“That would certainly put some downward pricing pressure on local growers,” he said.

And as Canada’s industry is forced to consolidate to survive, some worry about who will lose out as large, publicly traded companies come to dominate the space.

Long before legalization, many of the first shops to defy Canadian marijuana laws were nonprofit “compassion clubs” selling to people who used cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The current system’s emphasis on large corporate growers and profits has squeezed many people from minority communities out of the business, said Dr. Daniel Werb, an epidemiologist and drug policy analyst at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Dr. Werb is part of a research group whose preliminary findings have shown that “there is a marked lack of diversity” in the leadership of the new, legal suppliers, he said.

Sellers in Indigenous communities, too, have been left in limbo, generally not subjected to police raids but also outside the legal system, although Ontario has began licensing shops in some of those communities.

“I get more and more concerned about, on the one hand, the lack of ethno-racial diversity and, on the other hand, a lack of imagination around the fact that this didn’t have to be a wholly for-profit industry,” Dr. Werb said. “It seems like there was a missed opportunity to think creatively.”

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Signs of Economic Hope Are Growing, Some With Superlatives

“I found it very encouraging that there are signs that people are waking up from hibernation, buying new clothes and going out to restaurants,” said Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist at S&P Global. “I think people are feeling optimistic that the United States will win the war on the virus. And they have good reason to be hopeful.”

Many economists said the strong retail sales were likely to continue through the spring, even after the new stimulus payments are used up.

The gradual return to normal activities as business restrictions ease has in turn prompted employers to recall workers — and this time, to hold on to them.

The Labor Department reported on Thursday that the number of first-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, to about 613,000, the lowest level since the start of the pandemic. That was a decline of 153,000, the largest week-over-week decrease since the summer.

In addition, 132,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 20,000 from the previous week.

“We’re gaining momentum here, which is just unquestionable,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton.

There are also broader signs of a comeback.

After a devastating year, airlines are growing increasingly hopeful as travelers return. Over the past month, more than one million people were screened each day at federal airport checkpoints, according to the Transportation Security Administration, a signal that a sustained travel recovery is underway.

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A New ‘Denim Cycle’? After a Decade, Jeans Move From Skinny to Loose

The trend is not confined to Levi’s, which lays claim to inventing the blue jean in 1873. Madewell, the popular retail chain owned by J. Crew Group, has also been seeing enthusiasm around looser fit jeans and balloon pants, even among skinny jean acolytes, which is viewed as a turning point for the fit.

“The people who were really long holding onto skinnies are like ‘Oh OK, I’m going to crawl over to the other side and do something,’” said Anne Crisafulli, Madewell’s senior vice president of merchandising.

Madewell, which is known for its jeans, has been coming up with styles that help customers transition to the looser fit in a bid to provide “training wheels for people coming out of skinny,” Ms. Crisafulli said. Customers seem to want “looser and more comfortable” denim going forward, she added.

Mr. Bergh noted that pandemic-related weight gain could be driving interest in the jeans, as some people look to update their closets.

Levi’s, based in San Francisco, saw its revenue tumble 23 percent to $4.45 billion in 2020, as many retailers saw sales fall as stores faced temporary closures and customer habits shifted. Sales also dropped in the first quarter, which ends in February, but Mr. Bergh noted that was before vaccines had been rolled out in the United States in a “big way.” He said he was optimistic about a denim resurgence.

“As people think about going back out, they’re thinking about what’s the look now, and they’re going to our website, they’re going to other websites, looking at fashion magazines and seeing looser, baggier fits be the new trend,” Mr. Bergh said. “The fact that people are liberated and can finally go out to dinner with their family or girlfriend or boyfriend — it gives them an occasion to kind of upgrade their wardrobe, update the look and splurge a little bit on themselves, and I think that’s what we’re seeing.”

And still, even if looser denim is the look of the 2020s, that does not mean the disappearance of the skinny jean.

“I don’t think skinny jeans are ever going to go away completely,” Mr. Bergh said. “People are mixing it up, and women in particular are having multiple choices.”

