What Do You Take Away from FASH455?

I encourage everyone to watch the video above, which provides an excellent wrap-up for FASH455 and reminds us of the meaning and significance of our course. BTW, the names of several experts featured in the video should sound familiar to you, such as David Spooner (former U.S. Chief Textile Negotiator and Assistant Secretary of Commerce), Julia Hughes (president of the US Fashion Industry Association, USFIA) and Auggie Tantillo (president of the National Council of TextileOrganizations, NCTO).

First of all, I hope students can take away essential knowledge about textile and apparel (T&A) trade & sourcing from FASH455. As you may recall from the video, in FASH455, we’ve examined the phenomenon of globalization and its profound social, economic and political implications. We also discussed various trade theories and the general evolution pattern of a country’s T&A industry and its close relationship with that country’s overall industrialization process. We further explored three primary T&A supply chains in the world (namely the Western-Hemisphere supply chain, the flying geese model in Asia and the phenomenon of intra-region T&A trade in Europe). Last but not least, we looked at unique and critical trade policies that matter significantly to the T&A sector (e.g., U.S.-China tariff war, and the yarn-forward rules of origin) as well as the complicated factors behind the making of these trade policies. No matter your dream job is to be a fashion designer, buyer, merchandiser, sourcing specialist or marketing analyst, understanding how trade and sourcing work will be highly relevant and beneficial to your future career given the global nature of today’s fashion industry.

Second, I hope FASH455 helps students shape a big-picture vision of the T&A industry in the 21st-century world economy and provides students a fresh new way of looking at the world. Throughout the semester, we’ve examined many critical, timely and pressing global agendas that are highly relevant to the T&A industry, from apparel companies’ social responsibility practices, the debate on the textile and apparel provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA or NAFTA2.0) and Trump Administration’s trade policy agenda to the controversy of used clothing trade. It is critical to keep in mind that we wear more than clothes: We also wear the global economy, international business, public policy and trade politics that make affordable, fashionable, and safe clothes possible and available for hardworking families. This is also the message from many of our distinguished guest speakers this semester, and I do hope you find these special learning events enlightening and inspiring.

Likewise, I hopeFASH455 can put students into thinking about the meaning of being a FASH major/minor(as well as a college graduate) and how to contribute to the world we are living in today positively. A popular misconception is that T&A is just about “sewing,” “fashion magazine,” “shopping” and “Project Runway.” In fact, as one of the largest and most economically influential sectors in the world today, T&A industry plays a critical and unique role in creating jobs, promoting economic development, enhancing human development and reducing poverty. As we mentioned in the class, globally over 120 million people remain directly employed in the T&A industry and a good proportion of them are females living in poor rural areas. For most developing countries, T&A typically accounts for 70%–90% of their total merchandise exports and provides one of the very few opportunities for these countries to participate in globalization. Indeed, T&A is such an impactful sector, and we are as important as any other majors on the UD campus!

Last but not least, I hope from taking FASH455, I hope students will take away meaningful questions that can inspire their future study and even life’s pursuit. For example:

  • How to make the growth of global textile and apparel trade more inclusive and equal?
  • How to make sure tragedies like the Rana Plaza building collapse will never happen again?
  • How will automation, AI and digital technologies change the future landscape of apparel sourcing, trade, and job opportunities?
  • How to use trade policy as a tool to solve tough global issues such as labor practices and environmental standards?
  • Is inequality a problem caused by global trade? If global trade is the problem, what can be the alternative?

These questions have no good answers yet. But they are waiting for you, the young professional and the new generation of leaders, to write the history, based on your knowledge, wisdom, responsibility, courage, and creativity!

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

Dr. Sheng Lu

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

40 thoughts on “What Do You Take Away from FASH455?”

  1. FASH455 definitely broadened the horizon of my thinking, especially when it comes to the Textile and Apparel Industries. As we have discussed thoroughly in class, nothing about policy making is simple, as there are always implications that go further than expected. I think that upon discussing this and looking at all possible angles has instilled in me to continue to do this when I am thinking about the Textile and Apparel Industry or anything that has a global implication. This has been my favorite part of the semester, as I know it has instilled in me the push to apply this to other aspects of my life and of my studies.

