitalizing on competitive labor costs and a skilled workforce. In 2022, the garment sector contributed over 80 per cent of Bangladesh's total exports.

India: With a rich textile heritage and a growing domestic market, India is a major player in both apparel production and consumption. The Indian textile and apparel industry is expected to reach $300 billion by 2025.

Vietnam's rise in fashion

Vietnam exemplifies the growing importance of the global south in the fashion industry. As a result of trade agreements, investment in infrastructure and a focus on skill development, Vietnam has seen a dramatic rise in its garment exports. The 2023 McKinsey & Company ‘The State of Fashion 2023’ report highlights Vietnam's impressive growth: "Vietnam's apparel exports grew by 19 per cent in 2021, compared with a global average of 12 percent." This growth can be attributed to factors such as shifting trade dynamics. The ongoing trade war between the US and China has led some fashion brands to diversify their sourcing, creating opportunities for Vietnam. And favorable government policies implemented to promote foreign investment and export-oriented industries.


Share of global textile and apparel exports (approx.)









Challenges and opportunities

The global south's rise in the fashion industry presents both opportunities and challenges.

Challenges include labor concerns as ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions for garment workers remains a critical issue. Then there are issue around environmental impact as the fashion industry is a significant contributor to pollution. Sustainable practices need to be adopted.

In a positive way, embracing automation and digitalization can improve efficiency and productivity. Also moving beyond basic garment production to higher-value products can increase profit margins.

Indeed, the global south is no longer on the economic periphery. Its growing share in the global economy, particularly in the fashion/apparel/textiles sector, is undeniable. As these economies mature, they will undoubtedly play an even more significant role in shaping the future of the global fashion industry. However, navigating the challenges of fair labor practices, environmental sustainability, and economic diversification will be crucial for sustained success.


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