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How Working From Home Changed Wardrobes Around the World

Have months of self-isolation, lockdown and working from home irrevocably changed what we will put on once we go out again? For a long time, the assumption was yes. Now, as restrictions ease and the opening up of offices and travel is dangled like a promise, that expectation is more like a qualified “maybe.” But not every country’s experience of the last year was the same, nor were the clothes that dominated local wardrobes. Before we can predict what’s next, we need to understand what was. Here, eight New York Times correspondents in seven different countries share dispatches from a year of dressing.

Italian Vogue called “a luxury version of classic two-piece sweats.”

Fabio Pietrella, the president of Confartigianato Moda, the fashion arm of the association of artisans and small businesses, said that while consumer trends indicated a shift from “a business look to comfort,” it was “not too much comfort.” Italian women, he said, had eschewed sportswear for “quality knitwear” that guarantees freedom of movement but with “a minimum of elegance.”

flyest city on the planet.

In the Senegalese capital, at Africa’s westernmost tip, men in pointy yellow slippers and crisp white boubous — loosefitting long tunics — still glide down streets dredged with Saharan dust. Young women still sit in cafes sipping baobab juice in patterned leggings and jeweled hijabs. Everyone from consultants to greengrocers still wears gorgeous prints from head to toe.

Occasionally they now wear a matching mask.

While much of the world was shut up at home, many people in West Africa were working or going to school as normal. Lockdown in Senegal lasted just a few months. It was impossible for many people here to keep it up. They depend on going out to earn their living.

the poet and revolutionary Amílcar Cabral loved.

joint report by the Boston Consulting Group and Retailers Association of India.

While infections were low during the winter, the past few weeks have seen cases rising to staggering levels in many parts of the country. Right now, it looks as though many people will be working from home for most of 2021 too.

For Ritu Gorai, who runs a moms network in Mumbai, that means she has barely shopped at all, instead using accessories like scarves, jewelry and glasses to jazz up her look and add a little polish.

For Sanshe Bhatia, an elementary schoolteacher, it has meant trading her long kurtas or formal trousers and blouses for caftans and leggings. In order to encourage her class of 30 kids to get dressed in the morning rather than attending lessons in their pajamas, she takes care to look neat and makes sure her long hair is brushed properly.

into a tailspin,” interviews with a range of Parisians suggest a compromise of sorts had been reached.

When Xavier Romatet, the dean of the Institut Français de la Mode, France’s foremost fashion school, went back to work, he didn’t wear a suit, but he did wear a white shirt under a navy blue cashmere sweater and beige chinos, as he would at home. He paired his outfit with sneakers by Veja, a French eco-friendly brand.

Similarly, Anne Lhomme, the creative director of Saint Louis, the luxury tableware brand, dresses the same whether remotely or in person. A favorite look, she said, includes a camel-colored cashmere poncho “designed by a friend, Laurence Coudurier, for Poncho Gallery” and loosefitting plum silk pants. Also lipstick, earrings and four Swahili rings she found in Kenya.

light blue or white shirts, which I buy at Emile Lafaurie or online from Charles Tyrwhitt, with a round-collar sweater if it’s cold” — and, from the waist down, “Uniqlo pants in stretch fabric.”

And Sophie Fontanel, a writer and former fashion editor at Elle, said, “I am often barefoot at home, alone, wearing a very pretty dress.”

Daphné Anglès

Fifth, as well as high-fashion labels, have focused on bright satin, silk and linen shirts with bow ties or stand-up collars, striped patterns or gathered sleeves. The trend for such showy tops has led to a boom in clothing subscription services.

One such platform, AirCloset, announced that 450,000 users had subscribed in October 2020, three times more than in the same period in 2019. Often users request tops only (one bottom item is usually included), and there is now a limit of three in any one order.

“Customers prefer brighter colors to basics such as navy or beige for online meetings, or they prefer asymmetric design tops,” said Mari Nakano, the AirCloset spokeswoman. About 40 percent of subscribers are working mothers for whom the subscription service saved time because they didn’t have to be bothered with washing. They just put the tops in a bag, return them and then wait for the next package to arrive with their new items.

Hisako Ueno

Ushatava, an independent label of sleek, geometrically tailored sleek designs in mostly muted natural colors. It was founded in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Ural Mountains that in the last few years has turned into a Russian fashion hub. 12Storeez, another rising brand from Yekaterinburg, saw its turnover balloon by 35 percent over the last year, even as the market overall shrank by a quarter, said Ivan Khokhlov, one of the founders.

