August 17, 2014

As a visual person, I am constantly observing my surroundings: objects, people, setting, light, shadows, and even the less tangible, such as mood and transient moments that I experience with the space around me. In my overly visual life, I realized that one thing I never really envisioned, was what it would look like to make a tee shirt.

The methodical part of me knew, roughly, what went in to making a tee shirt: the cotton is grown and then woven into fabric at the mill; the fabric is cut, sewn and dyed; the label is sewn or ironed on; loose ends are trimmed and the shirts are ironed and sent out. However, I never quite knew what it looked like to make a tee shirt.

I didn’t know what it would look like when the fabric flowed through the equipment, when sunlight was reflected off of the fabric, how the employees would interact with the fabric or what the fabric would look like rolled, folded or as excess snippets on the floor after cutting.

I also never thought about what it would sound or feel like to make a tee shirt. What would it sound like when sewing machines were feverishly stitching, when the dye machines were at work dyeing, when the scissors were snipping and when the employees’ boots were swishing across the damp floor around the dye baths? What would the rhythm of the factory feel like, the steam from the dye baths or even the fabric between my fingers?

When I had accepted Everlane’s (generous) invitation to attend their #KnowYourFactories tour, I knew that I was looking forward to learning about the tee shirt making process, but I hadn’t anticipated just how moving the process would be on a visual/sensory level. Not only did I get to learn more about the process, but I also got to truly see, hear and feel what goes into making a tee shirt. To me, the process was elegant, elaborate and even symphonic.

If you are not familiar with Everlane’s radical transparency philosophy, I’d highly recommend reading about it here. You can also find the specifics behind their tee shirt factory here.

I would like to extend a special thanks to Everlane for giving me the opportunity to experience their tee shirt making process and also to the kind-hearted employees who so graciously welcomed me into their workspace and were willing to let me get (sometimes a little too) close with my camera lens. 

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