The first time I traveled to China, to visit the factories that produced the jewelry I designed, I had no idea what to expect. It’s overwhelming to see something you created once be recreated thousands of times by a team of people. Each step is broken down into a series of repetitive motions. Machines are created to do some of the tasks, but many steps must be done by hand. Often I would write something like “make this 30% smaller” on a technical drawing for them and assume they would use some sort of magic shrinking machine, but no, someone sits and creates a model that is 30% smaller by hand. Each component in the piece of jewelry is replicated, assembled, then plated, packaged, and checked for quality. Is it handmade? There sure are a lot of hands involved. Is it only handmade if I make it? Must authorship accompany something we consider handmade? If someone in the US is using the same beads, chain, and jewelry findings that were made in these same factories in their work does it make it more handmade? Does it make it more valuable?
As I got to know the teams at some of the factories I would always leave with more questions than answers about the economic* implications of the work we did. When people had questions about my experience I wished I could just set up a camera and show them.
Well, Everlane did just that. This series of photos is from Everlane’s factory page where they introduce each factory, what they do, and how they do it. I think they’re incredibly beautiful and show the sense of pride and integrity that can go into creating the things we buy. I hope this starts a trend. Every maker has a story and so does each factory.
*The environmental effect is an entirely different story.