The True Meaning of FASH455 (Global Apparel and Textile Trade and Sourcing)


I encourage everyone to watch these two short videos, which provide a great summary of FASH455 and remind us the true meaning of our course.

First and foremost, FASH455 is not designed to be a course which just technically talks about textile and apparel (T&A) trade and how to source T&A products. Yes, from various trade theories, evolution pattern of the global T&A industry, T&A regional production and trade network to the flying geese model, we do cover a lot of factual knowledge and theories in FASH455, because this is a highly professional area. But please keep in mind that the vision and perspective set for FASH455 are much higher and critical, that is:

  1. What role can the textile and apparel industry play in building a better world—how to reduce poverty, achieve economic growth, promote human development, enhance sustainability and contribute to world peace and security?
  2. What does it mean as a FASH major (as well as a college graduate)? What can we positively contribute to the world we are living today?

By the same token, I hope students realize that the most meaningful thing you can take away from the course is a fresh new way (perspective) of looking at the world and recognizing the critical 21st century global agendas that are closely connected with our T&A industry. For example:

  • How to more equally distribute the benefits & cost of globalization among different countries and groups of people?
  • How to make sure that tragedies like the Rana Plaza building collapse will never happen again?
  • How to make international trade work better and more effectively lead to economic growth and human development? 
  • How to achieve sustainability while develop the economy? To which extent shall we renovate the conventional growth model?
  • How to use trade policy as a tool to solve some tough global issues such as labor practices and environmental standard? 

For many of these questions, there is no good answer yet. But they are waiting for you, the young professional and new generation of leaders, to find an answer and write the history, based on your knowledge, wisdom, responsibility, courage and creativity!

What do you take away from FASH455? Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments.

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

44 thoughts on “The True Meaning of FASH455 (Global Apparel and Textile Trade and Sourcing)”

  1. I really loved most of the topics we learned about in this class and these two short videos I also really enjoyed. Both of these videos makes you think about where the garments we wear everyday really come from. It allows us to see how it effects the third world countries around the world because these are the individuals making our clothes. Additionally, it is essential for us to realize that these people are normally working in low wage jobs in conditions that are not great whatsoever. It is sad to think, but after taking this class has made me realize it more. I really love learning about how multiple countries collaborate to make one product and seeing how everything traces back like the second video shows. What I will definitely take away from this class are the important factors that go into the workers in the factories like Rana Plaza, poort working conditions, low pay, and no benefits. Something else that will stick with me is thinking more about where my clothes come from when I buy them. This is obviously something I never think about but I will next time I buy something new!

    1. Glad to know 🙂 Also, I hope students can see the connection of the world today through our class. Just like TPP–it is a global game, from US yarn manufacturers, Mexican apparel manufacturers, to their competitors in Vietnam, China and Japan…

  2. The second video was really cool to see. Especially having interned at an international clothing and accessories retailer, it was really interesting to get even a sliver of visual insight into what actually happens from when we place orders at factories overseas to it getting into customers’ hands. With all that goes into it, it seems like a miracle that things actually operate and function properly/ as efficiently as they do. Overall, I can confidently say that I have gained a wealth of knowledge as a result of taking this course with you as the professor. Though I do know it, I sometimes forget the vast implications that all of our actions have in the industry, and therefore how strong of an impact we can truly have on peoples’ lives. Watching all of the documentaries/ short videos that we did really helps to feel actually connected to the situations that we can impact rather than it just being words in a text book that kind of go in one ear and out the other. I feel the way we have discussed and learned things makes more of a lasting impression than I can say for many other classes. I also leave this class really wishing, even more so than before, that other people were able to better understand that the fashion industry isn’t all about expensive clothes, subjective creative projects, and anything else that makes people think our major is less than it is. It would be awesome if one day the word fashion was not synonymous with any of those things.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment!
      PS: the second video was produced by the World Trade Organization. Like you, I also feel very impressed by its way of showing how global the supply chain has become, how inter-connected we are in today’s global economy and how trade can play a critical role in creating jobs and promoting economic growth across the whole supply chain.

