Perception of Origin in Textiles
How do we view products that are “Made In China”?
Many people still believe there is a sort of stigma that comes with products that are manufactured in China but is that really still the case? I am going to look into the home and different age groups and delve a bit further into the perceptions people have with clothing produced in China. From 3 different generations I have a control group of 3 persons. One of which is a student, aged 23 and Male. The second is a Father, aged 43 and last but not least a Grandmother, age – too polite to ask (roughly 70’s). Each was asked for three pieces of clothing, preferably a sweater or cardigan to further analyse. Hopefully this will be a good starting point to generate insightful opinions on how people’s opinions of their clothing and products being Made In China.
Upon questioning The Student, it was concluded that he wasn’t sure of where each item was manufactured but assumed that each would have been produced in China, or Taiwan. A wild guess but rightly so – All of these items were in fact made in China.
Having discussed her items, the third and final volunteer was a bit more wary of where her clothes were from but still not completely sure of where each piece was made. Having worked in the Dundee Weaving Mills as a young woman, Theresa was much more aware of the conditions of factory workers and was informed of the reports on poor factory conditions in sweatshops around the world that have a big impact on the textiles and fashion industry. Her clothes were from more high street labels and was surprised to hear that her cardigan from Marks and Spencers was infact made in Turkey as opposed to China as she’d previously assumed.
Table of Products and Manufacturer.
|Brand||G-Star||A+F||Breed||Taylor Made||Ralph Lauren||Pringle||Primark||M&S|
|Aware of Origin||no||no||no||no||no||no||no||no|
“It makes no difference to me whether it was made in China or made in Scotland – as long as it is well made and won’t fall apart in the first wash!” – Student
When asked if either had preconceived ideas about any products or garments that were produced in China, they all seemed to have similar answers. So I asked some more questions to clear up their opinions.
- How does this effect peoples perceptions of China and where their clothes are from?
- Would people from different generations have similar/different views?
- Are people even aware of whether or not their clothes are produced in china?
When discussing the products with the two younger volunteers, neither of the two were aware of where their clothing was designed or made. And surprisingly so neither we’re very interested. It seems as though that all the interviewee’s found that the manufacturing was not something they found important when selecting and purchasing a garment. The only thing that came up and was the fair trade and fair working standards issue with factory workers in China and India.
It has become a common perception that all clothing and electrical items are produced in China, and it is often believed that these items are shoddily made. The real fact is that these items are the best manufactured in the world. There is a reason many companies ask for Chinese suppliers to produce their merchandise and that isn’t just because of the millions and millions of people looking for jobs, it is because the quality and speed of production outcomes are the quickest and highest quality in the world.
Made In China: Textile Design
Silks and Batik
Silk was discovered in ancient times and is developed from various types of arthropod’s cocoons during metamorphosis eg. spider silk, silk worm, mulberry worms.
Like many ancient Chinese discoveries, it is unknown who exactly or how silk was discovered or first created. There are many tales and legend with this discovery – one of which being the tale of the young woman who lived with her father and their magic horse, who could fly as well as understand human language. Once when the girl’s father went out to work he didn’t return and the girl made a promise to the horse that if he could go out and bring back her father that she would marry him. When the horse returned her father back home, the girl’s father refused to allow the marriage to take place and killed the horse. He then skinned the horse and hung its hide out to dry, the hide then took flight and grabbed the daughter then flew away only to land on a Mulberry tree and when the daughter was released onto the branch she turned into a Silk Worm.
Another more convincing story being that in Ancient times, workers found the silk cocoons by accident and thought they were fruit from the Mulberry tree. After failing to eat these incredibly hard “fruits”, the ladies tried to boil them to soften the shells but when this too failed, the women lost their patience with the hard white fruits and beat them with sticks thus discovering the silk.
Silk is produced from Silk Worms (Bombyx Mori) which feed on the leaves from the Mulberry Tree and produce silk during their metamorphosis. It takes on average 24-28 days for a silk worm to grow old enough to begin to spin a cocoon. From this cocoon, the silk must be harvested at the right time for unwinding before the moth hatches out of the cocoon, spoiling the strands. So the cocoons are heated to kill the pupae inside. When reeling the silk into raw strands, 1 silk cocoon may harvest 1000 metres of raw silk – It has been said that it may take 111 cocoons to produce 1 man’s tie.
What Is Batik?
Batik is a method of printing silks and other similar fabrics by masking images and pattern on fabric with hot wax, dying the fabric then washing in hot water to dissolve/separate the wax from the fabric allowing the masked areas to be repeat printed over or left bare. The wax is applied using a tool called a Tjanting, which is a small round bowl-type tool with a small peak from which the hot wax would controllably dispense.
This process can be repeated until the desired image is created. A highly skilled process, Batik is one of China’s Ancient treasures and it was commonly passed on from mother to daughter for generations as a skill that every young girl must learn.
Batik was found in China as early as the Sui Dynasty (AD 581- 618), It is said to have been developed by Chinese artists who then took the technique to the likes of Japan, the Middle East and Indonesia.
