The clothing industry and us.

When people are asked where their items of clothing is from, the first thought is which high street shop they last visited instead of where in the world the items were made.  When asked I asked people where their stuff was made I got a common reaction was straight away ‘China’ or ‘I dunno, somewhere in Asia’. Most people just assume that their clothing is made in ‘third world countries’ or in sweatshops to keep costs down to give all of us a ‘bargain’.  The most common label on peoples clothing and one we are all familiar with is ‘Made In China’, this has become commonplace on almost all our products.

As a group we decided to look at clothing made in china and ask our classmates/friends/family their opinion on where they thought their clothes were made and the quality of the products in terms of price.  We cut out little t-shirt shapes of paper to put their answers on to link the two ideas. The questions we asked them were;

1. What is you favourite shop?

2. What was the last item you bought from there?

3. Do you know anything about where the product was made?

4. If not, where would you guess it was made?

5. Do you care where the product is made?

6. What do you think of the quality of the product?

7. What do you think about the quality of the product made in the U.K as opposed to those made elsewhere in the world?

8. Does the price of the item reflect the standard of work?

From the responses I received from the people I asked, no one really knows exactly where their clothing actually comes from or really care. I found that when people were asked to guess where their stuff comes from, they usually guess China, Asia somewhere or ‘some poor country’. It not an unknown fact that clothing is made in poorer countries, its just not really cared about. I found that until people are pressed to think about the physical place of where their clothes are bought, it’s not ever something that crosses their minds. The way in which a certain shops clothes are made is not an aspect in deciding if they buy something from that shop. People just don’t care if their clothes are made in third world countries. Saying that, I did hear a few people did bring up the issue of child labour. At no point during the buying of the item do they feel guily though, its only when its brought to their attention through television or internet or people like myself asking them to think about their purchases.

After the first couple of people mentioned the issue of child labour, I then added the question of child labour. The most common thing I found was that when people walk into shops they don’t immediately think of where the item was made or who by. They mostly think that ‘it’s a nice shirt’ or ‘oh that will go with…’. I found that people only see the item and not its backstory, because after all, no one really knows about every single shops ethics.

One of the main points that people were telling me that were contradicting their earlier answers was concerning the price of their products compared to the quality of it. I found that people don’t like the thought of young children making their clothes but they also aren’t prepared to pay more it. In terms of the quality they receive now, people tent to be happy with it, otherwise, would we really buy anything? People said that they wouldn’t be happy paying any more money for the same product with the only difference being it was made in the UK. This in itself is quite hypocritical, people don’t like the thought of children make their clothing but we are not prepared to pay more for home made clothing. I don’t think anyone has the right to say these people are wrong because, after all, we are all guilty of it. We know that some shops are known to use child labour but we all still shop in them.

I think that no one can say they are not guilty of buying products from China, because after all, most things are made there. There usually no information from clothing shops in particular, about how and where their clothes are made. I cant blame people for not knowing or caring about the way their clothes are made because well have all done it, we have all picked something up off the rail and given no thought to the working conditions or there in the world it came from. We are all guilty of buying Chinese products, and we just don’t care.



Traditional and Modern Illustration.

Traditional and Modern Illustration.

The word ‘illustration’ is something that is not initially associated with China. When we are asked to generalize illustration as a whole, we tend to think of more western works that we are more familiar with. China and its illustrative traditions are both rich with history and contemporary in its subjects, both or which are distinctive in there own right.

One of the most well-known and revered uses of imagery in Chinese culture past and present is in their depiction of the mythical creatures in the Chinese Zodiac. Throughout time 12 creatures –mythical or otherwise- have been depicted in many different ways and in many different styles but have always kept the same sense of realism and intricate simplicity that Chinese images are so well known for.  The creatures (Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig) are often depicted in as ‘moments in time’ or in ‘hunting’ poses but still hold the elegance and style that is so well known in Chinese imagery. The sense of style that has been used throughout history is one that is still being used to this day as it is seen as upholding the traditional values of these symbols.

In terms of the ultra modern illustrations with historic origins, Manhua is one that cannot be ignored.  The first original Manhua is thought to be form 1867 and has continued to grow ever since.  Manhua, from the same derivative as Japanese Manga, first appeared in newspapers and often depicted satirical drawings during the 1920s or in book form, formally known as Lianhuanhua.  In 1911 Sun Yat-Sen established the Republic of China by using Manhua to circulate an anti-Peng propaganda message.