  3. Prior to taking FASH455, I was unaware of the impact that the global market had on the United States T&A industry. In addition, I believe that I have learned much more about the global fashion industry and the role that it plays in our everyday lives that before I began this class. As a FASH major, I am aware that the T&A industry is one of the largest in the world, and it has the ability to help aid developing countries, and our relationships with foreign countries. As we have discussed in class during our Case Study, many people are unaware of where there clothes are produced, and many are unaware of the impact that they have on the lives of workers in foreign countries, and the industry as a whole.

  4. I did not realize until after watching these two videos and from our last few assignments that so many people’s jobs, families, and every day lives rely on textile and apparel industry and are greatly impacted by it. Every move they take affects and shapes all different countries markets and economies. But eventually just the idea and production of one good and the steps it takes when we place these orders like shown in the second video represents how even individuals (whether its their job or finances or living establishments) are influenced and shaped by the movement of just one good. Its more than just the time that it takes to make these products but what steps and obstacles that are needed to overcome when companies are working in a global setting. It was also great to see how foreign companies collaborate in the T&A industry, which why there will always be continual changes and efforts made in production and manufacturing of international goods.

  5. These two videos really put into terms some of the topics we have covered throughout the semester. Towards the end of the video it says that understanding the risks to the extreme poor is very important in seeing trades full potential. I believe this is completely true. It is understanding what is going on across the boarders of the United States and seeing where our products that we use on a daily basis, as consumers, come from. The topics we discussed in class really has given me a new understanding what kind of role trade plays in our world.

    I think back on one of the first videos we watched in the beginning of the semester where it showed one object and basically how it was passed all over the world to reach its final factory to be finished. This is what the second video above kind of shows. It’s interesting how our world revolves around trade. This class has shown me and I look forward to seeing how trade evolves as time goes on.

  6. Both videos were a great way to sum up what we have learned throughout FASH 455. From these videos and in class discussions its crazy to see how much these peoples lives depend on the textile and apparel industry. It shows how much people in the U.S. take for granted. These people work twice as hard as us and barely get by. This video also showed how crucial it is for countries to be able to be connected to global markets as step to get them out of poverty. In addition to this video, it was great to learn about issues throughout the world. The case study in regards to Bangladesh was really eye opening and made the class truly think of ways to prevent poor working conditions like these from continuing to happen. We were able to put ourselves in the shoes of a worker in Bangladesh, as well as in other countries and see what issues need to be changed. Overall FASH 455 was a great learning experience and opened my eyes to the textile and apparel issues happening around the world.

  7. I thought FASH455 was a refreshing learning experience because it helped to educate us all on the global textile and apparel industry. I learned so much more about current events and controversial fashion issues than I ever have in other fashion courses and I really enjoyed it. It is very important to be aware of the many case studies that we learned. I especially found the case studies revolving around Bangladesh interesting because I had no knowledge of the issues prior to this class. I also found the campaigns very interesting in the last case study and I plan to apply all of the knowledge I acquired in my next interview after I graduate. I appreciate how enthusiastic professor Lu is about the topics revolving around 455 and his encouragement to further our knowledge about global trade.

  8. If the goal of this course was to leave students with a new perspective on the global industry of textiles and apparel consider it a success. Not only did this course educate me more thoroughly on various topics and trade policies within this industry it lead me to think about each one in depth. Every aspect of this industry is ever changing and recently more rapidly. The whole industry will soon take a change into adapting more and more technology and new regulation will have to be put in place to not only protect these policies but to make sure it remains safe and fair to all parties involved. Just as in the past many laws and policies have had to been established with the new wave of technologies being brought into this industry newer laws and policies ill need to be worked out to maintain the same structures.

  9. I think this course has been a great supplement to my summer and experience in Cambodia. I was able to see first hand of the textile and apparel industry. Taking this course after this experience made me learn so much and understand how the industry works a lot more! One thing I didn’t know before was how collaborated counties are. Not everything is made in China- from fibers to the final product, clothing is made everywhere around the world. Now, I have to go back to Southeast Asia with the information I gained and my new point of view.

    The two videos above makes you really think about where your clothes comes from. It gives you an incite of what is really going on in these third world countries. We wear clothing made by extremely underpaid people who work in extremely poor conditions every single day without thinking about it. Rana Plaza is just one of several awful tragedies that has occurred due to our demand of fast fashion.