  2. FASH455 allowed me to truly understand the tariff war that is going on between China and the U.S., it taught me the difference between the U.S. textile and apparel industry and the U.S. fashion and apparel brands and the reasons they have different viewpoints on exports and it taught me history of companies that I would not have known before. I feel as if this class gave me a true insight on the textile’s trading world and all that really goes into it. I really never knew how complicated it all was until this class. Every case study taught me new information in which I know I can use in my future and even when making decisions with politics. It allowed me to think differently than I had before on the way the U.S. and other countries trade.

  3. FASH455 has certainly given me a new perspective of the textile and apparel industry. Before taking FASH455, I did not understand the implications that the T&A Industry has on other aspects of the world we live in. For example, after learning about the Rana Plaza tragedy, I was able to understand that manufacturing textiles and apparel does not simply impact companies producing it or consumers purchasing it, but also workers manufacturing it in developing countries. I learned that the T&A industry does not only affect our economies but also calls attention to issues surrounding social responsibility, trade agreements and globalization.

  4. How to make sure tragedies like the Rana Plaza building collapse will never happen again?
    In order to ensure tragedies like Rana Plaza do not occur again, it is vital to ensure that strict regulations to enforce these rules. Factories much be under a watchful eye from corporations who are assigned to specifically ensure that companies are abiding by rules for their employees. Another precaution I learned this semester was anonymous surveys employees partake in which gives a more helpful way for companies to make alterations, if they are contributing to poor working conditions. Furthermore, regular check-in’s for companies premises must occur to make sure facilities are in order and in good stable condition. Most importantly it is vital to get feedback from employees as their opinions are most relevant regarding this issue, and can be used to make the most change.

  5. Fash-455 has taught me so much about the global nature of the fashion industry. As illustrated in the video, cotton is often grown in one country, spun into yarn in another country, sent to a different country to be sewn and assembled, and then ultimately shipped somewhere else to be sold. This class has provided me with a much better understanding of trade policy and how government decisions play a critical role in shaping the future of our industry. As someone who is very passionate about sustainability, I enjoyed learning more about social responsibility through completing various case studies that had to do with sourcing and supply chains. Through taking this course, I have become much more knowledgeable about trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA, and I have stayed more updated on fashion industry current events than ever before. What I take away from this class is the importance of keeping myself updated on news in the industry. With the next election coming up, I will certainly be paying more attention to trade-related issues and will be able to use my knowledge from this class to take a stronger stance.

    1. great to learn this! Indeed, I hope next time when you listen to the presidential debate on trade, you can think of this class 🙂

  6. Fash 455 has thoroughly expanded my knowledge about global policy and trade. Trade policy and regulations were not something I ever thought about, when I bought an item from China I simply believed it was packaged up and shipped off. I had no idea about all of the tariffs and trade regulations on apparel. It is interesting for me to realize that as a fashion student I had never really thought about the process of bringing and apparel piece to market. Since my goal is to be a buyer, I thought the focus on a garment was after it was brought to market and determining whether or not to buy it. However after this class I can see a lot more time, money, and resources are devoted to textiles before they even become apparel. While I may get my shirt that I ordered online from China in a week, policy makers have spent years on creating the trade regulations that allow me to buy that shirt from China. I am slightly embarrassed on how little I knew about trade but am also glad I was exposed to it in so many ways. Watching the news about the China Trade war I always dismissed it as Trump being stubborn and ignorant for there not already being a resolution. Although this may be a large part of the case, I learned that trade negotiations last a very long time. There not only has to be an agreement between both countries, the textile and apparel industries must also both be satisfied. Although profit and increased exports may seem like the goal of everyone, it is not. There is a fine line where a balance can be achieved in trade negotiations, and this is what policy makers spend so long working towards. Now when I order something from a different country I won’t just wonder why my order is taking so long to come, I’ll think about where it started from where the fibers were sourced, to the cut and sew, and the final finishes.