Nastya Gritskova, the head of a P.R. agency in Moscow, said the effect of the pandemic was that for the first time in the Russian capital people stopped “paying attention at who wears what.” Yet last fall, when the government eased coronavirus-related restrictions, things started going back to normal.

“There isn’t a pandemic that can make Russian women stop thinking about how to look beautiful,” she said.

Ivan Nechepurenko


Elisabetta Povoledo, Ruth Maclean, Mady Camara, Flávia Milhorance, Shalini Venugopal Bhagat, Daphné Anglès, Hisako Ueno and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

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Some Pubs and Shops Reopen in England, Raising Hopes for Economic Recovery

For the past year, the British economy has yo-yoed with the government’s pandemic restrictions. On Monday, the next bounce began as shops, outdoor dining, gyms and hairdressers reopened across England for the first time in months.

In London, friends gathered at tables outside a pub at one minute after midnight to toast the reopening. Others queued in light flurries at 7 in the morning for shops to open their doors. Barbers and beauty salons had long queues, and by lunchtime the outside tables at restaurants had filled up.

But the pandemic has left Britain with deep economic wounds that have shattered historical records: the worst recession in three centuries and record levels of government borrowing outside wartime.

Topshop on Oxford Street, one of Europe’s busiest shopping streets. Many neighborhood restaurants are now darkened, empty shells.

Eat Out to Help Out.”

Beginning in the fall, a second wave of the pandemic stalled the recovery, though the economic impact wasn’t as severe as it had been last spring. Still, the government is spending about 344 billion pounds, or $471 billion, on its pandemic response. To pay for it, it has borrowed a record sum and is planning the first increase in corporate taxes since 1974 to help rebalance its budget.

Andy Haldane, the central bank’s chief economist, said in February. “As its energies are released, the recovery should be one to remember after a year to forget.”

Even though a lot of retail spending has shifted online, reopening shop doors will make a huge difference to many businesses. Foot traffic across Britain’s shopping locations on Monday was more than double what it was last week, according to data from Springboard.

Daunt Books, a small chain of independent bookstores, had been busy preparing to reopen for the past week. Throughout the lockdown, a skeleton crew “worked harder than they’ve ever worked before, just to keep a trickle” of revenue coming in from online and telephone orders, said Brett Wolstencroft, the bookseller’s manager.

“The worst moment for us was December,” Mr. Wolstencroft said, when shops were shut in large parts of the country beginning on Dec. 20. One day’s worth of revenue in the run-up to Christmas is similar to a week’s worth during the rest of the year. “Realizing you’re losing your last bit of Christmas is exceptionally tough.”

pubs, hairdressers, cinemas and hotels shut for months on end, Brits are expected to build up £180 billion in excess savings by June, according to estimates by the Office for Budget Responsibility. That money, once people can get out more, is expected to be the engine of the recovery — even though economists are debating how much of it will end up in the tills of businesses. Some forecast just 5 percent, saying that medium- and high-income households are more likely to keep hold of their savings.

one phase of the reopening. Pubs can serve customers only in outdoor seating areas, and less than half have such facilities. Hotels will also remain closed for at least another month, alongside indoor dining, museums and theaters. The next reopening phase is scheduled for May 17.

Over all, two-fifths of hospitality businesses have outside space, said Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of U.K. Hospitality, a trade group.

“Monday is a really positive start,” she said. “It helps us to get businesses gradually back open, get staff gradually back off furlough and build up toward the real reopening of hospitality that will be May 17.”

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England’s Lockdown Eases, but Economic Toll Persists

For the past year, the British economy has yo-yoed with the government’s pandemic restrictions. On Monday, the next bounce began as shops, outdoor dining, gyms and hairdressers reopened across England for the first time in months.

In London, friends gathered at tables outside a pub at one minute after midnight to toast the reopening. Others queued in light flurries at 7 in the morning for shops to open their doors. Barbers and beauty salons had long queues, and by lunchtime the outside tables at restaurants had filled up.

But the pandemic has left Britain with deep economic wounds that have shattered historical records: the worst recession in three centuries and record levels of government borrowing outside wartime.

Topshop on Oxford Street, one of Europe’s busiest shopping streets. Many neighborhood restaurants are now darkened, empty shells.

