Archive for July, 2013

Who Could Imagine Blue Jeans Reaching Such Heights

July 27, 2013 Leave a comment
Bread & Butter 2013 – Rawr Denim’s Complete Overview

Bread & Butter 2013 - Rawr Denim's Complete Overview

Bread & Butter 2013 – Rawr Denim’s Complete Overview

From January 15th through 17th, Berlin held what is considered one of the industry leading tradeshows, the Bread & Butter Tradeshow for Selected Brands, BIG TIME edition. The show celebrated its 10th anniversary in summer 2011; it was founded in 2001 and it has been held twice a year in January and July ever since.

This year was special for Bread & Butter‘s denim collection as the L.O.C.K. and the Fire Deparmentareas welcomed coveted denim brand veterans, including The Flat HeadThe Real McCoy’sL.V.C.,Big JohnEvisu and EDWIN; blended with stalwart brands like MomotaroJapan Blue3sixteen,DenhamNudie JeansPrps and Rising Sun Jeans.

K.O.I. - Kings Of Indigo Booth

K.O.I. – Kings Of Indigo Booth

The Real McCoys Jackets

Levi's Vintage Clothing BoothLevi’s Vintage Clothing Booth

Nudie Jeans Co. BoothNudie Jeans Co. Booth

There were also a number of great new upcoming brands on show such as Pike BrothersTellason,AllevolK.O.I. – Kings Of IndigoManic Monkey and Rokker; each one completely worthy of a separate review.

Taka Okabe of AllevolTaka Okabe of Allevol



It should be emphasized that Karl-Heinz Müllerpresident of Bread & Butter, made a special mention on his editorial welcome on the Tradeshow Guide about the participation of Japanese brands which are the incarnation of high-end manufacturing. This of course includes all the Japanese denim brands, most of which we’ve been talking about for a considerable amount of time in terms of their exceptional craftsmanship.

Laboratorio - A Collaborative Project Between TRC Candiani, Interwashing Group (Elleti) and Okinawa

Laboratorio – A Collaborative Project Between TRC Candiani, Interwashing Group (Elleti) and Okinawa

The italian crafters from  TRC CandianiInterwashing Group (Elleti) and Okinawa teamed up again and created Laboratorio, a workshop project that recreated the entire manufacturing process to bring a five pocket jeans alive. Visitors were able to create their own jeans on the spot; from sewing and washing to the customization of the label and the hardware. It is important to note that not only was this an interesting exhibition, but all the earnings were donated to Non-Profit associations.

Japan Blue Jeans Booth

Japan Blue Jeans and Momotaro Booth

Mixture of Japan Blue Jeans and Momotaro DenimMixture of Japan Blue Jeans and Momotaro Denim

Lineup of Joe McCoy & Co. and Toy McCoy Denim

Lineup of Joe McCoy & Co. and Toy McCoy Denim

Joe McCoy & Co. Jacket and DenimJoe McCoy & Co. Jacket and Denim

The denim areas attracted many denim heads, store owners, designers, bloggers, collectors and intrigued members of the general public, gathering everybody around that beautiful fabric and everything involved. Each brand was keen to share information, present their last collections and discuss denim craftsmanship  fabrics and cuts.

A few remarkable denim  items we saw were the Flat Head & R.J.B. collaboration jeans,  the EDWINFactory Overworks line, the new 2013 Evisu premium jeans collection, the new 3Sixteen 16 Oz. selvedge, the Pike Brothers 13 Oz. denim vest, the Allevol jeans Lot 002 , the Nudie denim Peacoat, the K.O.I. 14 Oz. Japanese selvedge, The Real McCoy’s U.S.A. Denim Parka, the Big John Lot 106D, the Tellason Sherpa jacket and Momotaro’s Deep Indigos.