  7. After taking FASH 455 I definitely have a better understanding of how trade works in the textile and apparel industry. Before this class I never really thought about the global trade aspect of buying clothes, I just thought the clothes were designed and made and then we went to the store and bought them. This class has given me knowledge on very important topics in the industry such as the U.S. China Tariff War, Brexit, trade agreements, and labor conditions in other countries. These will all be very important topics to know about when I get a job in the fashion industry. Even though I most likely will never work with trade or textiles, it will still be a part of my job in some way. I also liked the way the class was taught by encouraging us to discuss and read about these topics rather than being constantly tested on this material, I think I was able to absorb the information much better this way.

  8. FASH455 has taught me to understand that not every question has an answer. A professor Lu says often “Sometimes the question itself is more important than the answer”. Understanding and evaluating the big picture allows you to keep questioning yourself on how to improve and to see other people’s perspectives. By answering one question you might develop a whole other question that is still just as important. It was great to see the politics involved in the fashion industry because it’s not as commonly talked about as it should be. I never understood the impact fashion really does have around the world. So many jobs it creates as well as how difficult it is to manage. Globalization absolutely impacts everyone, sometimes good sometimes bad just like everything else. It was great to get a bigger picture of how jobs are affected, how people are affected, and how communities can be affected. There is never a quick answer to globalization but I believe that is what makes it so unique and why professor Lu strives to push his students to think of new solutions. He is truly passionate about this course and his students. So glad I was able to have this class with such an impressive and hardworking professional.

  9. As a business major, I decided to take FASH455 to satisfy my breadth requirements and am happy that I decided to. As someone who has always been interested fashion, I found this course interesting to explore the many issues plaguing the fashion industry today. In my other international business course, I had learned about the dangers of fast fashion but never in the depth and width that we studied it in this class. Going forward, I feel that I am more educated on our current events, and the complexity of many of the issues plaguing the fashion industry. I also will do my best to continue to be educated on these issues after class, and more mindful about the companies I shop and support.

  10. Since taking FASH455, I have become more aware of how the apparel and textile industry is intertwined with politics. Before taking this class, I thought the main issues of fashion were centered around sustainability. However, as we discussed trade, tariffs, and quotas, I realized the textile and apparel industry is a major topic of discussion for our government.

  11. FASH455 has certainly been the most influential course I’ve taken this semester. As a business major with a fashion minor, I didn’t always quite know where I fit in with the fashion department but this course demonstrated just how interconnected these two disciplines are. Before this class, I never realized just how global the T&A industry truly is in nature, from the spinning of the yarn to the sewing of the garment to the marketing of the garment. The impact of this industry on the global economy is so interesting to me because it is so significant, yet most people aren’t even aware of it. This industry is capable of influencing trade policies, creating employment, and driving economic growth, in addition to impacting communities in a negative way, such as Rana Plaza. This course has demonstrated just how complex textile and apparel truly is, from social responsibility to sustainability to making trade policies. FASH455 has opened up a new curiosity for finding solutions to global issues in the T&A industry and I am excited to continue to explore these topics in the future.

  12. Throughout my four years at Delaware, I think FASH455 is one of the most important fashion classes I have taken. The way the textile and apparel industry interconnects with so many regions is something that makes the field affect so many from cotton farmer, to labor worker, to apparel wearer. I wish that the idea of learning about global apparel and textile trade and sourcing could be incorporated into a freshman level course so by the time students are seniors they can understand the way the industry changes so quickly. FASH455 has helped me to understand that tariffs and trade policies are an extremely important part of the fashion world. Merchandising, buying, and design seem to be the occupations that fashion majors are often led to, but learning about the possibilities to help move the industry in a positive direction with trade and sourcing excites me.

  13. Before FASH455, I was very in the dark about the textile and apparel industries involvement in trade and sourcing. This class was extremely out of my comfort zone but by having such a great professor, I was able to gain a lot of knowledge I can now use towards the future in my career. I learned about the large impact globalization has on the textile and apparel industry and how it is nearly impossible to stop it. In this class, we analyzed many case studies which was a new learning skill for me to adapt to. Through these case studies, we learned about trade theories, real life events that happened around the world, like the Rana Plaza Tragedy, that impacted the textile and apparel industry as a whole and we got to read many examples that explained what we could do in the future to help our industry. One of our biggest topics was the trade war happening between the United States and China. One of my favorite things about this class is that we talk about current events like this trade war. If it wasn’t for this class, I probably wouldn’t have known what was happening around the world. This class makes you critically think about the future and how we, as future fashion industry leaders, can avoid these issues in the future.

