Top Foreign Brands Fail Quality Tests in China


From “Shanghai’s market watchdog announced Monday that some batches of products produced by leading foreign fashion brands, including H&M, FOREVER 21, American Apparel, Diesel and Lacoste, failed in the city’s latest quality tests.

According to the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau, quality problems ranged from poor color fastness and fiber content to a high pH index and slippage.

Other top brands – Moussy, Trussardi, Tommy Hilfiger, Desigual, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Teenie Weenie, Jack & Jones and Lanvin – were found to be substandard apparel.

A batch of long skirts of American Apparel failed tests for poor wet rubbing color fastness, a high pH index and slippage, while another two batches of its trousers were found short in fiber content.

Dye in clothing with poor color fastness bleeds onto skin, which can be harmful, while a high pH indexh can cause skin allergies and make people vulnerable to bacteria.

A batch of Diesel male shirts had poor color fastness to light, while a batch of Lacoste female skirts were found to have poor color fastness to wet rubbing and sweat stains.

Lacoste passed tests in reexamination for the skirts.

Five batches of Forever 21’s skirts and trousers failed for poor color fastness to wet rubbing and slippage. After rectifying, it passed the new tests.

H&M had one batch of blouses failing in slippage and one batch of jeans in fiber content. Moussy failed in one batch of overall for a high pH index, while a batch of T-shirts of Jack & Jones had poor color fastness to wet rubbing, sweat stains and light.

Are you surprised? How to explain the above phenomenon? What would normally happen to these apparel companies if their products failed the quality test in the home markets (such as the United States)? If you are the owner of these companies mentioned in the article, how would you respond?

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

27 thoughts on “Top Foreign Brands Fail Quality Tests in China”

  1. After reading this article, it quickly made me realize that companies all over the world are getting cheaper and cheaper. Companies like the ones mentioned, but also big name companies such as Nike or Underarmour are worrying more on quantity and profits, as opposed to quality and customer satisfaction. The only way I can truly explain this phenomenon is that greed is getting in the way of helping and providing for the consumers. I assume that if this occurred to the apparel companies in the U.S. then there would have been penalties, laws broken, not to mention money coming out of their pockets. I would respond to this upsetting news by truly realizing that distributing and manufacturing for consumers is much more than just for monetary purposes. Lets use New Balance for example. New Balance is based out of the US, and is made entirely in the US. They have high quality items that are on the lower pricing scale compared to other top companies like Nike, Adidas and Reebok.

    1. good comment. What was in my mind is whether these “well-known” western apparel brands are setting “double standards” in product quality in different markets? It is also likely that China’s watchdog intentionally would like to damage the reputation of these western brands in the favor of domestic companies?

    2. Walter, I agree with your comment companies are becoming cheaper and cheaper. It was well put when you said companies are more focused on quantity instead of quality. It is true that it all comes down to greed, these are huge companies with stores all over the world that produce very large quantities of clothing for very low prices. These companies failing quality tests are probably the same companies that refuse to pay more for their products that are being produced in Bangladesh causing strikes. The textile and apparel industry is getting a little out of hand, we need to step back and focus more on our morals and what is ethical as human beings. It is not ethical to make clothing that does not pass quality tests and then try to sell it without anyone finding out. Some of the brands that failed the quality test were surprising to me such as Marc by Marc Jacobs and Lanvin. It also makes me think that their are double standards. Would these products have been acceptable to put out on clothing stores in the US? Probably not. Since it is a foreign country are these huge companies trying to get away with it? I think we all need to take a step back and realize that it is unethical and not right to put out products like these, even if you will make a lot of money from doing so.

  2. It’s crazy to think how many brands had apparel fail the quality test. I’m curious if something went wrong in the factories and if these companies were all made from the same factory. In class we talked about the textile sector/industry, which could have had something to do with this problem. The textile industry deals with fibers and yarns of finished products. This problem could have been because the textile and apparel industries in China are using cheap products and not being careful in the factories. I think about how horrible the working conditions are in the factories in China, especially from watching the movie “China Blue”, and it makes more sense as to why things can go wrong in the factories. They are paying their workers so horribly, so clearly they are not concerned with using higher quality products.

    1. good thoughts! The interesting thing is based on my personal shopping experience, those western branded clothing sold in Shanghai are sourced globally (i.e. they are not necessarily made in China). The retail price sometimes could be even higher than in the US–such as GAP. As my other reply, I wonder whether these western apparel companies are setting double standards in emerging markets–because of the lower local product standard. On the other hand, each country adopts its own product quality regulations, meaning more factors needs to put into consideration when a company enters a foreign market.