Flat Heads x Real Japan Blues CollaborationFlat Heads x Real Japan Blues Collaboration

Edwin Denim

Edwin Jacket

Pike BrothersPike Brothers

Not everything at B&B was jeans as many denim related brands were exposing their new 2013 collections. Red Wing BootsVibergDuke Finest ArtisanTanner GoodsPedaledWolverine,Rocky Mountain FeatherbedTricker’sStetsonSchiesser RevivalJohnson Motors Inc.Schott NYCClutch/Lightning/2nd/The Heritage Post magazines, The Superior LaborNigel Cabournand many more.

Brett Viberg (Left) and Nigel Cabourn; Viberg Boots LineupBrett Viberg (Left) and Nigel Cabourn; Viberg Boots Lineup

The Superior Labor BagsThe Superior Labor Bags

Clutch, Lightning, 2nd, The Heritage PostClutch, Lightning, 2nd, The Heritage Post

Selvedge Denim Covered Bike Tank at the Rokker Jeans BoothSelvedge Denim Covered Bike Tank at the Rokker Jeans Booth

At the end of the day this was a great opportunity for all the people interested in denim lifestyle to build up a good network, increase sales and close attractive deals. Retailers, wholesalers, fashion journalist and denim brand owners reached their purposes.

Events like the Denham 5th Anniversary Book launch at 14 Oz., Nudie Jeans get together party,Schott NYC 100 years and even the Royal visit of the Princesses of York established that Bread & Butter is still at the top end of the fashion tradeshows in the world. Stay tuned for more reviews of some of the presenting brands.

Paul Travi, Ruedi Karrer - Rawr DenimPaul Travi (Left), Ruedi Karrer – Rawr Denim

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Garment Trade Wields Power in Bangladesh

July 27, 2013 Leave a comment


Taslima Akhter for The New York Times

An office tower built by the garment trade association in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is in legal limbo. A court ordered it demolished.More Photos »

Published: July 24, 2013 

DHAKA, Bangladesh — In the honking, congested heart of this overcrowded capital, one glass office tower stands uniquely alone, surrounded by water, accessible by a small bridge. It is a symbol of the power of Bangladesh’s garment industry, the headquarters of the country’s most powerful association of factory owners. It is also illegal.

Munir Uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The collapse in April of an illegally built factory in Bangladesh has brought new attention to the plight of garment workers. More Photos »

So said the Bangladesh High Court, concluding that the land had been illegally obtained, the building had been erected without proper approvals and the location threatened a network of lakes that form the natural drainage system of the capital. The High Court called the building “a scam of abysmal proportions” and ordered it demolished within 90 days.

That was two years ago. The building still stands. The case is now in a legal limbo — more proof, according to critics, of the power of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. Members control the engine of the national economy — garment exports to the United States and Europe. Many serve in Parliament or own television stations and newspapers.

For two decades, as Bangladesh became a garment power, now trailing only China in global clothing exports, the trade group has often seemed more like a government ministry. Known as B.G.M.E.A., the organization helps regulate and administer exports and its leaders sit on high-level government committees on labor and security issues. Industry trade groups in the United States could only imagine such a role.

But the April collapse of the illegally constructed Rana Plaza factory building, which killed more than 1,100 people, has placed the entire global supply chain that delivers clothes from Bangladeshi factories to Western consumers under scrutiny. And the quasi-official garment group, in the eyes of its critics, presents a major conflict of interest at the center of Bangladesh’s troubles and is a big part of the systemic problems that have made the country a dangerous place for garment workers.

“You can’t put the fox in charge of the chickens,” said Rizwana Hasan, an environmental lawyer. “B.G.M.E.A. has no regulatory authority under the laws of the country. It’s a clubhouse of the garment industry.”

Bangladesh is working to restore the garment industry’s credibility after last month’s decision by the Obama administration to suspend a special trade preference for the country. The European Union is also considering penalties. Bangladesh has responded bypassing new labor laws and pledging to inspect the structural safety and legal compliance of the nation’s 5,000 garment factories.

In both instances, the garment group’s interests were well represented. It has hired a team of engineers and is helping oversee the post-Rana Plaza factory inspections — even as the High Court cited the group for a litany of violations on its own headquarters. Meanwhile, the trade group brought its influence to bear in a lobbying campaign as Parliament amended the labor laws this month.