  14. FASH455 was an eye opening class where we learned about many aspects of the Textile and Apparel industry, and how much this industry impacts the entire world. Through the use of case studies, lectures, and readings, as a class we discussed important issues such as globalization, trade agreements, trade theories and other topics related to the T&A industry. Looking at the textile and apparel industry requires a broader global perspective as there are so many factors that play a role in getting a product to the final consumer. One major lesson that stood out to me from this class is the importance of politics and the economy on the T&A industry. There is so much that goes on in Washington and around the world that impacts the price of the clothes that consumers purchase, and these impacts reach as far as China, Vietnam, Mexico, and many other places around the globe. Another lesson that resonated with me are the distinct differences of the US textile industry and the apparel industry. Before taking FASH455, I had always heard textile and apparel linked together, however this is simply not always the case. The textile industry and the apparel industry are vastly different in the ways their products are produced, where they are produced, their capabilities, and how their industry leaders view trade policy. Overall I believe that this class showcases the importance of trade and sourcing in the T&A industry, and that this field is critical to understanding the T&A industry as a whole.

  15. FASH455 definitely gained me more knowledge on the global textile and apparel industry and how important the fashion industry is to the world. I would say the most fascinating thing I learned about this industry is that it is so connected globally and every single change in one country may leads to different impacts on other countries or even the whole supply chain. I also was not aware of the fact that trade agreements and policies play such an influential role in the global fashion industry overall. Globalization truly has changed this industry a lot and we are expecting more changes to take place as policies and relationships between countries changes over time. FASH455 helped me gain more industry knowledge and make me realize that as a potential fashion industry professional, there are things I need to do to help this industry grow and prosper.

  16. My biggest takeaway from FASH455 was the value of understanding global trade and economics for their relevance in other areas of fashion. For example, social responsibility and trade are tightly connected and to effectively make a changes in the ethics of the industry requires precise knowledge of the more numbers and business side. Without understanding the business impacts of an action that you might think is ethical, you could end up negatively impacting far more people. For example, when we talk about automating there is often a negative connotation. We think that automation steals jobs from many workers. While this is true, the workers who are able to remain are given a much better quality of life. Conversely, avoiding automation could end up with workers being forced into unfair and unsafe working conditions to achieve comparable rates of production. What was once cut and dry has many more outcomes, and each of them has their own pros and cons.

  17. The T&A industry is a fascinating sector as it has numerous aspects of intrigue. In my opinion, trends in the economy such as globalization and technological reforms affect the T&A industry. For example, globalization has enabled various designs and techniques to be shared across great geographic distances. It is good strategizing to remain up to date with industry trends, and topics such as politics are likely to affect he sector. While a lot of people may not think T&A, I believe it was good that DR. Lu emphasized that this industry is more than just sewing, fashion shows, and magazine spreads.

  18. Personally, the biggest help from Fash455 for me is that I begin to follow the political news and trade news, and also started to get used to watching the global news in daily life. I’ve never been interested before because I felt they were far away from my life. However, as a student in the fashion industry, and also will work in this field in the future, I know I should learn about more trade and sourcing because any policy in any country probably has an impact on apparel prices in another country. For example, Market uncertainties caused by Brexit. The US-China trade tariffs increase U.S. clothing prices. In addition, due to the globalization, T&A industry affects the work and life of each of us, and even our lives. We need to improve the transparency of the supply chain to ensure the safety of every worker in the T&A industry. We need to provide equal employment opportunities to keep social stability. The fashion industry is not just producing and merchandising clothes, we could change a lot because of our contribution.

  19. FASH455 is a course completely unique to the curriculum that we as fashion students take at UD. It takes current events such as the U.S.-China trade war, and applies it to how we would actually see it affect us in our careers. My biggest takeaway from this class is that there is very rarely a completely correct answer to solving any problem that will please everyone when it comes to global trade, and that compromise is a valuable tool. I am eager to see the future of this industry, as we are clearly on the brink of a lot of big changes especially in regards to sourcing and manufacturing.