The early Manhua depicted scenes using a great sense of realism and very few colours (black and white mainly), which is stark contrast to modern day illustrations. Then modern day ones are very colourful and stylized in their drawings. Xia Da is a well know modern day Manhua artist know for her stylized supernatural series ‘Zi Bu Yu’ which combines whimsical old feeling scenes with unrealistic characters. In terms of Manhua magazines and stories as a whole, many artists are not as well known due to the extent of a similar universal style. In and out with their time, both have been very distinctive and easily recognizable as Chinese art, which, in such a massive ‘art world’ is so distinctive as an art form that is not easy to replicate.

Possibly the oldest and most beautiful and simplest for of illustration is Calligraphy.   The art of Chinese calligraphy dates back to the earliest days of Chinese history, in which it was carved onto many things from turtle shell to animal bones to tree trunks in the Shang dynasty to make records.  In later years, silk cloth was used to create huge scrolls.

After calligraphy was done and mastered, the thought of combining words and image to create impressive image in its own right was thought.

The image is one done by Wang Mian (1287-1359), a renowned painter because of his illustrated poems of plums, during the Yuan dynasty.  The images he created are poems of plums the Mian himself wrote and painted. The only image in each of Mian’s works is of the subject of the poem (which is almost always a plum tree).  The innovative and distinctive way in which Mian and many others used this type of expression is one that is easily recognizable as truly Chinese.

To create an image that is both distinctive and appealing in whatever discipline, is not a simple thing to do. In both historical and modern day China, their works of art are something that is instantly recognizable as Chinese. Throughout history, no matter what the subject or the medium, Chinese images and text can be instantly recognized as Chinese unlike many other countries. This is what makes Chinese illustrations special.


How China Is Perceived In The Media.

The way that China is depicted in mainstream British media is fairly mixed, such as stories of big events to ancient culture. These stories are often negative, hypocritical and contradictory.

The way the China controls and monitors its residents, is an increasingly negative factor that is a certainly in the forefront in the medias agenda.  It’s often concentrated on how China limits freedom of speech, the websites it allows people to see, news, security and even its own history. The uprising in Tiananmen Square 1989 is a prime example of the control of the Chinese people. The protests in Tiananmen Square are virtually unheard of in China because the Government denies it and almost banned people speaking about it.  The fact that Chinese people know so little about the massive protests due to the Governments control of their own media outlets proves that there is a strong grip on the way that information is controlled.

However, China is not the only country to control its people. In recent years both America and Britain have also been heavily criticised in the way they treat people. In the recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, both countries were criticized for depriving prisoners of freedom of speech. To pick on China, and say they are the only ones that are doing wrong is very hypocritical.

One of the main reasons that this is the case is that the growth of China is intimidating and worrying other power nations such as, Britain, USA and Germany. The rate that China is expanding at is always perceived to be negative in the eyes of the media, it often concentrates on poor working conditions, worker exploitation and the fact that China is trying to –and succeeding- in its attempts to become a major player in the production of a range of products from high end electricals to cheap children’s toys.  All throughout history, countries that have developed into super powers have always exploited their workers, in this view it’s very hypocritical to judge Chinas progress. China is a country on the rise and it is something that the media and other counties should realise.

Again, the polar opposite view of China, is one of beauty and vibrance. The media, especially televised media are good at showing the bright, happy, celebratory side of China. During Chinese New Year the stories are focused on the festivals in all their glory, the family togetherness and hope for the fore coming year.  At this time of year it is rare to hear about anything except the wonder that is Chinese culture.  The focus on these celebrations on again a different bias side (one of beauty and perfection) is not consistent with how the media usually depict China.

The Olympic Games that were held in Beijing in 2008, were a huge talking point for the British media although it was surrounded in controversy.  The media went into a frenzy showing China in all its glory to the whole world, forgetting about the human rights issues and poverty. During the Games there was no mention of the negative aspects of the Chinese way of life. The opening ceremony alone cost China a reported £50 million and featured 15,000 performers, which send a strong statement in the ‘selling’ of China to the rest of the world.  They sent a strong message that China was aiming to be a big player in the world of super powers.  However, before and after the Games the media was full of questions of how China could through people out of their home to make way for stadiums and arenas and how they could make people work for little money to complete the venues on time. The Olympic Games weren’t without there questions but in similar circumstances, isn’t the same thing being done in London for there Olympics? All be it on a much smaller scale.

China is not a country that does not have it problems, just like every country. The way that it is depicted to everyone else in the media is bias and contradictory depending on the story.  The media has the power to show us China in many different ways, weather it be the good side (the Olympics and Chinese New Year) or the bad side (control and becoming a super power). China had the potential to become a truly great country, if it continues to change its ways it will ‘win’ over the media.