For three years, Remake has brought fashion design students from Parsons School of Design and California College of the Arts to the world’s primary garment production hubs around the world to listen, learn and volunteer. Dubbed the peace corps for fashion, these immersive journeys bridge the divide between the beginning and end of our fashion supply chain: designers to makers.
In filmed journeys to Cambodia, Sri Lanka and most recently Mexico, students went inside garment maker communities, sat down with makers and heard about what life is like on the factory floor.
As the film short from our Mexico journey premieres around the world, some of our students share their transformative experiences coming face to face with the women who make our every day clothes:
?? Josefina Munoz, Made in Mexico, class of 2019
“My Remake experience became an eye-opening journey. I gained a new understanding of inequalities not only in regards to wages and workplace conditions, but also the systematic oppression that takes advantage of makers’ lack of awareness in regard to what they can demand.
Current under-regulated circumstances allow factory owners and brands to deny fair and healthy conditions to their employees. Through conversations with Mexican garment makers and artisans, we learned about the asymmetry in power, told through their experience. It was a relief to see there are efforts, within their communities, to decolonize these relationships: like the collective Obreras Insumisas and some of the syndicates that we had the chance to speak with.
The work being done to raise awareness for the makers’ equity made me realize that I can empower others, through my work and my actions.
That has been my commitment because without equity and justice, we will not have a global fashion system that works for everyone. My experience in Mexico supported my studies at Parsons. My senior thesis, NO ME COPIES // Fake it ’til you make it, engages with my ongoing investigation of class, relationships to power and authorship. It explores the silent and common socioeconomic boundaries drawn through the consumption of luxury goods. It also examines the knockoff effect that allows the products to reach populations that generally can’t afford the originals. My thesis re-imagines fashion as a common ground of non-discrimination and inclusion to challenge power relations within the fashion system.”
?? Ioli Tzouka, Made in Sri Lanka, class of 2018
“My thesis began forming when we traveled to Sri Lanka. I already had a strong view on fashion and its relationship with women, but it was mostly about small western communities in traditional craft.
When I was in Sri Lanka, I tried to forget what my predisposed views were. I also tried to see everything without judgment and approach the women makers not as the victims, how media often portrays them, but as equals. The truth is, women there had a very low quality of life for local standards, but they were fighters: much stronger and braver than I imagined. Still, their circumstances can’t be considered tolerable or “normal”.
When I came back to New York and to my project, I continued to work with these Sri Lankan women in mind, now in conjunction with the Greek women communities in my project. Although their lives are completely different on many levels, they are all women with wants, needs, ideas and cravings for better futures for themselves and their kids. I worked on my project, without ever forgetting that makers in different parts of the world we don’t know are not subjects of pity, only humans in need of support.
After Sri Lanka, I had the proof I needed to advocate for better working conditions in fashion.
Through my work as a designer, I choose to narrate women’s stories, directly work with them and learn from them. Fair and humane working conditions are a non-negotiable must for me. I am now working as a designer for STATE, a backpack and handbag company, where I am leading the sustainability department and working to turn our production sustainable and ethical by 2025.”
?? Yimin Deng, Made in Sri Lanka, class of 2018
“I was building my senior fashion design thesis around sustainable fabrics. Called yiminism | b r e a t h e, my work aimed to revitalize the declining tradition of a Chinese handwoven fabric called “summer cloth” from Jiangxi, while integrating other sustainable fabrics including Lyocell. While building my thesis, I journeyed to Sri Lanka with Remake and my perspective forever changed.
I was in a unique position because I grew up around factory workers in China–my parents were once factory workers–and I still today hear about their stories whenever I am back in my hometown. Because of this, the makers I met in Sri Lanka felt in a way familiar to me.
This connection helped me realize that sustainability in fashion should be human-centered: it should address garment makers’ equality alongside sustainable materials.
As a direct response to my journey to Sri Lanka, I shifted the focus of my thesis from sustainable fabrics to the makers of these fabrics. Knowing that this is far from enough, I aim to challenge the fashion industry’s hierarchy in my career ahead.
Remake gave me the invaluable experience and the courage to apply for graduate programs in development studies, even though it is a big leap from my bachelor’s degree. I hope to further research the fashion industry through the lens of workers’ equity, poverty reduction, craft preservation and socioeconomic development. It is important for me to gain literacy in these disciplines for what I want to achieve. The good news is that I’ve received offers to study at SOAS, University of London and Sciences Po Paris, as I’m waiting for other results to come out. It is my mission to dedicate my career to promote workers’ equity. I am grateful for Remake opening a new life path for me. ”
?? Allison Griffin, Made in Cambodia, Class of 2018
“For my senior fashion thesis, I knew I wanted to address the question of who makes our clothes and to bring to light the fashion industry’s history of low wages, unsafe working conditions and abuse of garment factory workers. As the great-granddaughter of a seamstress in a doll clothing factory, I wanted to give a face and name to the people who make the clothes we wear and design.
Remake offered the perfect opportunity to meet real women making clothes for American brands overseas. Without joining Remake’s journey to Cambodia, none of my thesis would have been possible, as it became a celebration of the women makers I met in Cambodia. I created a series of textile portraits featuring three Cambodian women through hand-made techniques. I also directed and produced of a video to bring awareness to child labor within garment factories. The Remake experience taught me to not just dwell on the negative conditions and stories these women faced, but to instead share their strength, courage, and perseverance as a way to encourage others to think about who makes our clothing.
Remake changed my fashion career for good.
I now think of the production process of clothes I design and the well-being of the people who will be making them. I also encourage and educate others inside and outside the fashion industry to think about who is making their clothing. Remake has led me, now a journalist, to focus on writing stories about issues within the fashion industry from a human lens and beyond the fashion industry to other “blue collar” workers’ struggles. I hope to give a space for these people to be heard.”
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