Batik is a very skilled process when done well but can be very simply yet effectively copied for simple designs, I in fact taught a group of Students at my work placement this method of printing in a small class at the end of the week for students who had completed their class work. Using small sections of silk, hot wax and batik fabric dyes, we took turns in sketching out our designs onto paper then tracing around them through our silk squares and leaving the hot wax to dry before painting on some fabric dyes.
The kids thoroughly enjoyed this process and it proved that this would have been a great way for young Chinese girls to spend time with their mothers and grandmothers learning a valuable trade as Batik became a very popular method of printing and decorating silk.
How is Chinese Food depicted and projected in the Western World?
Western Chinese food and takeaways are very popular all over the world and many households will actively eat take out regularly. But many people don’t realise that the western answer to “Chinese” food is completely different from any traditional Chinese dishes that are prepared locally.
In China, the food as well as being a necessity, is a massive part of their culture and the people of China are very proud of their cooking abilities. With a huge range of different traditional dishes – people in China are brought up to be very knowledgable when it comes to cooking and preparing a variety of different foods. Food is one of the main ingredients in family and social gatherings. Not only do the Chinese community pride themselves with their creativity with cooking, it is also an area in which nothing is wasted. Eg. When cooking things like Chicken, just about everything from the eyes to the feet will be used, rather than just the breast, legs and wings that we would locally use. This level of waste-less cooking doesn’t stop there – back in The Great Chinese Famine also known as the Three Years of Natural Disasters between 1958-1961, their more weird and wonderful dishes were created and since have stuck in Chinese Culture, these resourceful dishes include; Scorpions, various Larvae, animal eyes, animal genitalia and “Thousand Year Old Egg” which consists of preserving a duck egg in ash and salt for one hundred days until the egg-white turns a dark grey colour.
Many of the staple ingredients that the Chinese would use are rice, noodles, soybeans, seasonings, herbs, wheat, vegetables such as bok choy (chinese cabbage).
There are 8 common traditional styles of Chinese cuisine;
- Chuan (Sichuan) originates from the Sichuan Province of southwestern China. In this region it is common to use many bold and spicy flavours including the Sichuan peppercorn that is integral to the area.
- Hiu (Anhui) originates from the Huangshan Mountains in China and frequents in using a variety of herbs, mushrooms and vegetables that are exclusive to the Anhui province.
- Lu (Shandong) was once largely consumed in the North of China. Often involving seafood, many of the signature dishes of Lu Cuisine include; Sweet and Sour Carp, Jiuzhuan Dachand and Dezhou Chicken.
- Min (Fuijian) is again a predominantly seafood based style of cooking which incorporates bamboo shoots. Originating in the Fuijian Coastal Region, this style of cooking often uses things like Shellfish, Turtle and a variety of fish.
- Su (Jiangsu, Huaiyang) is an extremely popular style of cuisine that includes many styles of cooking combined including; Nanjing, Suzhou, Yangzhou and Zhenjiang. It’s famous all around the world for it’s dishes such as Jinjling salted Dried Duck, Crystal Meat (pork heels in a brown sauce) and Soft-shelled Turtle stewed with mushrooms and wine.
- Yue (Hong Kong and Guangdong) also known as Cantonese Cusine, this is one of the biggest known Chinese Cuisine around the world. “Dim Sum”which means “Small hearty dishes”, is designed to be bite-sized portions allowing the consumer the opportunity to sample many small dishes throughout a meal. This style of cooking originates from the Han and usually consists of rice rolls, dumplings, stir-fried vegetables etc.
- Xiang (Hunan) is a varied style of cooking due to the high levels of growth in the argriculture of the area. It consists of a variety of signiture techniques to provide it’s bold and spicy flavours rather than ingredients for example; stewing, frying, smoking, braising. pot-roasting.
- Zhe (Zhejiang) containing 3 styles of cooking which include; Hangzhou – rich and flavourful with the use of bamboo shoots, Ningbo – prodominantly seafood, and Shaoxing – mainly using poultry and freshwater fish. These three styles combined make the soft, fresh flavour that the Zhejiang Cuisine is famous for.
These styles are commonly called “The Eight Regional Cuisines” as they each originate from different areas of China based on the availability of products and ingredients and have become famous as individual styles over the years.
In Britain, while a number of these styles will be advertised in a chinese restaurant – the recipes are more commonly than not, completely revamped to sound more appealing to the common British consumer.
The People of China project the idea that they are resourceful, intelligent and creative when it comes to cooking, however this is commonly miscommunicated when visiting a Chinese restaurant or take away as the majority of dishes presented are merely loose translations of the type of food traditionally cooked in China. Chinese Restaurants, in more culturally diverse areas in Britain, often provide two menus. One for western consumers and another for those accustomed to eating traditional chinese food. This is a great idea as many Chinese people do not like the Western versions of Chinese cooking – it’s not authentic and doesn’t taste the same.
At the weekend I decided to try out a bit of Chinese cooking myself – armed with my already limited cooking skills I found this a really challenging but enjoyable experience.
You can witness my efforts making Chinese Dumplings here.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup boiling water
- 8 ounces celery cabbage (Napa cabbage)
- 3 tsp salt, divided
- 1 pound lean ground pork
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, with tops
- 1 TB white wine
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Dash white pepper
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 – 4 tablespoons vegetable oil