I am originally from Stoke-on-Trent, born to a working class family..
I think with my roots being an industrial place really have helped in my life, yet I am only now beginning to realise the power of the many, the collaborative. I understand what it’s like to work in a factory – I’ve been there, my mum was there – be it a different industry- my dad was there – being those cogs in the wheel ..
Not everyone In the fashion space has seen factories from the other side of the table, experientially. It is difficult to understand what it’s like to be and work in the bowels of a factory. I worked in a factory for a time as a student, putting labels on some old granny night dresses for BHS and Little woods, ironing and placing the garments through the steam tunnel. I also interned there seeing the whole system from design through to the lectra machine, to cutting and bundling, sewing and all the different machinery then through to the packing where I worked a summer or two.
It’s honourable work, though you get hardly anything – it’s also where a sense of community is not lost – it is why you work .. you know the others Rely on you, it creates a camaraderie that knows that the ripples of one area will indeed make an impact on the other areas. It creates an integrity beyond that of money – it is a mini ecosystem in itself.
I wonder as I remember my time how many people are commended on this kind work in the system – it is highly skilled in some areas – yet it is seen as a ‘worker’ or lower position … I remember even as a student worker thinking up from the bottom up of ideas that would help solve some of the production problems that they had there – for instance there was a granny night gown where the fabric was so creased and it was not coming out when putting it through the usual steam tunnel. In my college we had always steamed these items with an iron and wet cloth. I mentioned that as a solution – it worked ! Potentially saving the factory thousands in having to start again afresh .. the other ironing woman and I spent weeks wet cloth and iron in hand painstakingly getting rid of the creases – her face looking at me in distaste at times when her own sore hands as well as mine were struggling with the toil.
Were we ever compensated for an idea that saved the day? – no – that idea belonged to the company we sort of ‘belonged’ to it, with my brain now in the collaboration space – I can see that these kind of bottom up ideas in the business space can be winners for a lot more people and if we co-create solutions we could potentially reap the rewards of the collective.
Join us to work on the roots of our forest in our niche ‘roots up’ co-creation space .. especially if you are a factory , mill, artisan, designer, fashion professional .. join and let’s co-create what’s possible in a new economic way.
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Rachel Sheila Kan
Ecosystem Architect – The Ecosystem Incubator