    One thing that I ALWAYS check now is where clothing is made (on the tag). This makes me think more about who is making this clothing and under what conditions they’re working in. Ever since I learned about what happened in Rana Plaza, I have NOT bought any garments “Made in Bangladesh.”

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment! Please continue to consider garments “Made in Bangladesh”. As we explored through the case study, “leaving” Bangladesh is a simple choice but not the best solution. We want to fix the problem not avoid it. This is why organizations like the Alliance, the Accord and many others are making efforts to improve the CSR practices in Bangladesh. But I agree the whole society shall become more aware of these critical issues associated with our sector.

  10. I took away a lot of new knowledge after this semester in FASH455. I knew that sourcing was an important component of the product development lifecycle, but was not completely aware of the major impacts. I did not know all of the various theories and how they come into play in this area. It also opened up my mind to current events within the fashion industry. As a fashion student, it is imperative to understand these current events and how they can affect our businesses and jobs today. Our case studies also helped us think more in detail and apply what we had learned all semester in these kinds of applications. Overall, I am truly walking away with more knowledge on the sourcing sector of this industry, which is what I wanted to accomplish in the beginning of the semester.

  11. After taking this class and covering topics that I have never learned about before, I now realize truly how influential and impactful the T&A industry is. The case studies and videos especially made me feel the connection between what we were learning in the classroom and what’s going on in the world. I really enjoyed both of these videos, but particularly the second one. I enjoyed how the World Trade organization showed how global the supply chain is now, which has made connections between almost every country. I found it very interesting that throughout the semester we continued to learn more and more about what happens before we purchase an item of clothing. Being that it is one of the biggest industries in the developing world, the T&A industry really affects peoples lives overseas both for better and worse. Overall, I thought this class and these videos were very interesting and I now see the world in a different light.

  12. I think the most important thing I took away from Fash455 is that apparel is actually one of the first industries to enter a third world country and bring the country out of poverty. I think this information can be utilized in a way that could help the third world countries and solve the world’s economic problems, especially with the knowledge about the differences between the textile and the apparel industries. Textiles is usually a standardized product, it requires mass production, production can be automated, and it is capital and technology intensive. Therefore it is usually done by first world countries, because they have the capital to support it. The apparel industry is labor intensive, hard to be automated, there is lower entry barriers for businesses, and there is personalized demand. Apparel is also usually made by developing countries because they have the labor to support its production. With this knowledge, I think that both industries should be able to help each other in the global landscape, because there are specific requirements for each industry to survive.

  13. I feel that FASH455 has shown me how much of a global market the Textile and Apparel industry is and how it is imperative for the growth of the global economy. After learning about Rana Plaza, I feared that the T&A industry was causing more harm than benefits. However, after learning more in class about the global opportunities that have raised, I have seen the positive benefits. That being said, there is a constant struggle to please all sides of the situation and the global network is constantly changing and trying new policies to create a fair production and trading environment.
    The first video shows how the industry has positively affected individuals. A stay at home mother is now able to work and support her family in ways that she never thought was possible before. However, there are still issues of rural poverty, gender inequalities, informal work, and fragility and conflict. These reasons show how it is hard for third world countries to progress even with these new opportunities that have arisen. Therefore, it is important to promote the growth of a global economy because it will continually help third world countries.
    Furthermore, the second video shows a great visual representation of how the global economy works and how many people are involved in the chain of production. From the consumer, to the designer, to the entrepreneur, to the line worker, production worker, and etc. there is an endless list of people involved and a single product has the ability to affect a whole global chain. This shows how this course has emphasized the importance of global production and how each part is able to work together to create a successful outcome.

  14. FASH455 was a very informative and educational class. I have taken away many different aspects and different perspectives in the world of fashion. For example, in the first video it opens our eyes to the factor of poverty, gender and informality. In rural areas, it is a constant struggle to get the goods from these areas to towns. The women that work in these factories are typically underpaid with very low benefits. When buying a piece of clothing we rarely ever think of the circumstances it has come from, however after this class, Sheng Lu has opened the eyes of the uneducated, and lets me realize to appreciate the hard work that has gone into making a piece of clothing. Many of the case studies we did focused on these topics, which was very informative and i have taken away a lot. I will continue to spread my knowledge and inform others of this topic that should have more light on it.

