The manufacturing of a textile product requires many production steps that are each carried out by specialist companies. In addition, the requirements for materials and finishes can vary greatly depending on the product, so the company planning and implementing production must be experts in their field.
This complexity is compounded by the way separate production sites are scattered around the globe. It is not uncommon for a single item of clothing to pass through several countries, from the place where the raw materials are produced to the country of manufacture to the final destination when shipped to the consumer.
The first stage of the textile supply chain is the production of raw materials. For synthetic textile fibres such as polyester, the first step is to extract crude oil. By contrast, the first stage of production for organic fibres such as cotton, linen or hemp is growing and harvesting the crops – although, strictly speaking, this is part of the agricultural supply chain.
Raw material production is an essential part of the textile supply chain. It is the basis for the next step, which is yarn production. Quality and environmental impact of a garment are significantly affected by the raw materials used.
In the case of a cotton garment, raw material production includes the growing, harvesting and ginning of the raw cotton.
The raw materials are then spun into yarns in the spinning mills. Depending on the raw material used and the type and composition of the yarn to be produced, different processes are employed for this step.
Let us take the example of cotton yarn production. The previously cleaned cotton fibres are sorted and combed in a carding machine. Next, a rough yarn or roving is produced from the fibres. The rough yarn is then spun and twisted in further processes to create a final strong yarn. Spinning the yarn and twisting multiple strands together gives the yarn stability and makes it tear-resistant.
The yarns are turned into textiles in weaving or knitting mills. The specific textile production type is chosen depending on the desired properties of the fabric and the future end product. At this point, fabric designers also decide how the threads will be twisted, crossed or intertwined. If desired, yarns of different colours and materials can be blended.
Weaving mills produce fabrics such as the denim used to make jeans. Knitting mills, on the other hand, produce knitted fabrics like jersey, which is used to make items such as T-shirts.
Depending on the design, either the individual yarn or the whole bolt of fabric is dyed. In either case, the material is dyed in large dyeing drums.
A variety of printing processes are used depending on the design and purpose of the textile. For example, a print can be applied all over a fabric or only in specific areas, such as a motif on the front.
The finishing process used for functional clothing makes the textiles waterproof, windproof and dirt-repellent. Denim articles, on the other hand, are finished by dyeing or applying washes.
The sewers also attach accessories such as buttons, eyelets, zips etc. during this production step.
Garments may undergo several washing processes within the different production stages of the manufacturing process.
Random quality assurance checks are performed before the items are packed. The garments are inspected and checked by independent institutes according to criteria specified by the customer. If any defects are found, the item goes back to production to have them corrected.
Many processes in the textile supply chain are complicated manual tasks – and carefully packing each garment is no exception. At this stage, in addition to the actual packing of the goods, various hangtags need to be attached.
After production has been completed, the finished garments/items of clothing are exported and transported to their country of destination where retailers then sell them to end consumers.
Nach Abschluss der Produktion werden die fertigen Bekleidungsstücke/Bekleidungsartikel exportiert und in ihr Zielland transportiert. Dort stellt der Handel sie dann den EndkonsumentInnen bereit.
“Customers and end consumers want ever more detailed information on the cultivation, origin and production of the goods they buy. To ensure this, we need comprehensive transparency throughout our supply chains. Transparency at this level is a major ongoing challenge but also a basic requirement for implementing due diligence in our business dealings.
We fulfil our obligations responsibly because that’s the only way we can effectively address social and environmental requirements in our supply chain.”
It is vitally important that we know in which factories our articles are produced. This is the only way we can prevent violations of human rights or environmental regulations or identify, remedy and eliminate such risks before they happen. However, the complexity of the supply chain and the single contractual relationships we have with clothing producers (garment factories) make it difficult to get an overview of all participants in the supply chain.
To gain a clear view of our entire supply chain, we gather information about the factories with which our manufacturers work by using an order-related questionnaire.
Because cotton cultivation in particular often poses a threat to human rights, we exclude certain regions and countries as places of origin for our cotton. So we always ask about the country or region in which the cotton was grown.