Fashion is the largest labored industry in the world with 1 in 6 people working in it. As a consumer, sometimes it’s hard to understand just how connected you really are to people around the world. To help break this down we wanted to outline just how many people it took to make the shirt you’re wearing. By the way, this is an estimate and we’re erring on the low side and not including the many corporate teams that actually are needed to get a product from the factory to your hands.
1 | Cotton Farmer
Because most fabric is a plant, and plants must be grown.
2 | Gin
Combing and cleaning the cotton.
3 | Spin
The process that pulls wads of cotton into spools of fibre.
4 | Loom
Usually by machine, not hand, this knits all the fibre into massive bolts of fabric.
5 | Chemical Treating
Now those bolts need to be treated with chemicals to be softer, sweat proof, no-shrinkage, etc. By the way, lots of it isn’t great for you.
6 | Fabric Dying and/or Pattern Printing
Off to give the bolts some personality. With the exception of digital printing this is where a lot of environmentalists lay serious claim to the hazardous waste in the fashion industry. Well, that and the chemical treatment mentioned above.
7 | Designer
The creative that concocts new looks each season, often this is a team as well.
8 | Tech Pack Designer
A tech pack takes the design sketches and creates a blue print for the factory of all the tools and measurements they’ll need to make that garment.
9 | Pattern Maker
Coinciding with the tech pack, the patterns are the shapes of the garment that, when sewn together, will create the final piece.
10 | Pattern Cutter
Uses the patterns to cut the chosen fabric into the shapes needed for assembly.
11 | Sewing Machines
Smaller orders and smaller factories could have one machine do many of these jobs, and the larger productions will stick to an assembly line model. One machine will sew the left seam, another the right, the following the waistband or neck trim, another the buttonholes, the following the buttons, the next the trim,and finally the interior care and brand tags.
12 | Embellishment or Screen Printing
Sometimes designs will call for embroidery work, screen printing, etc. These extra touches can vary in the amount of people needed.
13 | Quality Checker
Finally, each garment will be checked for quality against the brand-approved factory sample to ensure the stitching, assembly, fabric, and any other detail meets the standards agreed upon at the placement of the order.
What We Cannot Stress Enough
That’s 13 stops with often a team of at least 2-3 people or more, spanning 3-5 countries, sometimes on 3 different continents. This means the garment you are wearing passed through a bare minimum of 24 people’s hands in order to be made, and if it’s made by a large brand, it’s probably more like 35+ people. Either way, this isn’t including shipping to each location or the teams of corporate people who manage sales, marketing, PR, and retail operations in order to get that finished garment from the factory to your closet.
Want to get involved in ethical fashion as the global citizen that you now know you are? Attend our Fashion Revolution Day NYC event happening April 24th in NYC. Don’t live in NYC? Tune in live on our Instagram @thr3efold that night to hear an insightful panel of experts discuss the road to a completely ethical fashion industry and discover some new ethical brands you can shop from home!
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