Do consumers care about the people making our stuff?
Don’t believe me; meet iPhone girl…
In 2008 a British man fired up his new iPhone and discovered photos of a worker at the Chinese factory where his phone was made. He posted the photos on macrumors and in a matter of weeks the ensuing comment thread had nearly 700 comments and people all over the world were asking, “Who is iPhone Girl?”
At least now I have a good excuse for not buying Annie jewelry this year for Valentine’s day. If you’re appalled by this practice, sign the National Labor Committee’s petition.
Watching this video reminded me of an experience I had in Nepal. I wrote a column about it years back. I dusted it off for your reading pleasure.
The Kathmandu Caper
By Kelsey Timmerman
On the streets of Kathmandu- Motorcycles weave in and out, cars honk their horns repeatedly jockeying for position, pedestrians scurry for their lives frogger-style while covering their nose and mouth from the dirt and stench. Tractors lacking gas caps slosh fuel this way and that, cows and dogs dine side by side on piles of trash. Chaos reigns supreme, but none lose their cool.
Old truck tyres never die, they just turn into sandals. For decades that has been the tradition in Ethiopia, where everyone from farmers to guerrilla fighters has fashioned worn-out road rubber into cheap, long-lasting footwear.
But now, thanks to a young woman entrepreneur who has combined the internet‘s selling power with nimble business practices more often associated with Asian countries, the idea has been turned into an unlikely international hit. By adding funky cotton and leather uppers to recycled tyre soles, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu has sold many thousands of pairs of handmade flip-flops, boat shoes, loafers and Converse-style trainers to foreign customers.
Earlier this year I got an email from Paul Midler. His book Poorly Made in Chinawas about to be released by Wiley (my publisher). He’s a first-time author as well and we’ve become quick friends talking about first-time author experiences — things like how to best fight off mad hoards of groupies. (If you must know, I prefer to let my wife do the bouncing and Paul prefers to play dead.)
And then I read Paul’s book.
Sometimes when people say that a book changed their life, they’re just blowing smoke. In the case of Paul’s book, I mean it.
I was at the grocery charged with buying ingredients to make homemade pizza. I found the…
The new Levi’s commercial is well done. I mean how can you go wrong with Walt Whitman and sprinklers? But I can’t help think that it’s a bit ironic that there isn’t a single Levi’s factory left on American soil. The Levi’s I tracked down were Made in Cambodia.
An excerpt from “Where Am I Wearing?”
There is no such thing any more as a Levi’s factory. There hasn’t been since the 2004 closure of their last domestic plant in San Antonio, Texas. The company no longer produces jeans or any other type of clothing. They are a brand only. They design products, place orders with factories like the Roo Hsing Garment Factory
Not so long ago New York actually had a garment industry. Imagine that! Here’s a trailer for a new movie on HBO:
And an excerpt from Where Am I Wearing? for good measure:
The Northeast United States was once the bottom. Young girls worked at garment factories and textile mills. They were subjected to prisonlike conditions. Their rights were few, and their struggles many. In 1911, 141 workers—mostly women and girls—were burned to death in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. Escape from the fire was prohibited by a broken elevator and the presence of only one fire escape. As workers attained more rights, the bottom moved to the South and…
I heard primatologist Jane Goodall, Champion of the Chimps, on the Diane Rehm show today. She’s been fighting for our closest primate cousins for decades. She said something that really resonated with me.
“You’ve got to find a way to get into somebody’s heart. And just shouting at them and telling them they’re doing bad things and blinding them with numbers and statistics…you’ll never get anyone to change.”
She was referring to environmentalists who take more aggressive and political approaches to the issues. Her issue-centered philosophy dominates her work. A caller asked her about Diane Fossey (the Gorillas in the Mist lady). As contemporaries, Goodall tried to talk Fossey into reaching out to the Gorilla poachers. They were doing the awful…
Their shorts are different patterns of the same four colors. Their leather sandals are the same shade of brown. Their shirts are His and Her polos.
No one wants to think about their in-laws underwear, but if I was a betting man, I’d bet on theirs matching.
Gloria, my mother-in-law, deserves most of the credit (or blame; it depends on your perspective) for this. Jim, my father-in-law, could care less. Jim and I have this in common and it’s why I have a purple shirt.
I also have a pink shirt, Annie, my wife, says it’s salmon — as if that makes the shirt more manly. Men catch fish while drinking manly beer and floating in manly boats. Fish stink. Men stink. Therefore a color named…
If it weren’t for China, my baby daughter, Harper, would be naked and wouldn’t have anything to play with.
When you have a baby girl, everyone wants to buy her clothes (especially when she is the cutest baby ever!). Somewhere between thanking the gifter and keeping the giftee from chewing on the wrapping paper, I sneak a peak at the made in label of the onesie or sleeper, the plastic ball or the toy puppy, the teenie dress or tiny skirt. The tag almost always reads “Made in China.”
Other than shoes (80% made in China), I’ve never seen a category of clothing so dominated by a single country than baby clothes. If China shutdown, we’d have a bunch of bored, half-naked babies crawling around our living rooms.