Research on global inequalities in the garment production chain

A consortium, led by Erik de Maaker (CADS, Leiden), has been awarded €98k under the NWA (Dutch National Science Agenda) program for Localizing Global Garment Biographies, a two-year project to research the different ways in which which users and producers attach value to clothing.

The partners of the Localizing Global Garment Biographies project are Sanne van den Dungen (Grameena Vikas Kendram Society), Mila Ernst (Modemuze), Maaike Feitsma (Amsterdam University for Applied Sciences), Mayke Groffen (Museum Rotterdam), Niccy Kol (Raddis Cotton), Rachel Lee (Technical University of Delft), and Jose Makor and Maria Theresa Snelders (MBO Zadkine). Localizing Global Garment Biographies is a sub-project of Coherent, hosted by the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam.

Addressing the lack of transparency in global apparel supply chains

Localizing Global Garment Biographies aims to address the lack of transparency in global apparel product chains. The project proceeds from the heritage clothing collection of the Museum of Rotterdam and wants to connect the histories of materials, skills, production and use, to engage critically with the affective and monetary values ​​of clothing.

The making of clothes

Garment production, usually located in the Global South, leads to poor working conditions, low wages and high environmental costs. Ginners, weavers and embroiderers, as well as the farmers who produce the raw materials, are harshly exploited. Yet clothing buyers generally remain immune to these origins. Rather, they associate clothes with fashion patterns that brands use to present them in terms of culture, ethnicity, and class.

Race down

Globally, the apparel industry is engaged in a race to the bottom, aiming to produce ever larger quantities at ever lower costs. Due to these unfair and unsustainable practices, clothes have become increasingly affordable in a country like the Netherlands, allowing consumers to buy clothes in large quantities and throw them away after a lifetime of more shorter.

The need to rethink global commodity chains

This fall in the monetary and emotional value of clothing calls for the need to rethink the global sectors, so that they become less unequal in terms of the appreciation of work and its impact on the environment, and increasingly circular in terms of to the use of materials. and energy.

Increase producer agency

Drawing inspiration from material culture studies, Localizing Global Garment Biographies will allow project partners to work towards creating online audiovisual biographies of selected garments that can enable communication between garment producers and wearers. This sharing of knowledge and values ​​aims to increase the agency of producers, while inspiring consumers to make more responsible choices in the purchase, use and disposal of garments.

Photo credit: Raddis®System and

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Michael O. Stutler