Have you ever wondered where your clothes come from? Do you think about the hands that cut the fabric or sewed the seams together?
As a consumer, I try not to. As a designer, I have to.
I know what my industry does, good and bad. I have to say that in my year in China I never witnessed anything unsavory. All of ex-company's factories were well lit and temperature controlled, with regular working hours, functioning bathrooms and standards I found acceptable as an American. But that's China. And China has relatively high standards compared to the rest of the world.
One of my responsibilities was to find new factories to do business with, and with that came the ever-popular factory tour. Factory owners love to show off the mass-market capabilities of their businesses.
A typical order in my industry for stores you shop at the mall is between 5,000 and 150,000 units. A store like Target or Walmart might buy 100,000 units of one style.
On one factory tour, I witnessed what a 100,000 unit order looks like first hand. And if it happens to me made up of Hello Kitty merchandise, it looks a little something like this:
The finished product is piled in heaps until it is hung up, tagged and shipped. Piles upon piles of pink and black lined every possible nook and cranny.
My tour was late on a Saturday. Even still, I was told on a typical working day, this factory can produce 80,000 garments.
I bet those boxes were made from trees. Just guessing.
All hung up and ready to go! I was told this order was shipping at the end of April. I'm sure if you look hard enough you could buy one of these shirts for the Hello Kitty fan in your life.
This video was taken with my camera. It's not perfect, but you'll get the idea. Men use electric saws to cut through 100 layers of fabric at a time. I just hope they watch their fingers.
Packed Hello Kitty shirts waiting to be sent to America. Most likely they will be sent by boat, which takes between 2-4 weeks.
The fabric scraps are stored and sold to a buyer who makes stuffing for pillows. I was happy to hear this, it was nice to hear all of these scraps didn't just end up in a landfill somewhere. And trust me, when cutting out the pieces, there are a lot of scraps.
I don't know why I expected the paint for the screens to be kept in a better manner than just in buckets on the floor. But if it works.
This machine is knitting jersey fabric. It will then be sent to a 3rd party for dyeing. Then it will come back and be cut and sewn into the finished garments.
Soon enough this fabric will become something else. Another style for another company, dyed another color, set to ship on another day. Hands will touch it many times before it touches yours.
So the moral of the story, please wash your clothes before you wear them.