Hello from the other side of the planet!! After months of talking about this trip, I am finally in China! I am so thrilled to spend the next couple of weeks in this unique and exciting country, and I am even more grateful to be able to share the whole experience with all of you!
A little bit of background on this trip: so last year, I traveled to India with the Fiber Science and Apparel Design department at Cornell (my major!). While in India, we learned about the culture of the country while also touring apparel production facilities and examining the process of making a garment, from sourcing cotton and spinning fibers into threads to sewing fabrics together and dyeing them! This trip to China follows a similar mission: to educate fashion students on the production side of the industry! In America, you can rarely find an opportunity to tour a full-scale apparel factory, and since so much of the world's clothing is produced in countries like China and India, I have always felt it important to see these communities first-hand. I'm so lucky to attend a university that also recognizes the importance of this style of education!
Bright & early at Newark Airport!
Our journey began yesterday morning at Newark Airport, where we embarked on a 15 hour flight. Fortunately, the 15 hours flew by (literally) thanks to United Airlines' extensive selection of movies. I watched Argo for the ninth time (I've only watched this movie on planes and it never gets old), The Girl on the Train (I realized halfway through that this is a different movie than Gone Girl so I was a little disappointed), La La Land (a fine movie, but definitely not as good as everyone made it out to be), and Lion (amazing, I was in tears the whole time).
Olivia taking in the sights of our Welcoming Committee
Upon landing in Shanghai, we collected our bags and met up with Mrs. Jiao, whose family is graciously sponsoring this trip! We then hopped in a van and drove three hours outside of Shanghai to our first destination: The Chengfeng Garments Group. We will be learning more about this company tomorrow, but they are a large private garment production company that works closely with Chinese designers and has maximized their efficiency by controlling their entire supply chain. Tomorrow morning we will tour the facilities, but tonight, they treated us to a delicious traditional Chinese dinner!
Over the next couple of weeks, I look forward to documenting my group's experiences and sharing them with you. As a person hoping to make a future in the fashion industry, I can't help but feel responsible to educate myself so that I can do my best to help improve the many problems plaguing this industry. The conditions of production factories in Eastern countries are particularly problematic due to how reliant some have become on inexpensive labor. Companies like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 produce mass quantities of cheaply-made garments at unreasonable speeds in order to satisfy our insatiable demand for new products. Next time you walk into a fast fashion store, take note of the new merchandise. How is it possible these garments are made so quickly? Big fashion companies have perfected the science of production by cutting corners and sometimes even exploiting their workers in order to maintain their incredible speeds and profits. While most of the factories we toured in India treated their employees wonderfully (some even provided housing and health care services), many factories were hot, stuffy, and crowded, and some companies docked their employees' pay if they took bathroom breaks during shifts. I look forward to examining the Chinese facilities with the same critical eye, while also learning more about the technical side of the apparel production process.
I hope that over the next couple of weeks I will be able to provide you with interesting, thought provoking content as I explore the realities of the apparel production industry in China. As always, there is nothing I love more than hearing your feedback, so reach out to me with your thoughts!