  3. I would like to know more about the quality testing process used by the city. The quantity of items tested and information on sampling is important. Also, how often is this testing done, and subsequently, is this testing able to give an accurate image of the manufacturer OVER TIME? From the above information, there is no way of knowing if these failures are recurring, or possibly the result of unpredictable variables unique to each batch. No details are given as to whether or not any products passed the testing, or if acceptable levels of nonconformity occurred. I have worked in quality control for a manufacturer for 6 years, performing inspection and maintaining records on our discrepant goods. In my experience, unusual circumstances can cause an entire batch of a product to fail, when previously hundreds upon hundreds of the same item were produced without a problem. My point here is that testing results can be misleading, and if this story is indicative of anything it may not necessarily be that these companies are producing inferior products, but that their internal testing is seriously lacking.

  4. You always post great articles regarding the textile and apparel industries, Sheng! I thought the top foreign brands in China/ overseas and at home would maintain the same quality level for their products, but I guess manufacturers will cut corners for overseas products when the regulations and laws are not enforced like they are in the U.S.

    I know many consumers in China enjoys foreign goods because of their quality and this quality issue with H&M, Forever21 and etc will affect the companys’ oversea market. Yes, the company itself should do something, but it is also an ethical issue with the contractors themselves. Businesses’ aim to make profits rather than losing money. If manufacturers start the production again and throw away the products with quality issues, they will be losing money. But on the other hand, sending out apparels with poor color fastness will harm the consumers as well. It is a vicious cycle between retailers, manufacturers and consumers.

    1. Another good perspective I didn’t think of. As you said, it is likely that compliance & lacking of quality control might also be a major cause of the problem. what interests me here, however, is that so many brands are involved and all of them are “foreign brands”.

  5. I am not surprised by this information. It seems like many companies, as discussed in class, are outsourcing their production to countries in order to save money on their production. If they used countries that are in the newer stages of development such as Bangladesh it is at a lower end of the market. A country like this may not have perfected technical aspects of their production and the products would be of lower quality. It seems to be a reoccurring theme that companies are trying to cut their costs in order to be more appealing to their customer so they are more likely to outsource to cheaper production facilities. These issues need to be addressed because if these results happened in the US the production facilities would be immediately held responsible. If I was a manager I would put regulations for quality into action and hold workers responsible. I would also train them on how to keep certain standards and have better quality production of garments.

  6. After reading this article I am surprised and not surprised at this information. I am not surprised at the brands such as H&M and Forever 21 because the merchandise in the store is priced at such an affordable price that consumers can not expect they are getting a garment that will last a lifetime. Companies such as American Apparel, Diesel, Lacoste, and Moussy I found surprising. Since these companies offer clothing at more expensive price points the quality of the merchandise should be consistent.
    The phenomenon within this article I think happens due to the fact that companies are focusing more on net sales and less on productivity. They want to increase their sales and try to bring down their costs of producing the goods but still sell at their anticipated price point.
    If products failed the quality test in the U.S the garment or multiple garments will be located and permanently fixed. Or in some cases that group of products will not be put on the floor to be sold.
    If I was the owner of the company I would get in contact with the factories making my products. In class we learned that most of companies know who their factory is but does not what goes on in it. So therefore I would contact my factory or I have to go there to check out the conditions and how my workers are working on my products. I would want every single one of my customers satisfied with their purchase every time they buy something from me.

  7. I agree with what everyone above had pointed out. I’m not surprised by some of the information given in this article, for brands such as Forever 21 and H&M are known to be inexpensive, and not of great quality. I personally rarely shop these stores because I would prefer to buy items that will wear well and last longer. It did not surprise me that the dyes and fibers used in some of their goods did not meet expectations.
    It does, however, surprise me that companies such as Diesel and Lacoste, who are typically known as higher priced, higher quality clothing brands, can produce and sell such poor quality items. It is alarming to find out that the color fastness in products manufactured by these companies was not up to par, because most people buy these brands because of the companies’ higher quality reputations. I would certainly not be very happy if I followed the care directions on my brand new Lacoste skirt, only to find that the dye ran, potentially ruining other clothes in the same load.
    The scary thing is that many of these brands clearly do not monitor the quality of their products, probably resulting in plenty of _ products making their way onto the sales floor. Quality control is so important, especially now-a-days, because most consumers want to buy at the very least decent quality clothing. If I owned the factories producing these items, I would surely find ways to ensure quality control.

    1. good point about the importance of quality control. Nothing could be worse for an apparel retailer than having its brand image ruined among consumers. However, sometimes companies would unethically take advantage of consumers if weak regulations are enforced (for example, the banking sector in the US ridiculously charged high interest rate for credit card users before the introduction of stricter consumer protection laws) . It may be the same case for this article. Product safety law in China is far from being perfect and Chinese companies themselves often produce low-quality goods. Probably this results in an illusion by these western brands that it is ok to sell poor quality clothing in China because of the local “business environment”… Hopefully, news report and media monitoring will nudge these companies.

