Gleaming machines. Skilled workers laboring over handmade goods with perfectly placed beads of sweat and interesting tattoos. Or men and women hunched over machines wearing masks over their noses and mouths. What images do you see when you hear the word “factory”? And when did we all become curious about what the inside of factories look like?
Whether it’s a small family-run or artisan operation or the large scale and precise factories we’ve come to associate with China, factories big and small are capturing our attention.
I have two theories to perhaps explain the sudden interest in factories.
The first is that we are genuinely interested and concerned in how our garments came to exist and who touched them along the way. Tragedies like last year’s Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh brought factory conditions to our attention, and now we want to know the working conditions of the people who make our clothes. In other cases, perceived transparency turned out to be assumed transparency, and consumers have demanded more information in return, as in the case of Everlane and their #KnowYourFactories campaign that followed consumer confusion over where Everlane’s products were made. We want to see inside of factories, because we as global citizens and consumers are starting to question the impact of the journey of our clothing.
The second theory is that we are just naturally curious beings who want to know how things are made and can’t resist seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together. Evidence includes the popularity of the TV show “How It’s Made” and the incredible numbers of tumblr accounts focused on visual after visual of factories (the most extreme example may be “F**k Yeah Made in USA”). The allure is out of sheer curiosity rather than concern.
Regardless of whether either theory is right, exposure means we have opportunities to question our assumptions about what a factory looks like. If this trend continues, I hope that exposure and curiosity will soon turn into demand for greater transparency in production for the safety and health of workers but also to bring us closer to the skill and resources that go into the things we own.
Is this new to you? Get sucked in with the rest of us with these intriguing videos and photo stories:
And you must also check out The American Edit’s tour of Faribault Woolen Mills!
Please share your favorite factory stories and videos in the comments section!