Bangladeshi officials promised to overhaul their labor laws, which fall short of standards defined by the International Labor Organization and tend to suppress unions, contributing to safety problems, labor advocates say. But the results of the overhaul were less significant, especially for the garment industry. One amendment required that industries create profit-sharing programs for workers. But exporting industries, notably the garment sector, were exempted.

Restrictions on labor organizing were eased, but far from fully lifted. The new law requires that 30 percent of factory workers must sign petitions to form a union, a telling obstacle given that many factories have thousands of employees and have few places to hold meetings and organize.

“Bangladesh had a golden opportunity,” said Roy Ramesh Chandra, a labor leader, who said that the political influence of factory owners diluted some of the amendments. “The employers have tremendous influence.”

Business interests dominate Bangladesh’s Parliament. Of its 300 members, an estimated 60 percent are involved in industry or business. Analysts say 31 members, or 10 percent of the country’s national legislators, directly own garment factories, while others have indirect financial interests in the industry.

Factory owners say their political clout is vastly overstated and dismiss suggestions that they exert influence over top elected leaders, and some analysts agree their influence is sometimes overstated. But the trade group clearly is part of the process in ways that set Bangladesh apart.

Three years ago, the prime minister created an industrial police force to maintain order in factory districts and act as an independent arbiter to solve disputes between workers and management. But many workers and labor organizers say the force almost always favors owners. The trade group is even supposed to buy patrol cars for officers.

“This organization is extremely powerful,” said one senior government official, who said much of its clout comes from political contributions. “The political parties are running after money.”

The trade group was formed in 1983 as Bangladesh, then one of the world’s poorest countries, was trying to build its economy by developing a garment industry. Initially, it had no headquarters and no bank account.

“When I first went out there, the B.G.M.E.A. was run out of a garage,” said Don Brasher, who worked as a trade consultant to Bangladesh for more than a decade. “It was not institutionalized at all.”

That quickly changed. Under the rules of global textiles, developing countries faced restrictions on garment exports and, in the case of the United States, were assigned trade quotas. Managing this quota system was critical and complicated. Bangladesh’s government decided to delegate administrative tasks to the trade group — including the authority to regulate certain transactions and collect fees.

“That was pretty extraordinary,” said Mr. Brasher, who lived in Dhaka for two years and worked closely with the group on the quota system. “Ordinarily, that is done by a government agency. There’s nothing like that, anywhere. But it was done out of necessity.”

Bangladesh’s government is notoriously corrupt and has limited bureaucratic capacity to handle the intricate mechanics of global trade. Politics is ferociously contested and marred by regular nationwide strikes, known as hartals. In this environment, the group became a stabilizing force as global trade rapidly grew.

Even after the quota system expired in 2005, the trade group steadily expanded its regulatory responsibilities. Today, it enjoys a near stranglehold on exports: only factories that are among its members are allowed to export woven garments, with some exceptions. The group regulates the importation of fabric and issues certificates of origin, the required proof that a garment is made in Bangladesh. It has arbitration committees to settle disputes and administers the often-complex practice of subcontracting.

On a recent evening, Atiqul Islam, the group’s president, sat at his desk and signed applications from factory owners seeking duty-free status to import machinery. A half-hour earlier, he had presided over a news conference about a skills training program for workers that the group had organized with the United Nations Development Program, the British international development agency UK-AID and the International Labor Organization.

“Zero power,” he said while signing the tax waiver applications, flicking away a question about the group’s influence. “The government decentralized a few things to us, so we are doing them. We can do it much faster.”

Many factory owners portray the industry as a public service, providing millions of jobs. The health of the garment sector is often seen as a national security issue, with the industry accounting for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s manufacturing exports and providing critical foreign exchange. It is the trade group that maintains order in daily operations of the industry, owners say.

“Otherwise, there would be chaos,” said Annisul Huq, a former president of the trade group. “Yes, we can criticize the B.G.M.E.A. But it has a very strong role. Somebody has to lead.”