Eat Out to Help Out.”

Beginning in the fall, a second wave of the pandemic stalled the recovery, though the economic impact wasn’t as severe as it had been last spring. Still, the government is spending about 344 billion pounds, or $471 billion, on its pandemic response. To pay for it, it has borrowed a record sum and is planning the first increase in corporate taxes since 1974 to help rebalance its budget.

Andy Haldane, the central bank’s chief economist said in February. “As its energies are released, the recovery should be one to remember after a year to forget.”

Even though a lot of retail spending has shifted online, reopening shop doors will make a huge difference to many businesses. Foot traffic across Britain’s shopping locations on Monday was more than double what it was last week, according to data from Springboard.

Daunt Books, a small chain of independent bookstores, had been busy preparing to reopen for the past week. Throughout the lockdown, a skeleton crew “worked harder than they’ve ever worked before, just to keep a trickle” of revenue coming in from online and telephone orders, said Brett Wolstencroft, the bookseller’s manager.

“The worst moment for us was December,” Mr. Wolstencroft said, when shops were shut in large parts of the country beginning on Dec. 20. One day’s worth of revenue in the run-up to Christmas is similar to a week’s worth during the rest of the year. “Realizing you’re losing your last bit of Christmas is exceptionally tough.”

pubs, hairdressers, cinemas and hotels shut for months on end, Brits are expected to build up £180 billion in excess savings by June, according to estimates by the Office for Budget Responsibility. That money, once people can get out more, is expected to be the engine of the recovery — even though economists are debating how much of it will end up in the tills of businesses. Some forecast just 5 percent, saying that medium- and high-income households are more likely to keep hold of their savings.

one phase of the reopening. Pubs can serve customers only in outdoor seating areas, and less than half have such facilities. Hotels will also remain closed for at least another month, alongside indoor dining, museums and theaters. The next reopening phase is scheduled for May 17.

Over all, two-fifths of hospitality businesses have outside space, said Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of U.K. Hospitality, a trade group.

“Monday is a really positive start,” she said. “It helps us to get businesses gradually back open, get staff gradually back off furlough and build up toward the real reopening of hospitality that will be May 17.”

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Amazon Workers Defeat Union Effort in Alabama

The vote could lead to a rethinking of strategy inside the labor movement.

For years, union organizers have tried to leverage growing concerns about low-wage workers to break into Amazon. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union had organized around critical themes of supporting Black essential workers in the pandemic. The union had estimated that 85 percent of the workers at the Bessemer warehouse were Black.

The inability to organize the warehouse also follows decades of unsuccessful and costly attempts to form unions at Walmart, the only American company that employs more people than Amazon. The repeated failures at two huge companies may push labor organizers to focus more on backing national policies, such as a higher federal minimum wage, than unionizing individual workplaces.

Democrats in Washington, who put their full weight behind the union effort, said the loss showed that they needed to push for changes to labor and antitrust laws. The House of Representatives passed an expansion of worker protections this year, but it is unlikely to be approved in the Senate.

“Workers cannot organize to scale in America absent labor law reform, full stop,” Representative Andy Levin of Michigan, who had visited Bessemer, said in an interview.

The Amazon warehouse, on the outskirts of Birmingham, opened a year ago, just as the pandemic took hold. It was part of a major expansion at the company that accelerated during the pandemic. Last year, Amazon grew by more than 400,000 employees in the United States, where it now has almost a million workers. Warehouse workers typically assemble and box up orders of items for customers.

The unionization effort came together quickly, especially for one aimed at such a large target. A small group of workers at the building in Bessemer approached the local branch of the retail workers’ union last summer. They were frustrated with how Amazon constantly monitored every second of their workday through technology and felt that their managers were not willing to listen to their complaints.

Organizers appeared to have strong support early on, getting at least 2,000 workers to sign cards saying they wanted an election, enough for the National Labor Relations Board, which conducts union elections, to approve a vote.

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Target says it will spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses.

Target will spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025, it announced on Wednesday, joining a growing list of retailers that have promised to increase their economic support of such companies in a bid to advance racial equity in the United States.