  15. Through FASH455 I feel as though I have gained a better understanding of the world as a whole. Prior to this class I never thought about where my clothing was coming from. My views on production were very small-minded, and I thought that most of the apparel I wear and see came from factories with machines doing most of the work, rather than humans. This is very eye opening to me. Also, it is very interesting that the yarn-forward policy works as it does. The reason it is interesting is because typically Americans think that the ‘Made in America’ tag means that it is benefiting our country, which is true. However, apparel being made in other countries also could help our economy and American jobs because commonly the textiles for apparel comes from America. I am very fortunate to have taken this class and gained the knowledge about these important topics.

  16. FASH 455 has opened my eyes to what the fashion industry really is, and how complex it has become. Fashion is so much more than the clothes you buy, but more so about where they came from and how they were produced, and the process of the creation. Fashion also significantly effects, not only our country, but effects how globalization works. After this class, I will better understand where these garments come from around the world, its so much more than just a shirt on a hanger. I will think about these factors when buying from a fast fashion store. I wish everyone was this aware of the fashion industry in order for us all to support sustainable and ethical brands.

  17. In the completion of spring semester of junior year, I can honestly say that FASH455 has been one of the most informational classes I have taken to date. This is partly because of the content presented, the guest speakers we skyped with, and the many articles we read and discussed. More than that, I believe this class was so interesting to me because it was a topic I had never considered in the past. Many of the courses we take as undergraduate students at UD cover topics in which we have some type of knowledge or background for. This class is something I had never even thought about. It proposed many questions that keep my attention in the class. The case studies were interesting, and only furthered my curiosity. In the my future career, the lessons learned in FASH455 are definitely ones I will keep with me.

  18. After taking this course, I’ve realized what a huge part the T&A industry plays not just in America, but all around the world. It greatly impacts our economy on so many different levels. It affects a wide range of jobs that branch off of Textile and Apparel as well such as Merchandising and Design. This class has helped me grasp a better understanding of what process every T&A product goes through in order to become a finished product and be put into a retail store.

  19. The second video was really interesting to watch. It is amazing to see how the behind the scenes works for something people in the business do everyday. There are so many steps to the process of making and shipping garments that many people don’t even realize what has to be done before they can pick it up to buy in the store. This course has taught me a lot about global sourcing that I did not know before. I really enjoyed learning about it and it gave me a whole different perceptive especially when purchasing clothing and even fabric for my own designs.

  20. Before taking Fash 455 I was unaware of how much the apparel and textile industries effect the world economy. This class really opened my eyes to the importance of globalization, trade and trade policies. These two videos were both interesting. The first really shows how life-changing a factory in a developing country can be for families who are barely making ends meat. It is crazy how many people in villages ,such as the one showed, rely on these low paying jobs. The second video was fascinating to watch and it puts into perspective how long of a production process there is just for a pair of shoes! So many parts go into it and it is such a collaboration between all kinds of workers, levels of work, and countries. As consumers, I think we forget to think about where our shoes and clothes come from and who our business is effecting.

  21. As mostly everyone responded, I too agree that this course was one of the most informational and eye opening courses of my college career. It really opened up my eyes to all the efforts that go into making a simple product that most people in America take for granted. Before this course I viewed clothes with a fashion mindset. When I by clothes in a store I never thought further than whether I liked the product or not. After this course I have realized that there is so much more that goes into it. While I really liked the first video, however, the second video really caught my attention. The second video was a great visualization of the entire supply chain of manufacturing and selling goods. I really liked how it started off in the retail store and traveled backwards to show you all the components between selling and designing. From now on when I go shopping, I will keep the people in the factories who created all the parts and everyone else involved in the supply chain in mind.

  22. Without a doubt, FASH455 has give me a fresh new way of looking at the world. I remember watching the second video at the very beginning of the semester. When i first watched this video back in February, I was intrigued, and a bit overwhelmed, of all of the steps that go into creating a show. Now, when i re-watched the video, all I could think about the amount of jobs the fashion industry creates. Hundreds of jobs were responsible for the production of just that one shoe. It made me think of all of the textiles and apparel in made in the world… that A LOT OF JOBS.

    On the other hand, we have learned that there are downsides of the fashion industry. As the first video stated, 1 billion people still live on less that $1.25 a day, and maybe of those people work in factories. As we have learned in class, there are many different options when it comes to sourcing. I hope as I start my fashion career, I can contribute to fairer sourcing to eliminate the stigma of majority of clothing being made by factory workers making barely nothing an hour.

