For the last few years as a fashion technical designer, it was my job to make patterns and write instructions for mass production referred to as a “tech pack". I learned the trade at Kenneth Cole shortly after studying design business and patternmaking at Parsons, then went on to complete development and production projects for Jessica Simpson Intimates, Ralph Lauren and Club Monaco among others.
Working in the NYC fashion industry is an unexplainable experience. There is no Devil Wearing Prada on the production side of things, however, there are excruciatingly high standards that aesthetic and technical designers are expected to uphold in the work at all times. Even in the smallest and most intricate of garments, any miniscule sewing slip-up from the factory is absolutely unacceptable. Along with the creation of production patterns and tech packs, my job also entailed alerting the factory regarding each blemish in the garment’s creation. (I once had a boss say to me, “be brutal to the factory or this s*** will never change”)
-to be clear, this person was not from any of the companies listed and shall remain anonymous-
^stitch was 1/16" off, caused a stink around the office due to tight production time.
Have you ever sewn? It’s not easy. I’ve been sewing since I was nine years old (best dressed dolls on the block!), made my clothes in highschool and sharpened my skills in college- I’m pretty good at this point, and even now I am fairly certain I could not consistently construct garments to the standard that large companies are expecting for mass production, especially in the small amount of time they reserve for each season. A little wobble in a stitch or n ever-so-slight wave in a hem? “Rejected. Factory must improve."
Imperfections are human; our hands are not machines, My job was to remove the hand in fashion mass production. I began to wonder who those hands are. What is his or her life like? I want to meet the hands that make.
I want to know, is there a way to make clothing- a basic need after all- that helps people and contributes to society? Instead of just depleting resources and polluting places. So many amazing things are happening in USA-based production (locally sourced, locally crafted, conscious textile choices). What about internationally? How is garment manufacturing creating positive change in other countries?
In pursuit of contributing to humanity, I will begin in India- a powerhouse for international garment production- with Gramshree Trust. They are a nonprofit in Ahmedabad, Gujarat enabling women to support themselves by handcrafting clothing and home goods. The charity is linked with the artisan trade nonprofit Craftroots, as well as the "Living is Giving" Seva Cafe and, most importantly, Manav Sadhna, based in the Ghandi Ashram, serving local underprivileged communities. Excited to begin.