This article uses the global value chain approach to analyse the upgrading trajectories of leading apparel exporters adapting to the end of textile and apparel quotas and the economic recession. These events have been coupled by the consolidation and reconfiguration of global supply chains. China has been the big winner while other Asian suppliers are expanding their roles, largely at the expense of regional suppliers. One key to Asia's competitive success vis-a-vis Mexico and Central America has been end market diversification. Regional trade agreements (NAFTA; DR-CAFTA) have provided the latter with preferential access to the US market and ties to brand manufacturers, but they also created a reliance on US exports and have hindered suppliers from developing regional linkages into textile production, apparel design and branding. Growing apparel demand in emerging Asian economies and a regionally integrated production network has allowed Chinese apparel suppliers to upgrade and expand global market share.