Me and my blog

Edited: I don’t recall just what it was that inspired such an annoyed response on my part but this has been tempered somewhat. Oh I know. It was yet another new hip edgy t-shirt line destined to take over the industry. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that.

The primary purpose of my blog is not to collect trophy comments, trophy links or even trophy revenues. Popularity, acclaim and adoration of others is not a goal either -it’s to educate. To educate, you have to tell the truth even if it hurts somebody’s feelings.

Although I’d prefer you agreed with me, I’m going to write what I want even if you don’t like it. I will write what I like even if you don’t like me, my politics or my lifestyle. Speaking of, let’s just go ahead and get that out of the way, shall we?

For the record, I’m an environmentalist, a social and political activist, a vegetarian and I resent the expenditure of finite natural resources used to make crap. I haven’t watched TV since 1981 (don’t ask). The only radio station I listen to is NPR. I’m even a weird parent having planned a home birth with two midwives in attendance back when it was barely legal. I used cloth diapers and still use real linen napkins everyday. I have never bought my child a plastic toy. Scratch that, I got him a game console. Three times. I ride a bicycle to work every day. As social activism is the defining paradigm of my life, I’m insulted when people think I wrote a book about manufacturing because I don’t care about sweat-shops. A lot of people seem to think I’m the progenitor of Satan’s sweat-shops. Just why do you think I wrote a book? It’s because if you do things the right way, you don’t need to run a sweat-shop. I wrote a book about manufacturing to prevent sweat shops, not to start them. You may not like this messenger but heed the message all the same.

This blog isn’t about making t-shirts because anybody can do that. If you want to do that, great, go wild -seriously- but I shouldn’t have to validate your choices by telling you how to do it just so your feelings don’t get hurt. This blog is not about how to do things that anyone can do because you can get that anywhere else. This is about reclaiming what we used to do and do well. These days, if a friend tells me she went shopping, my first thought is “what color t-shirt did you buy” because that’s all there is. If we wait much longer to make this a priority, we’re going to be in a great deal of trouble. It is almost impossible to make certain things in the US anymore because we’ve lost the labor pool that knows how to do it. Most of the people who once made nice products are retired and dying. There are critical shortages of given skills in the apparel industry and if we wait much longer, we’ll never regain the skills we need to make nice things again. I believe the US industry will never be of it’s former size but I still believe there’s a place for it here. I envision that we’ll have a lot more smaller companies making specialized products and the industry infrastructure (suppliers, retail venues etc) needs to come to terms with that (whether they will or not is another story). I don’t believe apparel companies need to be large to be profitable and it’s a known fact that small businesses employ more people than large businesses, so this is a win-win situation for everybody. If you haven’t figured it out yet, my driving passion is job creation. Not everybody can work at Mc Donald’s and support a family.

Manufacturing does support families. I don’t know why people think factories are so awful, have you ever worked in one? I have literally spent the best years of my life in factories. Those aren’t bad memories, they are fond ones. You might not like the noise of machines but some of us do. In the heart of every fork-lift driver or large equipment operator is a little 5 year old kid who can barely see out under an over-sized hard hat and who sometimes can’t believe he gets paid to do this. Factories aren’t what you think. Less than 3% of US manufacturers are sweat-shops so very few factories are boring, dangerous, dank and dirty. People who work or have worked in factories may resent your sweat-shop comments because they wouldn’t work at a place like that anymore than you would so if you intimate that they have, that’s an underhanded way of saying you’re better than they are. Some of us deeply admire and respect our previous factory employers so a sweatshop comment can be offensive. DEs call me up and that’s the first thing they’ll say, “I need your advice but I don’t run a sweat-shop”. That really annoys me. It implies I run a sweatshop or that I advise people on how to set them up. Worst though is that I can’t get them to listen to a cost-effective suggestion because they think I’m going to tell them to flog their stitchers. Which is not to say I don’t want to knock some sense into someone but it’s rarely the stitcher.

If you’re one of those people who think that everybody else is the problem, you won’t find your apologist here. If I follow my principles, I guarantee everybody will be offended at some point. My message has always been: other people are not always the problem. You are too. That’s what my blog is about.

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  1. kathleen says:

    This is a compilation and crude importation of all the comments posted at the original site for this document. Feel free to add your comments.
    4/12/2005 05:17:23 PM Josh said:
    I don’t understand the whole not watching TV thing. I guess back in 1981 the only good thing that could feed your mind was on Public TV. But these days you have this huge array of channels. You have the Discovery Science Channel, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Times, The Learning Channel, Discovery Health Channel, Travel Channel, National Georgraphic Channel, History Channel, History International Channel, Biography Channel, DIY Channel, Court TV and CNN. You literally have a University of programming to watch at any time. I probably watch more TV than I should but I always learn something. I’m not watching crap sitcoms or anything like that. I guess you could argue that televisions use a lot of electricity? Well unless you have a plasma which uses a lot less power. What is your stance on TV and why did you decide to restrict your exposure to it completely? If you don’t mind me asking.

    My entire family are vegetarians so I completely understand that. I’m an avid gardner and love growing my own herbs and vegetables in the summer. You have said several times that you like working with leather? Do you not feel that the destruction of land to make that leather is a bad thing? That seems like a conflict of interests. I’d like to hear you speak on that some.

    Even though I’m a vegetarian I’m not sure how I feel about animal rights. I believe that we ourselves are animals, human yes, but animals none the less. Animals hunt. I don’t but some do. I’m not going to eat anything with a face simply because it’s gross to me. I’m not going to kill anything with a face either. That’s just me. I don’t begrudge others who want to. Although I don’t like the idea of turning killing into a sport. Animals should be able kill to eat.