  20. By taking FASH455, I have gained a whole new perspective of the textile and apparel industry. I have learned so much relating to how globalization affects both the textile industry as well as fashion brands and retailers but in a completely different way. I was also able to takeaway knowledge on current events, such as the U.S.-China trade war and learn how fashion companies plan to cope with the negative implications it will have on U.S. retailers. Lastly, this class has shown me how globalization can not only affect the T&A industry, but it also affects consumers like me. This class has majorly broaden my horizon when it comes to understanding the fashion industry, as it is not always as glamorous as it may seem. I definitely am curious to see what happens in the future for this industry, especially after we elect a new president.

  21. As a fashion major I have always understood that the fashion industry is a global one. I have always noticed that many of my apparel items are tagged with the markings of their origins in other countries, however until this class, I never realized just how global the T&A industry is. It was extremely eye opening for me to learn how every step of the making of an apparel item can happen in a different country, but the finished item is only marked with the country that it is assembled in. It was also eye opening to learn the specifics of trade agreements and to learn the amount of people that are involved in making them. Through the case studies I was better able to experience what decision making is like in the industry and I was able to find my stance on important issues facing the T&A industry today. Going forth in my career I will be able to use these learnings in various aspects of my job. This course has given me a great foundation to grow from and I am excited to see where this information will help me in the future.

  22. The course, FASH455, has not only managed to provide me with a more globalized approach to the industry but it has opened my mind to the countless international relations that affect our industry daily. In my opinion, the most influential topic we have discussed and deliberated is that of the China-US Tarif War. Unfortunately, this was something I had slim to no understanding of prior to this course. I am so grateful to have not only developed a deep-rooted understanding of this policy but a newfound appreciation for the immensely difficult process in which policy reformation truly is. There have been countless other economic and societal events ranging from Rana Plaza all the way to expanding domestic production that this course has educated us students. I am beyond appreciative to have learned the long-standing history and economic grounds of the fashion industry (both internationally and domestically) and glad that I am more well-informed on the field in which I am pursuing a career in.

  23. After taking 455, I have gained so much knowledge on the globalization of the fashion industry. Within the industry, globalization is so critical, allowing production of apparel to be dispersed throughout various countries across the world. Throughout the semester, we discussed current issues such as trade theories and agreements through the use of case studies, lectures, and guest speakers. Prior to this course, I lacked knowledge on political and trade news, however, I have a gained a new perspective on the textile and apparel industry. I have been able to develop a much better understanding of how trade policies and government decisions play a critical role in shaping the T&A industry. Moving forward, I believe this course has allowed to become well informed as I pursue a career in the fashion industry. I highly suggest University of Delaware students majoring in Fashion Merchandising or not to take this course!

  24. FASH455 has taught me so much about the global aspect of trade and sourcing. Before taking this course, I was definitely not up to speed on the current trade war with China. This topic has been brought up in so many of my other business classes, as I am a marketing major. Since this course has tied into so many of my other major-specific courses, I would definitely recommend anyone to take this course. FASH455 has also helped me realize the importance of regulating clothing factories around the world and made me much more conscious about the impacts of trade on a global scale.

  25. I can honestly say I have enjoyed taking FASH455, I have learned so much to where I want to continue to be informed about macro issues around the world and how everything affects everyone. This class really help expand my knowledge in trade policies overall, it is a wonderful feeling to be able to have a legit conversation about world issues and state your opinion with solid information to back up your opinion. I 100% recommend taking FASH455, I have enjoyed learning about trade policies, global sourcing, tariffs, and even government decisions something I thought I would never enjoy. Amazing class to take! You literally have fun learning, the topics are too intriguing to not pay attention, you are learning without even realizing you are.

  26. After taking FASH455, I am truly inspired and I have 3 major takeaways. First one is that apparel and textile are actually two very different sectors within the fashion industry. Textile is capital-intensive and occur mostly in developed countries whereas apparel is labor-intensive and mostly in developing countries. Secondly, there are three major trading zones in the world (American, Asia, EU) and their trade pattern are very different due to the nature of the region.Lastly, trade agreements and policy create winners and losers at the same time, it is true for all things as well that there are always merits and demerits at the same time relating to one thing.

