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.