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  • This Visualization Shows Where Your Clothes Come From

This Visualization Shows Where Your Clothes Come From

Think about the last time you checked the clothing tag on a new shirt that you bought. Did it say, “Made in China”? Or how about Vietnam or Bangladesh? There’s a good chance that your new shirt was manufactured in another country, especially one in east or south Asia. Our latest visualization takes a closer look at how clothing exports vary around the world.

  • In 2018, the value of the global clothing export market was $494 billion, an increase from $464.6 billion in 2017.
  • However, this growth was not seen across the board. Some of the countries that experienced declines in clothing exports from 2017 to 2018 include India (from $18 billion to $17 billion), the Philippines (from $1 billion to $933 million), and Hungary (from $870 million to $791 million).
  • At the same time, other countries experienced massive increases in clothing exports. Clothing exports from Myanmar and Armenia increased by about 70% from 2017 to 2018.
  • At $158 billion, China alone accounts for almost a third of the world’s clothing exports.

Our visualization draws on information from the World Trade Organization, which provides statistics related to worldwide merchandise trade and trade in services. To show which countries are responsible for the most clothing exports, we created a world map with each country represented as a circle. The larger the circle, the higher the value of clothing exports. In addition, the shade of blue for each circle represents the corresponding country’s share in world clothing exports; darker shades of blue, like China, indicate a higher percentage of worldwide clothing exports. All values are expressed in USD, and only countries with more than $50 million in exports were included in the map.

Top 10 Countries by Clothing Exports

1. China: $158 billion
2. Bangladesh: $33 billion
3. Vietnam: $28 billion
4. Italy: $25 billion
5. Germany: $24 billion
6. India: $17 billion
7. Turkey: $16 billion
8. Spain: $15 billion
9. Hong Kong, China: $14 billion
10. France: $13 billion

As you can see, the value of China’s clothing exports is almost five times higher than the value of the second-highest clothing exporter, Bangladesh. This isn’t surprising, since China beats all the competition in overall exports. The U.S. in particular relies heavily on exports from China. China was the United States' largest supplier of imports in 2018, providing $557.9 billion worth of goods. Notably, U.S. imports from China fell in September.

Although clothing is not listed as one of the top imports or exports between China and the U.S., the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China has led to both countries increasing tariffs on many types of goods and has caused much uncertainty for the world’s two largest economies. Since the research from the World Trade Organization shows that the value of clothing exports from China remained fairly constant between 2017 and 2018, it will be interesting to see how the clothing industry was affected in 2019.

Do you pay attention to clothing labels and where a garment was manufactured? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

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Irena

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