At the moment I am into the second week of the excellent course ‘Who made my Clothes?’And I have something to tell.
This is the fantastic and touching story of my basic black HEMA t-shirt. Yes, although I am simple I have a story to tell. Many people are involved into this story. People we haven’t met or will meet. But they are the people who made your clothes often in countries far away. They are mostly women who have to do the work in the garmentfactories. Very different from most people living in the Netherlands who can afford t-shirs like we are. Often with low wages or in bad working and living circumstances. Be aware of that point: They do it for all of us and they have something to tell to you!
Here is my story. I am not alone. I live with 14 brothers and sisters in a wardrobe in Amsterdam. The two men living there really take good care of us. We get washed and showered in a machine and get dry while they put us down on chairs and railings. Every now and than we get a warm massage by a heating machine. Yes, our life is not bad at all because when we are on one of their bodies we feel loved and cherished by them. Before we were bought by one of the two men we where wrapped in plastic foil and waiting to be taken home in a HEMA shop in Amsterdam. We could have been bought by someone else and our life perhaps would have been very different. Maybe we were already binned or not used at all.
So we are lucky here at the pile in the wardrobe. Every now and than the door opens and we get a glimpse of the canal in front of the house. And while it is summer we are hardly used by them because they now only wear funny printed shirts. They also have many of those, but that is another story which might be told one day.
The plastic foil outfit was put around us in a factory in Bangladesh. Roughly 9042 km from Amsterdam. By plane it takes a bit more than 13 hours and by boat 4 weeks. I am not sure which transport we took because it was dark in the box and we fell asleep. Suddenly it was opened and we heared a language we didn’t understand.
Our life story started at a cotton plantation in Brasil. Some of the early lives of my familie started in West Africa or in Australia. Light, white and fluffy we were after all the heath and water we got. Luckily for us no pesticides were used because we know from former generations that they suffered under it. The harvest of the cottonplant was done by a machine. Rather rough I must admit. All of us than were pushed together in big bales. Not much air to breath but we survived the long transport by boat to Bangladesh. So happy to get into the open again and breath and breath! But it didn’t took long before we all got seperated by a huge machine and mixed with another family with the curious familyname Elasthan. Noting better than mixing up we always say. But only if it gets better after The Mix! And it did became much better after we all came together in an endless long white thread! Round and round we went till we all got dizzy while they wrapped us on big cones. Into the van we went. All close together. Rather cozy, warm and with a real family feeling. Another factory we went to be knitted into miles and miles of fabric. Hundreds of women and men were working in those factories to get everything done. To get a fabric without any fault in it. To get it ready in time to be dyed black! Into the black swimmingpool we went and out we came as a beautiful and shining black fabric. Many hands touched us. Checked us again if there were no mistakes. We were lucky. No mistakes. The next step could be made in the manufacturing factory also in Bangladesh. Cutting us in pieces to make t-shirts. We were lucky to be saved. A small part of the fabric was not. That is life I guess.
I came into a whirlwind of handmovements. A stamp was put onto the backpart mentioning that I belonged to the HEMA family. Hands from different women were touching me One was sewing the shoulders together. Another one did the side seams.At the end I was made. Yeah! I became a Proud Black Basic T-shirt.
Promise me that when you buy a new garment remember this story. Every garment is made by hand! By a women or man as yourself. With the same dreams and desires you had when you were young. Read the stories of them. HEMA was really open about telling this story. Be aware of that is all I ask from you! And maybe change your habits and stand up for the workers in the textilechain. We are all humans!