Monday, November 24, 2008

Where Am I Wearing - Kelsey Timmerman

Well, it seems kind of appropriate that Where Am I Wearing is being released today from John Wiley & Sons. After all it's Black Friday this week in the U.S. and Christmas shopping is well under way in Canada.
(... trust me - the mall is packed ...)

Many of us will be buying clothes for gifts or ourselves. But do you ever really wonder where the item is made? Do you look at the tag as part of your decision or are you just happy to get a good deal?

Kelsey Timmerman did a little bit more that wonder. He decided to find the factory in Bangladesh that produced his favourite 'Jingle These' boxers. And his jeans, tee-shirt and flip flops.

And so off he treks to the other side of the world to discover the origins of his clothes.

In Bangladesh, he poses as an underwear buyer to gain entrance to view the factories. While most of us will speak out against sweatshop labour, Kelsey finds that nothing is as cut and dried when faced with actual people and their lives.

"My own conclusion, after visiting Bangladesh, is that we should not be ashamed that our clothes are made by children so much as ashamed that we live in a world where child labor is often necessary for survival."

He has great fun with some street kids, taking twenty of them to an amusement park for the same price it would take to get one American kid into Disney World.

It is this aspect that I enjoyed the most in Timmerman's book - the personal level of interaction - meeting with and talking to the actual workers of the garment industries he visited in their own environments.

Timmerman's writing style is entertaining and candid, but still explores the history of the garment industry and what is being done to reform it.

In Cambodia, home to his treasured pair of blue jeans, he discovers that 75% of the country's exports are garments. Again, it is the personal stories of the eight female workers sharing a 96 sq. ft. room that grabbed me.

It is in China that he has the most difficulty accessing a factory. But he connects with a married couple working in the flip flop factory. They provide for family back in their rural village and have not seen their son in three years. Kelsey decides to go to the village to visit.

Back in the US he visits a garment factory that made his oldest and still wearable shorts.

Timmerman provides no black and white answers but instead gives us much food for thought. Where am I Wearing is a fascinating, eye-opening, thought provoking read that will have you reading tags just to see where your favourite piece of clothing was made. Perhaps it will make you think a little bit longer before you get out the wallet and help you become an informed consumer.

"When I walk into my closet, I think about the hundreds - if not thousands- of people around the world who had a hand in making my clothes. Jeans are no longer just jeans, shirts no longer just shirts, shoes no longer just shoes, clothes are no longer just clothes. Each is an untold story."

(So far - Canada, US, Bangladesh, Taiwan and China - what about yours?)

I hope Timmerman continues to explore and write about his journeys. What's next? Well - you can follow along on his website.

3 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I've got this one waiting and can't wait to get to it.

Ann said...

I've added a link to your review at the end of my review. :-)

Wrighty - said...

Great review! I also got this and I was afraid it would be too much like a reference book. I was pleasantly surprised by how personal it was. He wrote it so well and it did give me a lot to think about. I'll be sharing this one.