    1. very true! Fashion is a critical sector which plays a unique role in reducing poverty, generating economic growth, creating jobs and enhancing human development! We can do a lot to make it a better world!

  23. The knowledge I have gained in Fash455 is indispensable. Not only have I gained knowledge about trade and sourcing, but I also look at the textile and apparel industries in a different way than I had prior to taking this class. I now understand the true impact of the fashion industry worldwide which gives me a new outlook on the major as a whole and how little those around us know about it. As a Fash major learning about the current issues in the industry such as social responsibility or sustainability, and going into the work force shortly, students can work to improve these issues within companies. The positions we took on different case studies will help us to manage in the business world and be confident in the decisions we make. The textile and apparel industries affect the everyday lives of each person on this earth and understanding the different levels of impact will allow students to creatively improve conditions for people on each of these levels, whether they are factory workers in Bangladesh or professionals involved in sourcing decisions in large corporations.

  24. Firstly, The second video was an amazing way to view how much effort gets put into one simple product. I think we lose sight when we see products in the store, of their whole creation and past. I never used to think of the workers, machines and tariffs, until I was in this class. It’s truly amazing how much time and effort are put into treaties and how many opinions there are. I would come into the room during case study days with one thought in my mind, thinking I was completely right about the issue. I would leave with a million different thoughts in my mind about how it’s not black and white, their are so many options and so many people affected by the choice. Secondly, thank you for an amazing semester. I have truly learned a lot during this class and have a better understanding of trade agreements.

  25. Prior to taking Fash 455 I thought that globalization was bad and that the United States should manufacture and not outsource to other countries. I also felt that all cheap labor was unethical and I was wrong. Fash 455 painted a bigger picture about sourcing and the T&A industry. I learned that globalization and trade are essential components to our world. We need other countries for resources as well as a way to bring people together to learn new perspectives. I have learned that our country has embraces the soft-goods industry and that the textile and apparel industry are on different paths.

    1. Good to learn! As I mentioned in the review session, I hope this course can offer students new perspectives to look at the world. Some issues are more complicated and subtle than we thought, such as trade

  26. I really enjoyed watching these videos as well as taking this course as it helped me to understand what goes into making what may seem like a simple product. I feel like I have a better understanding and appreciation for this topic as well as globalization. In terms of trade policy, I was surprised that this was one of my favorite topics in class. I found it extremely interesting and I am not so interested in what is currently happening in trade and how it is benefiting not just the United States but other nations.

  27. I have learned more than I would have ever expected in this class. Coming into taking this course I was expecting it to not interest me, but as it went on I became more and more interested each class. I have gained more knowledge about trade and sourcing that I never was aware of. I have learned about the impact of the fashion industry on each country both positively and negatively. As a fashion major it has made me become more aware of what happens behind the scene of each garment that is being made. These videos were extremely interesting as well.

  28. I found it hard to watch the first video because it is a life that would be my worse nightmare. Many if not most of this workers grew up in these poor conditions and find themselves thankful if they are working in these terrible conditions. It is not only relatable to what we learned in class but also makes me want to make a difference. I remember reading a article in our 455 reading packet that talked about how 10 cents more on every garment makes a huge difference. It makes what we learn in your class so inspiring and so important to adapt into the companies we will work for. The knowledge of sourcing and trade has also gained me the internship I will have over the summer, and what I look forward to most is I will be spending part of it in morocco. This will even greater allow me to see all that I learned in 455. So, yes I would say this class has had great importance and impact on me!

  29. Before I taking this course, I didn’t realize how important the Textile&Apperal industry could be to the world. Like what you said, it could affect the poverty level of the country and could bring benefit to a country and could build relationships by building cooperation over businesses between two countries. Politics could also affect the fashion industry as well. For example, trade policy shift retailers mind of where to do business with and where to import or export from. Everything is so closely related to each other and we just didn’t pay attention to the effects before taking the class. Design and retail is not the only way to contribute to the industry. Working in a supply chain could also be very helpful. That might affect what I would do after I graduate. I also very enjoyed all the case studies we did, those are really helpful in building my knowledge about the industry

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