The Global Journey of a Marks and Spencer Wool Suit

english suit

global travel

An interesting BBC article describes the global journey of a Marks and Spencer (M&S) wool suit:

  1. The suit was designed by M&S in-house team in UK
  2. Wool that makes up the suit came from Australia
  3. Raw wool was shipped from Australia to China for topping.
  4. Wool top was shipped from China to Italy for dying
  5. Dyed wool was shipped from Italy to Romania to be spun into yarn
  6. Yarn was shipped to Yorkshire, UK to be woven into cloth
  7. Cloth was shipped from Yorkshire, UK to Cambodia to be made into finished suit
  8. Finished suit was shipped back to UK to be sold at M&S retail stores

As noted by the article, such a global-based production model for M&S’s suit is increasingly typical in UK. What makes the issue controversial, however is that, the suit is labeled as “100% British cloth”. As “defined” by M&S, “British cloth means it is woven, dyed and finished in the UK”.

Similar debates also exist in the United States. In the past, even if a garment was cut and sewn in California but made of imported items, the tag still had to say, “Made in USA of imported fabric, zippers, buttons and thread.” But a new law which takes into effect on January 1, 2016 allows California manufacturers to attach the “Made in USA” label as long as no more than 5 percent of the wholesale value of the garment is made of imported materials.

Discussion questions:

  1. What are the driving forces behind apparel companies’ global-based production model?
  2. Is the clothing label “Made in ___” outdated in the 21st century?
  3. Do you support the new law which allows apparel labeled “Made in USA” to contain certain value of imported material? Why? Do we need such a regulation at all? Why or why not?

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

23 thoughts on “The Global Journey of a Marks and Spencer Wool Suit”

  1. The driving forces behind apparel companies’ global-based production model are lower costs, technology advancement, economic development and lowered trade. This allows countries to buy, create and transport materials for cheaper than their country making them.
    The clothing label “Made in the ____” is outdated for the 21st century. It doesn’t necessarily give enough information to the consumer. Consumers want to know how their product was made, who made it and what conditions those people worked in. I’d prefer to pay more to buy something which was made in an ethical environment.
    I’m not sure how I feel about the new law. Maybe the label should tell where all the pieces of the fabric have come from. Yet, at the same time, barely anything is just made in one country now. If you consider embellishments, trimmings, and finishes, everything is made somewhere different. I think it just depends who you ask.

  2. 1. The driving force behind apparel companies’ global-based production model is the fact that each of these companies that helped to make the wool suit, specialize in the resources that they contributed. Additionally, it is economically advantageous for the suit to be constructed within these different countries due to the resources being cheaper in these specific countries.

    2. The clothing label “Made in ___” is outdated in the 21st century because realistically, it’s not true. I personally believe that if a label says “Made in USA”, that every thread of that garment should be created in the USA. On the other hand, I believe that because M&S specifies what exactly what “100% British cloth” means to them, they are being truthful when labeling their garments as “100% British cloth”.

    3. I do support the new law which allows apparel labeled “Made in USA” to contain certain value of imported material because 5% of an overall garment is really not a lot. If 95% of a garment is created in USA, I believe that it would be considered “Made in USA” rather than made in any other country. I do believe that this regulation is needed because it is not accurate to say a garment is “Made in USA” when, for example, 50% of the garment is created in China. It is important to regulate what is considered “Made in ___” and what is not, so that consumers like myself know exactly what we are purchasing, and what is considered made in a certain country.

  3. 1. The largest driving force behind this global-based production model is a combination of production expenses and quality. By shipping the product to China for topping, the production is done at a cheaper rate than it would be in the UK. This saves the company money, however moving the wool top to Italy for dying, will surely be more expensive but provide a much higher quality than if it was also dyed in China. The company is picking and choosing when to save their money and when its more important to splurge on higher quality production.
    2. I believe that the “Made in __” is not an outdated custom. Although it should more directly mirror how the product was actually manufactured. Some base their purchases on whether or not the product was made in their country, hoping to help their own economy. Knowing where a piece of apparel is made can directly effect many’s buying habits and I believe the consumer deserves to know where the product their buying was created.
    3. I do support the new regulation because then the consumer can confidently know their product was manufactured by the listed country by at least 95% of production. I think this is important because otherwise it can be very misleading and it can be like the map above and very little production can actually occur in the claimed country of origin.

  4. I believe that the driving forces behind apparel companies global based production model is the idea of each company contributing to the suit by using the most efficient and cost effective resources. By using different companies in different countries for each part of the suit they are able to save money while maintaing the quality of product. I think that the clothing label “Made in ____” is outdated for the 21st century because it is not entirely true. There should be more information on the label about where the product comes from other than just where it was manufactured. I do support the new regulation law because it allows the consumer to know where their product is 95% manufactured. This way there is less confusion about where exactly the product comes from.

  5. 1. The driving force behind the global-based production model is the need for resources from different countries. As mentioned, hard goods that contribute to the creation of a M&S suit come from all over the world. Without outside resources, the suit would not be made or sold.
    2. The label “Made in the __” is definitely outdated in the 21st century. Although it is still technically allowed to be put on garments, it doesn’t actually represent where the garment was made. With so many countries contributing to the overall creation of a garment, one place can’t be credited with making it. In order for something to truly be “Made in the USA,” for example, it shouldn’t consist of manufacturing components from other countries.
    3. I do support the new law because 5% of a garment is such a low amount compared to what is currently claiming to be “Made in the USA.” I think that it is important for us to put into act a law like this because we really can’t tell what country should receive the credit for creating a garment. By enacting this law, consumers will finally be able to trust the label on their clothing.

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