I will be walking the production line soon in Sept. in China.
Walking the line means to literally walk up and down the production lines of the factory and do QC inspection. Some companies hire professional QC person to walk the line, for Prima Zaria, I’d like to do it myself.
Long before Prima Zaria was even a thought, I lived in a factory for 1 whole year to learn the art of pattern making, construction, and what it means to walk the line. That 1 year spent was the hardest, craziest, and funniest year of my entire experience as a designer. I was fortunate to petition for, and eventually got my own bathroom but still, the condition of living in a factory was…to say the least.
In spite of it all, Prima Zaria would not be here today had I not live among the same group of people, who hunched over JUKI sewing machines spaced out neatly into rows, with painted leathers hung overhead to be dried. These very group of people have since become the backbone of many products and brands you see today. Without them, product shots featured on editorials of glossy magazines will not exist.
Fashion is not just about models strutting down the runway, editors, celebrities, and buyers sitting on the front row, or designers jet flying across the globe. The real heart and soul of fashion resides with these men and women who toll away 12-14 hours a day in a factory to meet the many crazy deadlines of market weeks and fashion weeks around the world.
None of them want to work more than 8 hours a day but when the buyers are pressing overseas with the threat of canceling orders, or slashing the cost by another half, human rights are usually the last thing on the minds of both parties.
My room in the factory was in a building adjacent to the building responsible for assembling final leather cuts together. I remembered there was a particular big order from a major American brand, and the girls who worked behind the machines spend 7 weeks working from 8am to 12am Monday to Sunday. Word was, if they didn’t finish this 50,000 pieces order on time, it would be canceled.
Think about it, even if a piece costs only $4.99 landing cost, the buyer is not obligated to pay anything up front until the receipt of goods first. The billing cycle may take another 30-60 billing dates depending on what is stipulated on the original contract. So from the receipt of order to the shipment of goods to the buyer, the factory is entirely responsible for any cost that incurred during labor, material purchase, shipping, and tax. Imagine if this order were to be canceled because the factory couldn’t meet the deadline, we are talking about how much more cash flow the factory must have to sustain the loss. No where during this equation did anyone had the time to include or even bother themselves with human rights.
All this is not to say that the buyers are evil and the factories are victims, but a realistic view of how the relationship between the two facilitates the fashion world as we know today. It still amazes me how many designers are totally clueless about this relationship, and condemns the factories for not complying to international human rights, while they themselves may have unknowingly become the culprits contributing to the cycle.