Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bad Artisanry vs. Globalization

This is year old news, but I just ran into it the other day. It seems that a fasion design teacher in Philadelphia decided to organize the making of a "hundred mile suit" -- a suit made entirely within and using materials made within a hundred mile radius of where she lived. This was intended to create a dialog about local solutions and globalizations. Twenty artisans put a total of 500 man hours into making the suit, which doesn't look very good. (At anything like a living wage, that would put the suit at a value of $10,000+.)

While I'm tempted simply to get a good laugh out of the ad absurdum application of the "buy local" ideal, several people have pointed out this is more an example of utter incompetance at both artisanry and local sourcing. Surely there are much higher quality and low time investment sources of spinning and weaving within one hundred miles of Philly than the products shown here would suggest. And one blogger shows a picture of a hand spun, wand woven skirt she got from Ecuador which looks just great.

So what we're seeing here is as much an example of the bad taste of some "buy local" advocates as the true quality of locally produced goods.

I personally enjoy producing some of my own goods (garden, furniture making, etc.) despite knowing it's not necessarily the most economical way of acquiring the good in question. However, I generally do this both for the pleasure of the process and because I can use time that wouldn't otherwise be productive to produce something of higher quality than I'd be able to justify buying. Why one would put all sorts of time into producing a clearly inferior product, I'm not clear.

5 comments:

Kate said...

And yet you think that the human connections made from relying on friends, family, and aquaintances in times of great medical or financial need is worth the chance that people will fall through the cracks or receive inadequate medical care.

(I don't know whether I agree or disagree with you or not. Just pointing out that if you recognize the value of human connection in the one, you really ought to recognize the value of community building in the 'buy local' movement.)

:-)
Kate

Darwin said...

Fair point.

Though to be clear, I'd see the current US mix of employer-provided, individual and government provided health care as one of the reasons for the current cracks. I'm not so much arguing on health care that our current system is ideal, but rather that the direction in which government single payer solutions suggest we go is the wrong direction.

Also, far be it from me to claim that I have a fully cohesive and consistent view on all these issues at the moment.

CMinor said...

My guys fence, and much of the equipment is made overseas. Thus I was interested when a Carolina armorer sent us a catalogue introducing their team of seamstresses. It seems they're now using local independent contractors (7 or 8 ladies, most of whom used to be in the garment industry) to make their line of fencing garments. Granted that they're still having to ship in the materials, but not so long ago (in my lifetime, certainly) it would have been easy enough to find a textile mill within 200 miles of their location.

Home shops like this used to be fairly common around the U. S. and provided flexible work for many. There used to be a thriving home machine knitting industry in New England, until it was regulated out of existence.

j. christian said...

Twenty artisans put a total of 500 man hours into making the suit, which doesn't look very good. (At anything like a living wage, that would put the suit at a value of $10,000+.)

Sometimes I wonder if the anti-globalization zealots understand the concept of comparative advantage and how it makes us better off. This suit is a prime example of why trade (and not just international trade, but all forms of trade) works.

CMinor said...

Y'know, looking at that again, I'm guessing local hobbyists (reenactors, maybe?)were employed to spin and weave the material (and perhaps make the fasteners.) If that's the case, they were probably using 19th century tech for the job. Guess textile mills within 100 miles of Philly are a thing of the past.

The jacket looks to be the work of a knitter. A basic Mr. Rogers sweater might have gone far towards pulling the whole look together. What they have on the model looks like one of Vogue Knits' wackier ideas.