Clothing manufacture in Australia includes ready to wear casual, formal, designer, sleepwear and underwear. Specialist items, such as uniforms, hospital gowns and masks, safety and disposable wear, are also manufactured in Australia.
By volume, businesses in the sector are most often small and rely on home-based ‘outworkers’. However, a number of large clothing manufacturers hold significant market share by value. Because labour is a substantial cost in clothing, manufacture off-shore competition is very high. This is a key economic sustainability issue for the sector and some businesses are moving the labour intensive parts of the process to countries with lower labour costs.
There are sustainability issues throughout the supply chain. There can be significant waste, including plastic, paper and cardboard used for packaging, and plastic and wire coat hangers. Social sustainability is a significant factor arising from the potential exploitation and of home-based workers and workers in developing countries who supply fabrics. Finishing processes may be applied to the fabric and/or assembled garments and can include chemicals used as fire retardants, anti-static or other treatments. Assembled garments will typically be washed or spot cleaned, dried and pressed and these consume energy and water.
The mix of sustainability issues will vary between sectors and enterprises. The mix might even vary between work processes in a business. It really depends on the context of market pressures, regulations and the steps that make up the daily routine. And how they all interact with the range of social, economic and environmental sustainability issues
There are many different ways to approach understanding the sustainability issues within a sector. Areas of research might include barriers to entry and expansion into markets, drivers of demand for services and products, geographic location, major markets and suppliers, technology and workforce demographics and skills profile.
Sources of information about the sector
Employment and occupations
IBIS World Industry Research Reports
IBIS World Industry Research Reports can be purchased individually or as a subscription. For this sector they include:
- C2241 – Men’s and Boys’ Wear Manufacturing
- C2242 – Women’s and Girls’ Wear Manufacturing
- C2243 – Sleepwear, Underwear and Infant Clothing Manufacturing
- C2249 – Tailoring and Clothing Accessories Manufacturing
Australian Financial Review industry snapshots
Sustainability issues in the clothing sector
Principles of Sustainable Fashion Design (YouTube)