Who made my clothes? Online course – WeeK 1

Who made my clothes? Online course – WeeK 1

This week I started the online course from platform Future Learn called Who made my Clothes?

It is being run by the University of Exeter in collaboration with the Fashion Revolution organisation.

I was really looking forward to reading the discussion and contributing to it. So far some great input!

One of the first great questions of this week was “if you had the opportunity, what would you say to the people who made the clothes you’re wearing today?”. We then went on to looking at our own clothes, investigating their design and construction details as well as contacting the brands that made them.

We were asked to find out where the origin fibres have come from (so far I have replies from H&M and Debenhams, but no transparent information of which countries they source materials like cotton, polyester and elastane from.)


Week 1: BE CURIOUS: The worlds and lives that garments connect

  1. Update the ‘Who Made My Clothes Learner Map’ with your details
    • I really thought this was great question to ask.
    • What would you say to the people who made the clothes you are wearing now? How can I help you?  What do you need and would like to change? What message can I share with others? How do you feel about your own clothes?
  2. Meet the team:  Ian CookVerity JonesZahra AliJemma ShermanBeth Massey
  3. Why does Fashion Revolution ask “Who made my clothes?”:
    • “We believe this transparency will help to better uncover human and environmental abuses, and that exploitative practices will diminish as a result of asking this simple question. However, we do recognise that transparency is not enough on its own to totally transform the industry. Transparency is the beginning of the process of revolutionising fashion.”
  4. How was the Rana Plaza collapse reported around the world?
  5. Finding traces of human labour in our clothes: In this step, we’d like you to take your favourite item of clothing and examine it in the same way, asking the following questions:
    • Q. From which materials is it made?
      • I chose my favourite Bikini which I bought 3 years ago from Mantaray by Debenhams.
      • I can’t tell you where it was made nor can I say the composition as I cut the labels off but looking online, their bikinis are mostly composed of 80% polyamide20% elastane (excluding trims).
    • Q. how many component parts does it have, and what are they?
    • The top components are:
      • Main floral material in 5 sections for both cups, back straps, central loop detail.
      • Striped material used for the straps which start at the side of the cups and tie up in a knot at the nape of the neck.
      • The back has a plastic fastening to close the bikini.
      • There is also underwire for the two cup sections which is trapped between kind of blue polyester material which holds a piece of wire or boning.
      • Inside the bikini top there is a dark blue thick polyester jersey fabric which is used to pad the cup for each side. This is connected to the same colour gauze material either side of the cups and that lines the inside from the cup to the back straps. These two components are connected by a tube of another kind of blue polyester material which holds a piece of wire or boning.
    • The bottoms components are:
      • Front and back in 2 pieces of the floral material
      • The striped material has been used for the edge binding and the 4 strings which gather the sides together at the side seam.
      • These strings have plastic beads on each end which is knotted to stop it falling off.
      • There is a polyester lining inside too which is ANOTHER different kind of fabric as the ones in the lining of the top.
    • Q: how many different types of stitching and assembly seem to have been used to join these parts together?
      • There is straight line stitching on most parts along with overlocked hem stitching. There is zigzag stitching on the inside gauze section.
    • Q. what kind of work can you imagine people doing in different places to create this garment for you?
      • I can imagine that all of the pieces of material need to be pinned down as well as cut and connected together with a sewing machine.
      • All of the materials would have been spun from a fibre, the patterns or designs and colours would have been dyed industrially.
  6.  Choosing clothes to research: Choose 3 items of clothing to examine:
    • We were asked to add in facts as before, so where it was made, what fibres it was made from, if we have altered or fixed it and similar information like what is our “story” about the garment.
    • After choosing the Debenhams bikini, I also chose 2 more garments.
      • Blue jersey skirt from H&M Basic
      • Dress from Michelle Belau
    • We were then asked to create a table to show our results and findings.
    • Check out my table here (which also has the results from the next step.)
  7.  Update the map: Do some detective work: Ask the brands that made your clothes where they sourced the fibres and materials from.
    • We were asked to contact the companies and brands of our selected pieces of clothing.
    • I did receive replies from H&M and Debenhams.
    • H&M  said they could not trace the mentioned about their concept :  Concious – Sustainable style
      • They also mentioned  a brand called Arket that I should look into.
      • Their Customer Service page has a section on Sustaniability. Some questions are answered, like where the clothes are made, but there is nothing on the fibres.
    • Debenhams said that “…we will not be able to provide any information as different products have different sources.”… and?
    • Neither were actually very helpful in telling me where or which countries they source their fibres from, even just in general, so it’s quite frustrating. I will continue my emails, communication and research!
    • It was also suggested that we could research online about their sourcing.
    • As well as looking at which countries exported most of the fibres from, especially if the brands were not forthcoming.
    • Cotton Production information from World’s Top experts. The top 3 are:
      1. China: US$15.1 billion (28.2% of total exported cotton)
      2. United States: $7.6 billion (14.2%)
      3. India: $4.7 billion (8.8%)
    • Polyester Exports and Production: It is a bit tricky to find out specifically about poyester
    •  The Top 3 exporters of synthetic yarn (or long continuous lengths) I found to be were China, India and Taiwan. The top 3 exporters of synthetic staple (or short fibres of any length were Korea, China & Taiwan.
      • Basics. Polyester is a synthetic polymer made of purified terephthalic acid (PTA) or its dimethyl ester dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) and monoethylene glycol (MEG). With 18% market share of all plastic materials produced, it ranges third after polyethylene (33.5%) and polypropylene (19.5%). (Wikipaedia)
    • Here is a screen shot of the garment Map
  8.  What are garment supply chains? Whose lives do they connect? How do garment supply chains work, and whose lives do they connect?
  9. Weekly Q&A with the team
    • Looking forward to this step. I’ll update the post when I’ve watched the Q&A!

 


This has been a fascinating week for me, not only to refresh the topic that I’ve studied and looked at for my recent projects and career roles, but also to really be a part of the discussion. The discussion part of the  course online has to be one of teh best features as both students and the team can write and contribute. Fantastic.


Ideas:

Someone posted in the discussion section about making a database of the images of our clothes that we chose.

I suggested that Maybe via Instagram and other social media, we can create a hashtag like #WMMCDB (who made my clothes database), which will allow us to post and find the photos, as well as using the #MOOC and #whomademyclothes hashtags too. In the post we can add a 4 key details, e.g. What it is, What is the brand, Which country or where it is said it is made! and What our relation/feeling towards it is. That would be easy to find the posts and then it’s just an afternoon task of copy & pasting the info into a Google Spreadsheet. I’ll volunteer to do it if everyone likes the idea.”


 

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