There were key points of how I spent the last couple of days that I would like to share and relive again in memory.
The bands I wore for the last days were ENTHUSIASM. OPENNESS. PERSPECTIVE.. I'm still in training period. And I'm going to take advantage of our buyers/designers coming all the way from Argentina for buying and development season to understand their process and see how we can better conform and provide support to it.
The time we were in Guangzhou Fabric Trade Market and Mel/Carla (textile developer) walked me through all the different textile fibers. Carla was collecting swatches of different prints for potential development design while Mel and I were searching for vintage/American flag cotton fabrics to score business with Urban Outfitters.
Best feeling moment: Seeing Mel excited about touching fibers again (its been awhile since art school days) and her feeling compelled to teach me.
Velvet, chiffon, cotton, felt, lace, polyester, canvas, cotton, tweed, denim, nylon, silk, rayon, sequin, gabardine, tweed, corduroy, linen, AND MORE! It was a lot to take in while trying to avoid motorbikes criss-crossing the crazy market streets. There was a brief moment when I felt super overwhelmed and out of place.
"I’m not cut out for this…everything looks and feels the same. I'm not a very attention to detail person...”
But all in good time right?
I reminded myself that there’s nowhere to go than up from here and shifted my mindset towards enthusiasm and curiosity for the remainder of the day. Asking questions and listening with apt attention. If I feign interest, maybe all of this would come naturally.
The next day we all went on a long day roadtrip to Jiaxing and Tonglu to visit 4 textile factories we outsource from for our client's scarves- the process of print/knit/weave/wash/dye/steam/cut/fold. I was super relieved that we chose clean factories to source from and surprised by how friendly the factory owners were during our tour.
I admit that I too had a socially constructed-preconceived bias-negative connotation for when I hear “Made in China” and pictured exploitation and sketchy going on’s inside factory grounds. As in sweat-shops, child labor, people spitting all over the place and getting their fingers accidentally chopped off scenarios. Not the case. At least not for textiles anyway! Most of the space was occupied by huge chunky machines- screen printers, silk screens, giant looms, and rotary screen printing presses with 2-5 rugged looking employees hanging around making sure that nothing blows up.
It was an amazing trip. To know that we work in production and see how things are made is critical for us to understand and appreciate the stuff we help mass produce and distribute to the world. Making sure that everything is ethically and responsibly sourced gives me greater pride in working in this industry. I needed to see it to believe it.
Most memorable moment- Seeing Carla’s face upon entering her first public open squat-let experience. It was the worst I’ve ever seen myself since we were way out in the rural hicks of the country. So I must say I was proud of her going from 0 to 100 outside of her comfort zone. "Walls" were short and thin and you could literally see people squatting next to each other in a common stream on the ground. But when you gotta go, you gotta go...
I told her my strategy is to wrap my whole head and mouth with a scarf to avoid the horrible smells of a public not very much ventilated “restroom” space. It was her idea to put on some Ralph Lauren perfume on the scarf to inhale before entering. Look at us working together and using our fashion wear!
We came out alive and gagging still. But you could say we embraced the experience and it was something we both wouldn't forget. HA! #explore #embrace
The following day, Carla give our company a one hour class lecture on how to recognize different textile fibers; differences between natural and synthetic. I was deeply grateful for her expertise and her time. Me and Mel got everyone together and helped translate.
We communicated how it’s important that ODES (as a trading company) understand quality and composition so our suppliers don't take advantage of our ignorance while quoting us. The reality is that China suppliers are often sneaky where they may claim something is 100% cotton when there is definitely some cheaper rayon or lurex in the mix. We don't know any better so we pass the information along to our retailers who may get fined during importation for inaccurate composition. For all of us down the value chain, it would translate to fairer prices and higher negotiation power. It's my goal to deliver transparency. Yes, even in China when pollution fills the air.
Best sensory moment:
Getting up on a table to take a picture of Carla burning acetate fiber and the facial expressions on everyone’s faces at the smell of burnt chemicals with a bit of vinegar. AHA take that for a lesson you’ll never forget.
Our ODES employees are mostly recently college grads around mid to late 20’s. They look under-aged. Shy and conservative. Typical China background where they are raised not to be very vocal in expressing their feelings or their personality. When I asked them if they learned anything from the lesson, they said “yes, good to know.” They walked all away like sheep after Carla's lesson to go back to work. None of them thanked her. Sigh. I’ll have to work on that.
I just want to scream back at them "EXPRESS YOSELF" but I know I need to be patient, and I need to build trust as well as respect. And I can't do that by flaunting my extrovertedness expecting that they would reciprocate. #truth
and Chinese culture
How to coexist
and how to lead.