Like 3rd Ring Out, World Factory is a research-led project. It explores the China-UK axis of the phenomenon of the mass production of textiles, from the production and global trade of cotton in 19th century Manchester to the mass manufacture of clothing present day China. The project therefore traces shifting ideologies from Marx and Engels’ experiences of Manchester, and their writing of the Communist Manifesto, to the opening up of the Chinese market to capitalist modes of production.
Simon Daw and Zoe Svendsen wanted to share what they had discovered as part of a residency at the National Theatre Studio, in collaboration with theatre director and cultural theorist, Zhao Chuan (Shanghai) and a subsequent residency at Cambridge Junction.
An event at Cambridge Junction in May 2013 was the first in a series of talks sharing the process of research more publicly. METIS have long regarded food and drink as key to establishing an informal but productive conversational atmosphere, so Chinese tea, cake and cava were served to all guests.
A stimulating talk responding to the ideas of the project by Dr Alan Blackwell, Reader in Interdisciplinary Design at the University of Cambridge, provided a non-intimidating environment for members of the audience to respond to the topic offering new insights into people’s perceptions of the subject-matter.
31 March, 2016
On 31st March 2016 Simon Daw, Lucy Wray and Kate O’Connor were welcomed to Rotterdam by the Het Nieuwe Institut. We gave a talk about the research and process behind the World Factory show, culminating in a Q+A and open discussion of the themes raised by the project. Our visit coincided with a major exhibition, in which the Institute re-imagined itself as a fashion museum for a period of 8 months, September 2015 – May 2016.
We explored the exhibition the following day, witnessing a magnificent collection 20th century haute couture, the launch of a sustainable brand who make clothes from recycled waste, and a Documentary floor which tracked the creation of a T-shirt from start to finish. In experiencing this display, we were struck by how much its explorations overlapped with our own – examining the origins of our clothes, their extraordinary hold over us as consumers, and ways in which we might move beyond the current exploitative system of global production.
During the evening, the audience were asked to consider individual questions on some of the game cards used in the World Factory show, sparking a wide range of discussion about the pressures currently faced by the industry. Many people in the audience had been following a series of talks run by the Institute on similar themes, whilst others worked in the fashion sector themselves. We were joined by Sophie Koers from the Fairwear Foundation, who provided great insights through her experience of visiting factories worldwide and seeking sustainable alternatives. It was a great opportunity for the World Factory team to engage in conversation with those undertaking similar investigations.
We’d like to thank Flora van Gaalen and Myrthe Terpstra for welcoming us so kindly, and for such fascinating discussions.