Factory owners face many challenges in Bangladesh, including high interest rates on loans. But the heroic self-image of the sector is somewhat overstated. Garment factories enjoy subsidies and tax breaks not offered to other industries, and pay less tax. A recent study in a Bengali-language newspaper estimated that these subsidies and tax breaks exceeded tax revenues from the industry by roughly $17 million.

“The doors of the treasury are open for them,” said Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of the nonprofit group Citizens for Good Governance. “They extract all kinds of subsidies. They influence legislation. They influence the minimum wage. And because they are powerful, they can do, or undo, almost anything, with impunity.”

One unlikely critic of the trade group is Rubana Huq, the wife of Mr. Huq, who is now the managing director of the family’s garment conglomerate, Mohammadi Group. She said the garment industry in Bangladesh has matured and must be regulated by a transparent, independent arbiter, possibly a new government ministry.

“Of course, there is a conflict of interest,” she said. “There is no reason why a body like B.G.M.E.A. would be credible with the international players.”

Ms. Huq and other critics point to the headquarters building as a symbol of its protected status. Environmentalists have long protested and argued that the building’s location on a de facto island inside a city lake impedes the natural drainage network and contributes to flooding in the capital during the monsoon.

Illegalities abounded, according to the High Court ruling: construction started before the group had won final approval on a building plan; the land transfer from a government agency violated national laws on usage of public land. Yet the group’s leaders argue that the building’s status has been validated at the highest level: two prime ministers led different inauguration ceremonies at the site.

“It is not illegal,” said Mr. Huq, his voice rising. “We have applied to the government for the land. The government has given us the land. Two prime ministers have opened it. What validation do you want?”

But Iqbal Habib, an architect who designed the plan to renew the lake system, said the group could not be exempted from rules governing others. “They are always talking about their compliance with the buyers,” he said. “What about their compliance with the laws of the country?”

For now, the case is stalled. The Supreme Court is supposed to hold a final hearing, but with elections coming, the government has shown little interest in confronting the country’s most powerful industrial bloc. It is unclear if a hearing will take place.

“It has gone to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Huq said. “That could take forever. It is Bangladesh. We have full trust — as long as they give a verdict in our favor.”

He is smiling, joking, to a degree.

Julfikar Ali Manik contributed reporting.


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Bangladesh Police Arrest Mayor of Town in Rana Plaza Garment Building Collapse

July 27, 2013 1 comment
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal
July 24, 2013, 4:50 p.m. ET

Bangladesh Police Arrest Mayor of Town in Rana Plaza Garment Building Collapse

By Syed Zain Al-Mahmood

DHAKA–Bangladesh police arrested the mayor of the town where the Rana Plaza building collapsed on April 24, alleging that he had allowed the complex to be built without mandatory permits from a national building safety agency.

Mohammad Refatullah, mayor of the Savar municipality near Dhaka, was detained late Wednesday by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department looking into the deaths of 1,130 garment workers in the building collapse.

Confirming the arrest, Bijoy Krishna Kar, assistant superintendent of the CID, said that it came as part of an investigation into the mayor’s role in the tragedy.

“We are determined to bring to justice everyone who had a hand in this, no matter how powerful,” he said.

Mr. Refatullah, who was suspended from his post by the government following the collapse of Rana Plaza, couldn’t be reached for comment after his arrest.

Mr. Refatullah admitted after the collapse that his office had issued a permit for the building. He told the Wall Street Journal in an interview at the time that he had issued permits for “many factories in the area”–a busy industrial belt 15 kilometers north of Dhaka–because the building regulatory agency in Dhaka was “too slow.”

Police say the owner of Rana Plaza, Sohel Rana, a local leader of the youth wing of the ruling Awami League, built the complex on the site of a pond, without proper precautions and without a permit from the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (Rajuk), the regulatory agency empowered to issue building permits.

A home ministry probe committee recommended last month that Mr. Rana and those who aided him in flouting the law should be charged with culpable homicide, an offense which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison for those convicted.

Mr. Rana, who was detained soon after the building collapse, isn’t represented by counsel and couldn’t be reached for comment. After his arrest on April 28, Mr. Rana denied responsibility on local television.