    I am shocked to hear that even 3% of US factories are sweat shops. I wasn’t aware that we had any.

    4/12/2005 06:53:11 PM Kathleen said:
    I’m saying that my lack of social immersion provides me with a perspective that few other people have. I am not saying that TV is evil -it’s not a moral judgement. I’m saying that because I’m not exposed to it and having become immune to it, I notice certain things right away, things you’re so used to looking at that you can’t even see it anymore. I’m trying to say that if something pierces my world of social isolation, it’s got to be a fairly strong message. Being socially isolated, I only see the world in intermittent snapshots that I can compare to the last ones I had. That’s why I can read trends the way I do. There’s staccato leaps between snapshots. Personally, I think people like me could be studied for determinants of the most successful saturation advertising because if marketing hits my screen, it’s beyond saturation; it’s endemic. And if the message is an ugly one, I’m pissed at having my equilibrium disturbed at the atrocity.

    My lifestyle and choices I’ve made in it, are pathetic gestures toward trying to do something meaningful in my life, no matter how small. I’m very aware of the vast resources I still use but I’ve got to gain some peace somehow. Haven’t you considered I have my own demons? You’ll have to admit it’s pretty ironic that a confirmed anti-consumer is actively engaged in the pursuit of making still greater commerce possible! This is the largest contradiction of my life. One must atone regardless of how futile it is in one way or another. That’s why I do not -genuinely- resent others their choices (within rational limits)

    I can’t do my best work if I can’t talk about my life honestly. I’ve already grown tired of having to continually cover up what is not politically correct in business. I want to talk about things no one will. I want to talk about love and how people can love their work profoundly. I want to talk about the communal support and ownership that goes into building a business, developing old-fashioned integrity and trust, things that are profoundly good for one’s character. These things don’t fit into a blog if I can’t be myself and have to continually worry about policing myself for fear of offending someone or someone thinking I’m inordinately obsessed and weird -cause I am- but I’m not nuts!

    Isolation and eccentricity is not my choice. Regardless, my personal choices should be respected even though they contradict my professional choices. The dichotomy of the two is another lens. People won’t understand my viewpoint (and step outside of themselves) until they can see from where I’m looking at. My personal choices and my isolation are my lenses.

  2. Debbie Soles says:

    Hey Kathleen;

    Well if you don’t watch TV, then how are you watching the evil Tommy boy’s show???LOL

    I enjoyed this whole post, good read! Being one who has spent alot of time in sewing factories, I agree with what you said about factory environments. Over the last several years, it’s been very hard watching my friends lose their livelyhoods. Generations of their families worked in these factories, and now all gone…almost! Thanks you WalMart and everyone who shops there!

    I don’t trust you veg-heads…I just know you sneak a piece of meat every now and then!LOL Veg-heads always look like runners to me…sickly and weak looking. I’ve never watched a runner who looked like they were enjoying themselves…and have never watched a veg-head eat a salad with that same meat-eating grin!!LOL Ah just a little Monday morning razzin!

    A cyber sewing buddy turned me on to your blog, sure glad she did…love it..keep up the honesty..and if you are ever PC about anything, I won’t be back..and I want to come back!:))

    Well I’m off to buy your book, it’s on my list of things to do this week.


  3. Michael says:

    While I’m not a vegetarian, I do find myself *trying* to eat healthier since a couple of weeks ago I found out my cholesterol was over 200. FWIW, I work with a Hindu doctor, who is vegetarian, and she also has cholesterol problems (genetic she says), so not eating meat doesn’t automatically mean a clean bill of health.

    I gave up on TV years ago, too. I couldn’t justify spending $50/month (or whatever it was) for the three shows or so I watched on a regular basis. While it was hard to give up The Sopranos and The Daily Show, I’ve grown accustomed to it. Most of the stuff on TV is CRAP! in my opinion. Nowadays, the only time I turn on the TV is for the Super Bowl (for the commercials) and the Oscars (for the commercials and the Awards. I like good films, though I mostly watch them on DVD.

  4. RacheLyra says:

    hi kathleen,

    i just want to write you a little piece of fan mail for a second. I’ve come to the fringes of this industry fairly recently, after leaving theatre for basically these reasons:
    It’s because if you do things the right way, you don’t need to run a sweat-shop.
    …and I didn’t want to run a theatre. I’m starting to think I’d like to run a factory, and you can bet i’m socking my pennies away to send to you. I’ve always valued ‘industry standards’ as a way to define & manage tasks, and am thrilled that you will give me some pointers at a lower price than graduate school. Higher value, too, I’m starting to think.

  5. Grace says:

    TV is not beamed to our homes to deliver news or entertainment to us. It is for delivering an audience to advertisers.

    I find your refusal to watch TV perfectly understandable.

  6. ClaireOKC says:

    Well, I may not be on the same side of the fence politically, but “Amen, sister” to this post!!! The real true fact of the matter is that if you turn out quality work, you can make a living and a very nice living. I’ve proved it. In a small metro area, where there was certainly no need or passionate cry in the universe (or my community) for more formal wear; I carved out my own niche in this community and have a pretty nice slice of the business. But I also believe there is room for all of us. I believe there is not a set amount of $$$ that can be sliced up and then there’s none for those left. I believe that there is enough $$$ in the universe/world/whatever entity you desire, for everyone to make a living. You do have to work, but here’s the fun part – do something you love, and you will do it with passion, enthusiasm, joy and love, AND you will turn out a product or service that is marketable and worthy, that is done with humanity, tolerance and responsibility.

  7. Patton says:

    Great post Kathleen, i don’t know if it was meant to move, but i found it moving. And clarifying. Thank you for not being a crowd pleaser. This blog has single handedly been the best education i have received thus far.

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