Earlier this year, when Covid-19 shut down much of China, fashion supply chains slammed to a halt. It wasn’t just because China is the world’s largest clothing producer, accounting for about 32% of all clothing exported in 2018 based on World Trade Organization data—nearly five times the share of second-place Bangladesh.
Critically, China also produces most of the raw materials that factories in other countries depend on to stitch together finished garments.
The fabric, buttons, zippers, and leather patches on the jeans in your closet most likely originated in China, even if the tag indicates the jeans themselves were made—that is, cut and sewn—in a country such as Vietnam or Turkey. So when China implemented strict lockdown measures to control its outbreak of the new coronavirus, companies beyond its borders that were making jeans took a serious hit.