As orders for readymade garments have flooded into Bangladesh in recent years, garment factories have mushroomed in areas like Savar, say experts, outpacing infrastructural improvements and safety regulations.

Bangladesh has been under pressure to act in the aftermath of the Savar collapse, with the U.S. suspending the country’s duty-free trade privileges in June.

Mr. Refatullah is the second local politician to be arrested in connection with the construction of Rana Plaza. Police arrested Mohammad Ali Khan, a ward councilor of Savar municipality, last month for allegedly aiding in the illegal construction of Rana Plaza.

Neither Mr. Khan nor his representatives could be reached for comment.

The government has also arrested a number of other individuals in relation to the collapse, though no charges have yet been filed in any of the cases.

Write to Syed Zain Al-Mahmood at

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By 2025, India, China Apparel Markets to Exceed U.S., Europe

July 27, 2013 Leave a comment

By 2025, India, China Apparel Markets to Exceed U.S., Europe (CONSIDER THE SOURCE!)

By IFJAG  on July 22, 2013

Haryana, India—For decades the United States and Europe have dominated the consumer fashion scene with their powerhouse economies. But don’t expect that to last in the textile and apparel industries.

According to a report released Friday by India-based management consultants Wazir Advisors Pvt. Ltd., the combined apparel markets of China and India will reach $740 billion by 2025, surpassing the United States and European market totals of $725 billion.

In its “The Road to 2025,” Wazir estimates that total global apparel markets will surpass $2 trillion, nearly double the current value of $1.1 trillion.

The 2015 report—released at Texcon 2013, organized by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII)—also argues that intra-Asia trade of textile and apparel will grow from $180 billion in 2011 to $350 billion by 2025. And India’s export share in this market would grow 3.5 times its current value of $12 billion.

In both countries, the demand for clothing is expected to outpace the overall growth of each economy. In China, the per capita spend on apparel and textiles will rise from the current $109 billion to $377 billion. India is projected to grow from $36 billion in 2012 to $138 billion by 2015.

“This in value terms would cause the market size in China to swell from $150 billion in 2012 to $540 billion by 2025, whereas India’s apparel market size will reach $200 billion by 2025 from $ 45billion in 2012.”

Moreover, China’s increased focus on domestic consumption and rising costs, other exporting countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Vietnam will have an opportunity to gain global export market share, the report said.

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Empathy, emotion and the customer experience

July 26, 2013 Leave a comment
  • Retail Customer Experience

    July 23, 2013
Empathy, emotion and the customer experience

By Daryl Travis, author, “How Does It Make You Feel?” and CEO, Brandtrust

Surveys reveal 80 percent of companies believe they deliver superior customer experience, yet only 8 percent of their customers agree.

If you take someone out for a romantic dinner, do you wear a grungy outfit or ignore your date at the restaurant? Not if you want the relationship to continue. Yet, many corporations expend tremendous resources wooing new customers without a clear understanding of what it takes to create and sustain a positive customer experience.

To create a great customer experience—one that encourages brand loyalty and advocacy—it’s essential to have a deep understanding of experiences that trigger the emotions and motivations that drive your customer’s brand preference and behavior.

1. How does it make them feel?

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” According to psychologists, what people remember about a customer experience is determined by the intensity of emotions created in specific moments—not the overall experience. This is true for most experiences throughout our lives. Our non-conscious mind categorizes and catalogues experiences according to the nature and intensity of emotions.

When processing new stimuli, the non-conscious mind associates past memories and responds emotionally before rational thought occurs. When neurologists discovered that 95 percent of thought, emotion and learning occur this way, behavioral economists like Daniel Kahneman realized that “We are not thinking machines that feel. We are feeling machines that think.” In other words, non-consious emotional responses shaped by past emotional memories determine customer attitudes, perceptions and behavior—not conscious, rational decisions.

Kahneman summarized this with his Peak-End Rule, citing that customer experiences are judged almost entirely on the intensity of emotions at their peaks and resolution point. Virtually all other information appears to be forgotten, including net pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted. For customer experience managers, this means only a few of the dozens or hundreds of touchpoints across the customer experience are significant for forming the emotional bonds that lead to customer loyalty and advocacy.