Target, which is based in Minneapolis, will add more products from companies owned by Black entrepreneurs, spend more with Black-owned marketing agencies and construction companies and introduce new resources to help Black-owned vendors navigate the process of creating products for a mass retail chain, the company said in a statement.

After last year’s protests over police brutality, a wave of American retailers, from Sephora to Macy’s, have committed to spending more money with Black-owned businesses. Many of them have joined a movement known as the 15 Percent Pledge, which supports devoting enough shelf space to Black-owned businesses to align with the African-American percentage of the national population.

Target’s announcement appears to be separate from that pledge. It said its commitment added to other racial-equity and social-justice initiatives in the past year, including efforts to improve representation among its work force.

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The Ghosts of Brooks Brothers

ENFIELD, Conn. — The bones of Brooks Brothers stores are scattered across 100,000 square feet here in a warehouse near the Massachusetts border, mixed in with a sea of cardboard boxes and junk.

There are legions of mannequins, empty circular tables that once displayed neckties, posters of horseback-riding gentlemen from a bygone era. There is a whole section of Christmas trees and countless gold-painted ornaments of sheep suspended by ribbon — a Brooks Brothers symbol since 1850 known as the Golden Fleece. Blank order forms for tailors are strewn about. A neon sign that apparently still works. There is no apparel, but there are rows of heavy sewing machines that most likely came from one of the brand’s recently shuttered factories. And in the bathroom, a welcome carpet with Brooks Brothers written in cursive sits next to a toilet.

The whole mass was abandoned here in the fallout of Brooks Brothers’ bankruptcy filing and sale last year, the scraps of a retailer that made nearly $1 billion in sales in 2019. Ever since, the couple that owns the warehouse, Chip and Rosanna LaBonte, has been scrambling to figure out how to get rid of it all. Junk removal companies have told them it will cost at least $240,000 to clear the space, which Brooks Brothers had rented through November. In order to pay the bill, the LaBontes are going to have to sell their home.

retail bankruptcies, which cascaded during the pandemic and affected everyone from factory workers to executives. Smaller vendors and landlords have often been left holding the short end of the stick during lengthy byzantine bankruptcy proceedings, particularly with limits on what they can spend on legal bills compared with larger corporations. And once bankrupt brands are sold, people like the LaBontes are typically left in the dust.

corporate bankruptcies in the United States last year, which had the highest number of filings in a decade, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The LaBontes, who are in their 60s, have been working with a liquidator to sell what they can of the Brooks Brothers detritus, and are about to list their home in Sherborn, Mass. While they have filed a claim in bankruptcy court, they are anticipating receiving less than 5 percent of what they are owed, if that — and confessed that the proceedings are hopelessly confusing. Most of all, they are angry and incredulous about the situation, especially as Brooks Brothers continues to operate under wealthy new owners.

entire portions of their closets. J. Crew and the owners of Ann Taylor and Men’s Wearhouse also filed for bankruptcy, while sales nose-dived at chains like Banana Republic. Temporary store closures added to the distress, along with the cancellations of special occasions like proms, graduations, weddings and other events.

All that led up to Brooks Brothers’ bankruptcy filing in July, one of the most significant retail collapses of 2020. Brooks Brothers had dressed all but four U.S. presidents at the time of its filing, and prided itself on its American factories, which were also forced to close.

the SPARC Group, including Lucky Brand denim and Forever 21, leveraging the combination of Authentic Brands’ expertise in licensing famous brand names in various lucrative and creative (and some say equity-destructive) ways and Simon’s real estate portfolio.

At the time of the Brooks Brothers purchase, SPARC committed to keep operating at least 125 Brooks Brothers retail locations, compared with 424 retail and outlet stores globally before the pandemic.

Under the new owners, Brooks Brothers switched to wire transfers instead of checks, but kept paying rent on the warehouse through November, sending even more goods there as it closed dozens of stores and shuttered its three American factories, Mr. and Ms. LaBonte said. But after Thanksgiving, it sent a letter to the couple rejecting the lease as well as the contents of the warehouse. According to a person with knowledge of the deal, the warehouse and its contents had not been part of SPARC’s purchase of Brooks Brothers. As a result, said Mr. Van Horn said, the new owner most likely has no legal responsibility to the LaBontes.

A representative for SPARC stopped returning requests for comment.