  27. I felt as though FASH455 opened my eyes to a lot of things that I didn’t previously know or fully understand. It’s extremely interesting to learn about the issues that are currently going on and how they have an affect all around the world rather than just to those directly involved. I took a lot from what we learned about the evolution of the Textile and Apparel industry and where it might be headed or where some people want it to head. Specifically, how some believe it should circle back to the U.S. which is ideal to become more self-sufficient. I also felt as though no one vocalizes just how helpful tariffs can be for underdeveloped countries and after reading our article that it made sense to me that they began to doubt supporting a change in removal of tariffs. Finally, I saw a benefit to tariffs & quotas and while they may difficult to navigate they seem to help the underdeveloped countries further themselves and get their foot in the door. I would recommend this class to anyone that has an interest in the current state of the fashion industry and would say that I have learned more than I anticipated.

  28. As an apparel design student, this class was both interesting and slightly challenging for me. We spend most of our four years only doing hands on assignments, rather than reading/research the merchandising side of the apparel industry. This class was insightful because it was 100% new information for me. I think I learned more in this class than any other in my four years here. I remember the first week of the course I didn’t even know what an overhead cost was, and now I’m reciting trade policies over the phone to my dad. I have really enjoyed my time in this course. Thank you!

    As my parting gift I will answer one last blog question,
    “How will automation, AI and digital technologies change the future landscape of apparel sourcing, trade, and job opportunities?”

    As automation and technology advance, this will increase the output rate of products within the T&A industry. Unfortunately it will always steadily decrease the need for manual labor, thus eliminating jobs for many people. More labor intensive facilities will suffer, as capital intensive facilities will prosper. It creates a sticky situation with many pros and cons for both sides. For example, a pro to automation is increased productivity but a con is that this encourages fast fashion/bad sustainability practices. I believe there needs to be a happy medium between technology and keep fashion practices rooted in its origins of manual labor. However, I don’t entirely have a solution right now. Hopefully my future career will allow me to research this!

  29. To my surprise Fash455 held more real world application than any of my other fashion classes. Before taking this course this semester, I had heard about the tariff war in China but had no clue how impactful and how complicated the issue really was. It was fascinating to learn how companies can adapt in response to so many changes and how they anticipate future changes. I always knew that the industry was constantly changing, but one must truly be adaptable when working in fashion business. I also learned just how dependent certain developing countries are on the apparel industry and how subtle changes in sourcing and tariffs can make or break an entire economy. This course has caused me to really pay attention to where my clothes were made and who it was likely made by, and taught me that the fashion industry has truly globalized our world and connected us all through apparel.

  30. FASH455 has been one of my favorite fashion classes that I have taken at UD. During this class I was able to learn about/ truly appreciate the global nature of the fashion industry. It would not be possible to have fashion without the whole world being involved, and that is why it is important to learn about the barriers to trading that are faced. I had heard a lot about the US-China tariff war in passing but I was not exactly sure what it all meant. I thought it was very interesting to hear from industry professionals about their opinion on the whole situation. Additionally, I had never really thought about how fashion companies will just find somewhere else to source cheaply from- and Vietnam was mentioned frequently which was not really a place I thought about as a producer of garments. Lastly, I had heard about the Rana Plaza incident on other classes but had not gone into detail. For me, I was most interested to hear that the factory manager was aware that there was something fundamentally wrong with the building but continued to have workers come into work because of the pressure to meet certain demands.

  31. Prior to taking FASH455, when I thought about fashion, all that really came to mind was fashion designers, luxury brands, fast fashion brands, and trends. Before this course I thought fashion was a pretty straight forward industry. Little did I know that fashion is really a huge global industry that involves strategic and critical thinking in terms of trade, sourcing, policy, and relations with other countries. In addition, I had no idea how many problems arise in the fashion industry and how the effects of such issues truly has a GLOBAL impact. I honestly didn’t know the fashion industry was that influential. Furthermore, I’ve always loved fashion and have always felt drawn to / fascinated by the study of economics. With economics being my major and fashion management being my minor, I was always worried about finding some way to connect the two when pursuing my career. However, this course made me realize how the two are truly integrated through trade policies, theories of international trade, and more. I have learned more valuable information in this course than any other course at UD.

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