2. Leverage emotional insights to create positive experiences and build trust

When considering the customer experience, it’s important to be mindful that trust and faith are essential emotions. When someone trusts you, they tell you their secrets. When customers perceive your company as trustworthy, they buy your goods or services.

Demonstrating trustworthiness can be done even when a situation is negative. Imagine a customer whose flight is delayed due to inclement weather. Even though the experience is distressing, the customer’s experience with the carrier can be positive if the airline accommodates the passenger, making him or her feel valued and important. Conversely, a rude salesclerk can easily put off a retail customer who has found the perfect outfit at a great price.

Trustworthiness is demonstrated by being reliable, consistent and concerned for your customer’s needs. Often, the little things a company does, not the big things it says, create the sustained impression. Happy, smiling employees are just one social cue that goes a long way to building rapport. More than anything, the company must demonstrate that it will always act in a caring way toward the customer, no matter what the circumstances.

3. Build empathy walking in your customer’s shoes

Even though budgets are limited and schedules compressed, it’s important to invest in a deeper understanding of your customer. With a newfound clarity, teams are able to focus, certain that what they are doing matters to their customers. This is where empathy building can help.

It’s equally important for senior leadership and other key stakeholders to understand what customers experience throughout their daily lives. This often shifts how they look at their business, sparking fresh thinking rooted in an empathetic understanding of customers.

Consider the example where rail authorities in London realized a negative experience was created as commuters waited for Metro trains to arrive at their station. A deeper discovery revealed that the emotional anxiety wasn’t due to the wait itself. Instead, it was due to uncertainty about when the next train would arrive. Once officials installed digital displays indicating the arrival time of the next train, customer experience statistics improved. In retrospect, it’s easy to see how replacing ambiguity with order reduces anxiety, but it took decades of poor customer experience before an emotional insight was leveraged to design a dramatically improved customer experience.

4. Internalize the customer experience

For an initiative to succeed in improving the customer experience, senior leadership and stakeholders throughout the entire organization need to “live” the brand. This involves articulating the brand promise internally so that people understand what is expected for each touchpoint. Each aspect of delivering a positive customer experience needs to be “caught, not taught.” Leaders intent on changing employee behavior must do so by sharing, collaborating and exemplifying the vision and values for how the brand is to be experienced by customers.

By sharing a deeper understanding of the emotional drivers for a positive customer experience, it’s possible to refocus employees and organizations around what works. This approach creates greater meaning and engagement. Applied social science research has demonstrated that emphasizing the positive rather than trying to eliminate the negative is effective in improving an organization’s internal capacity for collaboration and change.

This approach motivates and inspires individuals while creating a sense that “living the new experience promise” is an ongoing way of life—not just a temporary project.

5. Implement a work plan

Finally, it’s necessary for a work plan to be undertaken to facilitate rapid acceptance, understanding and adoption of the essential behaviors necessary to bring the vision and values of the new customer experience to life throughout the organization. This process will help to transcend ambiguities and inspire individual colleagues to internalize and live the new experience promise.

Retail brands are most successful when they invest in understanding the emotional factors that drive people’s choices. This creates deeper trust in the marketplace and better engages customers. In other words, if you want to create better customer experience, you must uncover the truths about how you make them feel.

(Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.)

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Chinese Factories Build Troubled Relationships

July 26, 2013 Leave a comment
PBS NewsHourPosted by Joshua Barajas , July 17, 2013

Lizhi Jiang was born in Yongzhou, Hunan Province in 1987. His wife, Qifeng Jiang, was born in Yongzhou, Hunan Province in 1987 and works in as a factory accountant. Their son is two years old, and they plan to bring him to Shanghai from their hometown. The family bought a house in Yongzhou and want to buy a car. Jiang hopes they both can work in the same company. Photo by Jia Daitengfei/ Getty Images.