“They used it for all of their store fixtures, so tables, props, fishing poles, canoes, everything you would see that would go in and out of a store to decorate it,” Mr. LaBonte said. “There’s probably 20,000 square feet of Christmas trees — everything except the actual merchandise.”

As to who would want it now: Customers have included local clothing makers looking for mannequins and a set designer from an upcoming HBO series called “The Gilded Age.” Last Monday, an older couple wandered through the space, looking at the Christmas decorations and empty gift boxes. Habitat for Humanity has been looking at the haul for several days and is taking some of the goods. Still, Mr. LaBonte estimated that somewhere around 30 percent of the leftovers have been sold.

The liquidator paid the LaBontes approximately $20,000 to sell what they can through mid-April or so. The couple will not receive a cut, and will deal with what’s left. When junk removal specialists assessed the cost of clearing the space in December, one quote was around $243,000 while the other was closer to $290,000.

“We’re just another Covid casualty to them, we get that,” Ms. LaBonte said of Brooks Brothers. “But I also don’t think they realized how much stuff was there.”

The junk removal firms, which confirmed the prices with The New York Times, said that it was expensive to remove the volume of goods. The costs included labor, multiple trips to dumps, donation and recycling centers, and the use of specialized equipment such as a forklift, large dumpsters and an 18-foot box truck.

“I’ve been doing this for seven years and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Rick McDonald Jr., the owner of EastSide Junk, which provided the $243,000 quote to the couple. “They left an astronomical amount of stuff.”

When Authentic Brands, the licensing firm, announced the purchase of Brooks Brothers out of bankruptcy last year, Jamie Salter, the company’s chief executive, spoke about the retailer’s legacy and its “incredible history.”

The LaBontes, confronting a warehouse full of some of that history, were unhappy to see those comments.

They put out a statement recently asking: “What kind of heritage can they claim when they operate like low-rent, fly-by-night bullies?”

Contact Sapna Maheshwari at sapna@nytimes.com or Vanessa Friedman at vanessa.friedman@nytimes.com.

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What is Going on with China, Cotton and All of These Clothing Brands?

Last week, calls for the cancellation of H&M and other Western brands went out across Chinese social media as human rights campaigns collided with cotton sourcing and political gamesmanship. Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on and how it may affect everything from your T-shirts to your trench coats.

What’s all this I’m hearing about fashion brands and China? Did someone make another dumb racist ad?

No, it’s much more complicated than an offensive and obvious cultural faux pas. The issue centers on the Xinjiang region of China and allegations of forced labor in the cotton industry — allegations denied by the Chinese government. Last summer, many Western brands issued statements expressing concerns about human rights in their supply chain. Some even cut ties with the region all together.

Now, months later, the chickens are coming home to roost: Chinese netizens are reacting with fury, charging the allegations are an offense to the state. Leading Chinese e-commerce platforms have kicked major international labels off their sites, and a slew of celebrities have denounced their former foreign employers.

growing political and economic implications. On the one hand, as the pandemic continues to roil global retail, consumers have become more attuned to who makes their clothes and how they are treated, putting pressure on brands to put their values where their products are. One the other, China has become an evermore important sales hub to the fashion industry, given its scale and the fact that there is less disruption there than in other key markets, like Europe. Then, too, international politicians are getting in on the act, imposing bans and sanctions. Fashion has become a diplomatic football.

This is a perfect case study of what happens when market imperatives come up against global morality.

Tell me more about Xinjiang and why it is so important.

Xinjiang is a region in northwest China that happens to produce about a fifth of the world’s cotton. It is home to many ethnic groups, especially the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority. Though it is officially the largest of China’s five autonomous regions, which in theory means it has more legislative self-control, the central government has been increasingly involved in the area, saying it must exert its authority because of local conflicts with the Han Chinese (the ethnic majority) who have been moving into the region. This has resulted in draconian restrictions, surveillance, criminal prosecutions and forced-labor camps.

OK, and what about the Uyghurs?

A predominantly Muslim Turkic group, the Uyghur population within Xinjiang numbers just over 12 million, according to official figures released by Chinese authorities. As many as one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been retrained to become model workers, obedient to the Chinese Communist Party via coercive labor programs.