  8. After reading the article above, I question whether or not these companies like H&M, Forever 21, Tommy H. & Marc by Marc Jacobs have the consumer in mind as the number one priority. With labor in foreign countries being cheaper, I understand why companies are reaching out to these manufacturers to produce these products. These companies want to ultimately make the biggest profit they can. When it comes to H&M and Forever 21, I understand that using foreign cheap labor in countries like China is necessary in order to keep the low budget shopper in mind, but for big brand names like Marc Jacobs and Tommy H, its surprising that they would rather use cheaper materials on there garments even when their considered a high end brand. Michelle David made a good point in her above comment, “Companies such as American Apparel, Diesel, Lacoste, and Moussy I found surprising. Since these companies offer clothing at more expensive price points the quality of the merchandise should be consistent.” These higher end brands have matched an image with their consumers, which has set the particular standard for their clothing. These higher end companies are known for better quality goods, which is why consumers pay more for these items.The phenomenon within this article is happening due to the fact that companies are starting to focus more on sales and bigger profits rather than their consumers satisfaction on what they are producing. In a world where retail competition is becoming more intense, sometimes the focus is shifted in the wrong way. Hopefully, with proper adjustments these companies can gain the trust back from consumers to expect to get the quality of goods in which they are spending money on.

    1. good comment. another idea just came to my mind after reading your comment: when entering an unknown foreign market, how to “control” the business (including things like product quality, brand image and customer service) becomes even more challenging. To certain extent this is the same problem in nature as the fire accident in Bangladesh.

  9. I am not surprised at all about this article concerned with failing quality tests. A couple of the companies mentioned above, such as h&m and Forever 21 are fast fashion and relatively cheap. Most consumers should know they get what they pay for, and should know the quality of these items not to be the best. Quality standards differ in each country do to different regulations in climate and other factors. I have noticed that in the US there will be a tag on jeans, for instance, stating that the color through the dying process might rub off or fade. The tag even goes into detail about washing the jeans before wearing with like colors or separately.

    It does surprise me however that a known brand name such as “Diesel” who campaigns “for successful living” have shirts that fade quickly to light. Or another brand like “Jack and Jones” who sell to multiple countries have t-shirts that are prone to sweat stains. Jack and Jones shirts are also made to look sporty and be comfortable, and are “indispensable part of every guys wardrobe”

    If I was the owner it would be tough to respond to this situation. Again, there are many different regulations and its hard to meet each and every one. That means there has to be more tests done and more research. It is tough but if you want to sell to other places, unfortunately it must be done.

    In conclusion I am not really surprised.

    1. great comments! One point you mentioned is quite important actually: the product safety standards vary among countries (markets) which make it quite challenging for companies to fully comply each of them. This is also a type of trade barrier which is usually called “technical barrier of trade or “TBT”. For some on-going trade agreement such as the TPP and TTIP, they also set the goal to enhance “regulatory coherence”, so that those trade related regulations are identical in different market.

  10. Though this article mainly talks about brands in China, the brands mentioned are also widely purchased here in the United States. I can’t help but wonder if theses same quality assurance tests are performed on the clothing here in America, and if so, what were the results? Since we all know fashion is ever changing and rapidly evolving, the nature of the industry creates an environment of fast fashion. This causes us to buy cheap, trendy, items and if they are poorly assembled, we can just throw them away once they start to come apart (sometimes after the first wear). Although I don’t think society as a whole will come away from the “fast fashion” model anytime soon, I do believe investing a few more dollars for higher quality in certain items. Items such such as jeans, that are worn frequently would be worth spending more on to avoid so much turnover in our own closets, and also allow us to keep our clothing items for a longer period of time before disposing of them.

  11. I am not surprised whatsoever about the information in this article, after having purchased and worn many items that either fall apart, bleed on my skin, or fade easily. Like Paige mentions, these are cheap and trendy clothes that in a year or so, you wouldn’t want to wear anymore because they will be out of style. Why spend more on an article of clothing that you will not want to wear past its life expectancy anyway? This is why companies such as American Apparel and Diesel are thriving. Their customers are young adults and teenagers that want to be up-to-date with clothing but simply do not have the money to buy high-end clothing that will not have quality issues. That is the price they are paying for these garments, and they correspond with the garments quality.

  12. I am not surprised by this article either. From my own personal experience with clothing from H&M I was dissapointed with the quality. My clothes from there have bled and shrunk in the wash, shrunk in the dryer and even began to fall apart after putting them in the washing machine for the first time. I do not buy clothes from there anymore because I believe its a waste of money. When I did have clothes from H&M I would have to hand wash and hang dry the garments in order to make them last a few more wears. Even though their prices are very inexpensive I still dont think the clothing is worth it. If I were the owner of one of these companies I wouldn’t continue my business with these factories if their quality did not improve. It is a turn off to consumers wich results in a loss of profit.

