Over the past few days I've been talking about the myriad of people involved in the various aspects of producing the clothes we wear every day. One of the interesting things is that, the more advanced we become, the longer that chain is, till we get all the way to the couture realm. The ready to wear world that I was talking about, produces well over 90 percent of the clothing worn in the world now. Even tribal peoples, mostly cut off from the retail economies of the globe, are wearing machine made garments, though they are often charity donations.
Buttons might be hand carved from animal bone. Custom buckles might be commissioned. Careful dye processes, like ombre' effects could be required. Elaborate cording or trimmings may have to be custom created, by hand, using very old techniques. Complex pleating like sunray pleats may be ordered to finish part of a desired garment. And lastly, the work of embroidery artists can be needed to add the level of fantastical texture and sparkle to some designed creation.
So, where once cloth is made, and the required notions gathered together in the RTW world, roughly 12 people might have their hands on a garment under production. In the pret-a-porter world that jumps to 30 or so. When we enter the couture level, a single top of the line evening dress could have had the skilled labors of over 50 people, and hundreds of hours involved in its completion.
When you add to this the increasing presence of computer augmented robotic production, we are quickly reaching a tipping point. We have gotten ourselves to the maximum number of persons possible to be involved in the process. From here on, as robotics and computers take more and more strong a position in the production chain, we will see a consistent drop in the number of hands touching, working, and moving the clothes we wear to the racks of stores all over the world.
Sure, this will be seen in one sense as efficiency, and cost cutting. The impact, particularly in countries where the economy is based largely on garment production, like India, China, Korea, and Malaysia, will be severe, as people have to scramble to find other work in other spheres.
We are looking at a massive change in how things happen, how the Attire words we use get to us.
We. Shall. See.