China’s new generation of migrant workers has been the driving force behind the country’s rapid urbanization, but while the 240 million-strong workforce has aspirations for an urban lifestyle, they struggle to balance demanding jobs and family relationships. And they hesitate to call the city “home.”

For his project, ‘Love on the Assembly Line’ photographer Jia Daitengfei documented the lives of several young suburban Shanghai factory workers — most of whom were born after 1990. A few days before Valentine’s Day, he asked them how difficult it was to maintain a relationship. He then returned six months later to see how each worker’s lives had changed.

According to the South China Morning Post, China’s migrant workers feel like “outsiders,” despite working in a city for years. As non-local residents, migrant workers don’t have access to affordable housing and certain basic needs. Reuters also reported a slowdown in the average monthly wage for migrant workers, dropping from 21.2 percent in 2011 to 11.8 percent in 2012. And with 60 percent of the workforce born after 1980, the low wages and long hours also limit oppportunities for young workers to make romantic connections.

“[Young migrant workers] feel they are at the bottom of the society and lack security,” Daitengfei said, “but they hope to make their own efforts to gain a foothold in the city and live a decent life.”

Xue Zhang poses for a photo at Shanghai Ying Feng Industrial Co., Ltd. on February 9, 2012 in Shanghai, China. She was diagnosed with a tumor in 2012. Her husband asked for a divorce shortly afterward. Zhang’s child is being raised by her grandmother. Though Zhang doesn’t expect to meet anybody new, she hopes to buy a house in three years. Photo by Jia Daitengfei / Getty Images.

Daitengfei was taken aback because most of the workers he initially interviewed were already partnered.

“It was amazing because there was a pop word in China now called ‘leftover singles,’ which means men and women who remained singled in their 30s,” he said. “But those neotenous workers had fallen in love, got married and had kids at such a young age.”

Six months after posing in wedding clothes in Shanghai, Hong Wang, a plate worker from Zhaotong, Yunnan Province, and girlfriend Yun Niu are still unmarried. Despite being in a relationship for the past four years, their parents won’t let them marry as there is a great distance between their hometowns. Photo by Jia Daitengfei/Getty Images.

Daitengfei said rural Chinese culture pressures young workers to marry early, without careful thinking. Having a boyfriend or girlfriend, much less a family, can be financially demanding for a migrant worker living in a mainland city. Reuters reported that Chinese migrant workers earn about 1,748 Chinese yuan ($277) a month, which is half the average urban salary.

Also, paying for housing on that salary proves difficult, Daitengfei said, which is why a few of the married couples he interviewed couldn’t afford to raise their children on their own. They sent their children back to the countryside to live with their parents. According to the Morning Post, one of the main sources of happiness for migrant workers was close proximity to their children.

And although senior leaders have promised to look after their welfare, migrant workers face a rigid household registration system — known as ‘Hukou’ — that denies them access to social benefits such as health care, unemployment and access to better local schools for their children. Daitengfei said the government is slow to act to safeguard migrant workers’ rights and interests.

With all that in mind, six months later, Daitengfei returned to stories of separated families, love lost and loneliness. But why shoot wedding portraits in an environment that reminds these workers of their alienation?

Zhimin Lin pose for a photo on August 23, 2012 in Shanghai, China. Her husband Guanfu Chen has started a new job with an increased salary, but it means they can no longer live together. Photo by Jia Daitengfei/Getty Images.

For one, Daitengfei said it was a matter of convenience. Factory workers couldn’t devote too much time away from the factory. Otherwise, it would have affected their hourly pay. And since wedding portraits are too expensive for a migrant worker’s salary, Daitengfei shot them for free. Ultimately, Daitengfei saw the factory as the perfect setting for lives that are “like products on the assembly line.”

Amid urban estrangement, “the young migrant workers see marriage just like a mission,” Daitengfei said, making some of life’s more important decisions in such a short time.

But Daitengfei hopes that the photos also reveal a better understanding about their dreams. On Valentine’s Day he gifted the photos to the workers.

“I still remember their smiles clearly now,” he said.

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The Sweet Spot: Why Netflix Matters

July 26, 2013 Leave a comment
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