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Axios and others published reports that connected Uyghurs in forced detention to the supply chains of many of the world’s best-known fashion retailers, including Adidas, Lacoste, H&M, Ralph Lauren and the PVH Corporation, which owns Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, many of those brands reassessed their relationships with Xinjiang-based cotton suppliers.

banned all imports of cotton from the region, as well as products made from the material and declared what was happening “genocide.” At the time, the Workers Rights Consortium estimated that material from Xinjiang was involved in more than 1.5 billion garments imported annually by American brands and retailers.

That’s a lot! How do I know if I am wearing a garment made from Xinjiang cotton?

You don’t. The supply chain is so convoluted and subcontracting so common that often it’s hard for brands themselves to know exactly where and how every component of their garments is made.

So if this has been an issue for over a year, why is everyone in China freaking out now?

It isn’t immediately clear. One theory is that it is because of the ramp-up in political brinkmanship between China and the West. On March 22, Britain, Canada, the European Union and the United States announced sanctions on Chinese officials in an escalating row over the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Not long after, screenshots from a statement posted in September 2020 by H&M citing “deep concerns” about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang, and confirming that the retailer had stopped buying cotton from growers in the region, began circulating on Chinese social media. The fallout was fast and furious. There were calls for a boycott, and H&M products were soon missing from China’s most popular e-commerce platforms, Alibaba Group’s Tmall and JD.com. The furor was stoked by comments on the microblogging site Sina Weibo from groups like the Communist Youth League, an influential Communist Party organization.

Within hours, other big Western brands like Nike and Burberry began trending for the same reason.

And it’s not just consumers who are up in arms: Influencers and celebrities have also been severing ties with the brands. Even video games are bouncing virtual “looks” created by Burberry from their platforms.

one second (there were 100 made). That’s why H&M worked with Victoria Song, Nike with Wang Yibo and Burberry with Zhou Dongyu.

But Chinese influencers and celebrities are also sensitive to pleasing the central government and publicly affirming their national values, often performatively choosing their country over contracts.

In 2019, for example, Yang Mi, the Chinese actress and a Versace ambassador, publicly repudiated the brand when it made the mistake of creating a T-shirt that listed Hong Kong and Macau as independent countries, seeming to dismiss the “One China” policy and the central government’s sovereignty. Not long afterward, Coach was targeted after making a similar mistake, creating a tee that named Hong Kong and Taiwan separately; Liu Wen, the Chinese supermodel, immediately distanced herself from the brand.

Tencent removed two Burberry-designed “skins” — outfits worn by video game characters that the brand had introduced with great fanfare — from its popular title Honor of Kings as a response to news that the brand had stopped buying cotton produced in the Xinjiang region. The looks had been available for less than a week.

So this is hitting both fast fashion and the high end. How much of the fashion world is involved?

Potentially, most of it. So far Adidas, Nike, Converse and Burberry have all been swept up in the crisis. Even before the ban, additional companies like Patagonia, PVH, Marks & Spencer and the Gap had announced that they did not source material from Xinjiang and had officially taken a stance against human rights abuses.

removed their policies against forced labor from their websites.

That seems squirrelly. Is this likely to escalate?

Brands seem to be concerned that the answer is yes, since, apparently fearful of offending the Chinese government, some companies have proactively announced that they will continue buying cotton from Xinjiang. Hugo Boss, the German company whose suiting is a de facto uniform for the financial world, posted a statement on Weibo saying, “We will continue to purchase and support Xinjiang cotton” (even though last fall the company had announced it was no longer sourcing from the region). Muji, the Japanese brand, is also proudly touting its use of Xinjiang cotton on its Chinese websites, as is Uniqlo.

Wait … I get playing possum, but why would a company publicly pledge its allegiance to Xinjiang cotton?

It’s about the Benjamins, buddy. According to a report from Bain & Company released last December, China is expected to be the world’s largest luxury market by 2025. Last year it was the only part of the world to report year on year growth, with the luxury market reaching 44 billion euros ($52.2 billion).

Is anyone going to come out of this well?

One set of winners could be the Chinese fashion industry, which has long played second fiddle to Western brands, to the frustration of many businesses there. Shares in Chinese apparel groups and textile companies with ties to Xinjiang rallied this week as the backlash gained pace. And more than 20 Chinese brands publicly made statements touting their support for Chinese cotton.

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