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Blood, Sweat, and T-Shirts / Hat of the Day Sketch – Philip Treacy brown velour hat

February 22, 2010

Daily Thought

Have you seen the new t.v. series Blood, Sweat, and T-Shirts?  I’ve never been a reality show fan except when there’s some sort of personal development story or an uplifting reason for the show’s existence.  Blood, Sweat, and T-Shirts is one of those shows that I think everyone in any “developed” nation needs to watch.  It puts a human face on the clothing industry by taking a handful of well-to-do British young people (early-mid 20s) who enjoy spending lots of money on fashion, and sending them to India to work at various jobs that make up the garment industry.  They have to pick cotton and get paid barely enough to pay the rent for the day; they have to work in a cotton-cleaning factory doing grueling, back-breaking labor; they are fortunate enough to work in a large, clean garment factory before having to work in a true sweatshop where some Indian workers have to sleep on the floor rather than going home for the night.

There is always too much work to do and not enough money.  Most people – even the skilled laborers – do not earn a real living wage and are working under conditions and for wages that Americans would never tolerate.

The really amazing thing to me is how even the Brits who are fashion students and have made garments themselves don’t have a clue how much thankless work forms the foundation of this industry, nor did it occur to them why the finished clothing they buy in England can be sold so inexpensively.

As part of the handmade- and cottage industry movements, I have been blessed with a lot of patrons who appreciate my handcrafted hats and are willing to pay more precisely because they are handcrafted and also because they are eco-friendly.  (Eco-friendly items take even more time to make – but I will blog about that later!)  Fortunately, my patrons appreciate the time, training, and skill it takes for me to make everything by hand.  Now, I have met several people who, despite knowing that all my items are handmade, still scoffed at my prices.  The ones that still shock me the most are the older people who used to pay more for everything back before it was all made in China.  I guess they’ve forgotten that in order to buy American you have to be willing to pay American prices.

Anyway, the kids on Blood, Sweat, and T-shirts seem to be coming around to the realization that exploiting people you’ve never met is not a good excuse for demanding cheap, abundant clothing that you don’t feel guilty throwing away long before the item has been used up.

Please understand – I do realize that not everyone living in a first-world country can afford to buy handmade, nor do I fault them for this.  I still cannot afford to buy nearly as many handmade items as I would like.  But I feel that those of us who have the means, even only occasionally, to share the wealth with handcrafting artisans have a responsibility to do so.  In the long run, it will actually help our economy dig back from out of the deep pit it’s been in.

I also want to see the day when artists of all walks stand a chance of getting our share of the economic pie.  When the arts flourish, the nation flourishes.  Think about the Renaissance.  It’s not a coincidence that strong patronage of the arts went hand-in-hand with Europe’s explosive cultural presence and power.

Industrially made items from other countries are fine some of the time; indeed, I think every wealthy nation should share the wealth with those less fortunate – but only if the workers who made them are treated fairly and humanely.  Let’s support each others’ efforts to pull ourselves up to better places.

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Hat of the Day Sketch

Today’s hat is from a modern milliner named Philip Treacy based out of London.  He takes classic millinery styles and puts quirky twists on them that are not too outrageous but still can only be worn by a confident person.  His website doesn’t list the materials for his hats but I am guessing that this one is a brown velour fur felt and it has a sparkly hat band with three furrows, a swirl of brown fur felt below that, and a pouf of brown feathers forming a rosebud on the side with sprigs of stripped ostrich feathers springing off the hat.  I don’t know if he makes his hats by hand anymore but I hope he does at least some of the time.

Philip Treacy hat, 2009 autumn/winter collection

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