Demanding Clothes - Cultural Values in Fashion Production

  • Nienke Creemers

We know what is happening in textile and clothing factories, working conditions are deplorable, and workers are often not paid a living wage. Documentaries such as China Blue (2005) and the Machinist (2010) were some of the first sources to show Western societies how our clothes are made. Why it is accepted that exploitation is a vital and even a necessary part of the fashion industry, is one of the main questions that started this inquiry. This research project explores the relation between the manufacturing methods in the fashion industry and Western European imperialistic heritage. First and foremost, the exploration of whiteness in fashion production is central to this project. Imperialism and colonialism were explored, as well as the relation between capitalism, exploitation and manufacturing methods.The fashion industry, as the ultimate expression of capitalism,is a central concept in this dissertation. Ethnographic and epistemological methodologies were used to develop an interview format. Interviews with production managers and designers were held to investigate production processes and values held regarding these production processes. Outcomes of the interviews were surprising. It can be said that trading conditions and relations are extremely unfair, and that imperialistic heritage and colonialism must be at the source of existing trade relations. Politics play an enormous part in working conditions within clothing factories when observing economic systems and the profit the fashion industry makes each year. Curious is that professionals in the field of fashion were mostly aware and extremely unhappy with the conditions clothes are manufactured under, however, they feel they do not have any power to change these practices. Most participants noted that the fashion industry is all about money, not ethical practice or sustainability. Based on this, an illustrated video game was developed, showcasing dilemmas that often occur during the manufacturing process.This video game aims to start a discussion surrounding manufacturing processes among both fashion professionals and fashion design students. Through this research project, courses can be developed in order to educate these groups on manufacturing methods and ways to redesign the production process. Furthermore, aside education as a probable solution, automation and a Universal Basic Income are explored as possible interventions that can be used to transform clothes manufacturing processes on a large scale.