  13. I am not surprised by this article either, like many others. I have purchased clothing from many of these stores and its quite obvious that they are made with very cheap material. Usually these types of trendy clothes rip or tear along the seams. Or sometimes the clothing will bleed, fade or shrink in the wash. I feel like since these clothes are made for very cheap in developing countries, this is the type of products we are going to receive for such a cheap price.

  14. After reading this article, two things quickly come to my mind. The first is the idea of “fast fashion.” Trends come and go so quickly that companies, such as Forever 21 and H&M, try their best to stay on trend and quickly have their product on their sales floors as soon as possible for their customers, and then just as quickly have their stores replenished with the following newest trend. These clothes are cheap, and I believe that they are made with no expectation of lasting very long. I know that I don’t go into Forever 21 and purchase a $10 skirt in hopes that it will last me for years, or that if I’m lucky it will last me more than two or three wears at most before color fading or ripping. I think that the companies might think the same way too, they have to know that their products are not made to last. The second thought that comes to my mind is the competitive global marketplace where the consumer is always trying to buy their stuff at the lowest possible cost. If we as an economy are constantly trying to save the most money by outsourcing and manufacturing our goods where they will be the cheapest, then what can we expect other than low quality product?

    I am shocked, however, about brands such as the mentioned Lacoste and Lanvin having poor quality. People who are shopping these labels are obviously spending the extra money with expectations to have an item that was made to last for a pretty long time, not a cheap item from Forever 21 or H&M. This goes back to my previous comment about people wanting to save money and skimping on manufacturing- companies want to be efficient and have cheap production to save money too. I agree with many students who also commented on this blog post- this comes from greed because it is all about the money. I would be very upset if I spent hundreds of dollars on a Lanvin blouse only to find out that the color bleeds and the fabric is of poor quality resulting in a rip. It’s just not fair to the people willing to spend more money to have a good quality, lasting piece of clothing.

  15. I am not surprised by this article. I own items from a lot of these brands and have noticed the poor quality in their products and the difference over some time. I feel as though many companies now are more concerned with making more money than providing quality items for their customers; I have stopped purchasing from some of these stores because of this reason. Although, it is surprising to know that some of the “higher end” brands are having issues with their testing. I think this is something that companies need to be more careful and concerned about, rather than just trying to put more garments on shelves.

  16. Most people aren’t aware of how many brands fail the apparel test each and every day. In class we focused alot on the textile sector in the apparel industry and this could have a major factor in the problem or situation. The textile industry has to do with textiles and fibred and their role in the apparel sector. This problem may or may not have spread from China and the fact that they used cheap labor and horrible conditions and were not being careful or safe in the factories. It is very evident why the working conditions in these factories were so horrible because of documentaries in several movies I saw with visuals of these factories. The workers get paid such low wages that they are not interested in using higher and better quality products.

  17. After reading this article it gives proof that a lot of brands are changing, and not for the better. Thy are getting cheaper with quality which makes the price not worth buying. I believe the stores that are considered fast fashion like H&M and Forever 21 have poor quality is because they expect consumers to keep buying more and more clothes. They are assuming that consumers buy for cheap know they are poor quality but they can buy a new one with the new different shipment. However, the brands that are a little more expensive like juicy couture and Marc by Marc are making cheaper quality to try and fit some consumers needs.

  18. Quantity or quality?? No I do not think so? I think that this is a wake up call for businesses. Just because you can get more bang for your buck is not ok. Things and productions are obviously cheaper in other countries especially china. Is a company going to risk the reputation or money to have a successful business.

  19. For a few of the brands listed, I am not surprised that they do not pass standard apparel tests. For example, H&M, Forever 21, and American Apparel sell clothing that is cheap, and almost disposable. The prices at these stores are extremely low, which is good for consumers, but it is bad at the same time because they do not last. We preform fabric tests in TMD313, and it is interesting to see that the clothes we are familiar with undergo the same exact tests. I think that companies can get away with this because as long as what they are selling is trendy and affordable, many consumers do not care about the quality, nor do they consider how long the item will last them. I do not think that there would be much of a backlash if these companies failed tests in the home market because of the need for fast fashion. As an owner of one of these companies, I would definitely express my concern and my intent to better the quality of my product, though I am not sure that owners would follow up on that promise. If consumers are buying their product already, why spend more money to better the quality? However, I am a bit surprised about brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Marc Jacobs failed tests but (in my opinion), those brands have been lowering their prices and reaching out to a crowd that does not spend as much money on clothing.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: