Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags


All. I. Can. Say. Is. WOW!

I viewed this 2009 documentary last night on HBO and I'm so glad I did. With my love of sewing and history, I learned so much about New York's garment district. In our economy today, it was so sad to see the newly out-of-work people discussing their love for design/clothes/patterns and how they can't find a job that has been their passion for years.

Did you know, that in 1965, 95% of all clothes sold in America were produced here? Can you guess what that number is now? ONLY 5% OF CLOTHES SOLD IN AMERICA ARE ACTUALLY MADE IN AMERICA. I was astonished. Do you know why this changed? Government regulation. I highly suggest sewing enthusiasts see this documentary.

Here are some reviews that I pulled from IMDB:

"With everyone blaming President Obama for not doing this or that to help the country, this is a MUST SEE for all Americans. The film focuses on the rise and fall of the garment industry in Manhattan but the cause of it's demise is much larger than the tragedy of 7th avenue from W.34 st to W.40 st. It is proof, once and for all that the deregulation and trickle down economics of the 1980's put this country in the shape it is in today. The producers cover all of the vital history of what was at one time the largest employer in the City of New York from the tragic Triangle Shirt-Waste fire in 1911 that led to the founding one of the greatest union movements in American history. It's also about greed. Yes, this film is right on the money on what went wrong in the last 30 years in this country, not just in the garment industry."

"I knew nothing of the NYC garment industry prior to seeing this film, but it was wonderful to see it just for this historical footage from so long ago.

But beyond that, the film covers an issue that hits very close to home to many people in many industries and professions across the USA and Canada. Both are rich nations whose residents refuse to pay their neighbour a reasonable price. Who doesn't know someone, or who hasn't experienced, losing a job to cheap foreign outsourcing? In my profession, this is happening in middle-management as well. It is only a matter of time before it all goes.

Blame is properly placed on both Republicans (Reagan) and Democrats (Kennedy, Clinton). Shame on them all, for selling out the future of the USA, and leaving it held hostage to the cheapest and most immorally-run labour markets on the planet. One character tries to justify it as "helping them", as if that's actually the reason he chose sweatshop labour.

This one industry is particularly illustrative of how the transition from craftsmanship to marketing and then to entertainment has tricked the gullible into imagining themselves rich and secure in a country that has exported only its worst practices, along with its means of production -- first the jobs, and then the very machines (same thing happened in Canada ... you'd have a hard time even finding certain machines used in the garment industry any more -- and does anyone know how to make a new one?).

This film shines a bright light on a great crime that has been allowed to happen to the American Dream, and that we have all lazily permitted, based on our prejudices that we're simply innately superior to the rest of the world. It's of course ridiculous. What made us better was the society and the laws that we chose for ourselves. And we tore them down. Our children are never going to forgive us for throwing it all away because we were too selfish to care.

I wish the film had gone a little further into proposed solutions, or revivals. I also wish it had compared what happened in NYC with perhaps some other similar regions in the world. Have any been able to maintain a robust domestic garment industry after 2005?"

"HBO and Marc Levin, the director of this amazing documentary, ought to be congratulated in the way they have courageously analyzed the destruction of an American institution, the garment industry. Traditionally based on 7th Avenue, in Manhattan, roughly in the area from 34th to 42nd Streets, this was one of the most colorful and busiest sites in New York City, the center of the fashion world as we knew it. Gone are most of those young men one saw pushing the carts full of merchandise being delivered to the department stores, or for shipping to places all over America.

The birth of the industry started on a sad note, when a sad tragedy occurred early in the 20th century when about one hundred seamstress were trapped by fire and most of them jumped out of windows to a sure death on the pavements below the burning inferno. The documentary pays tribute to the people that conceived the idea of making clothes and for the unions that were instrumental in the enactment of laws that went to benefit the American population at large. The garment industry was the American dream for the many people it employed; so many immigrants with little skills to speak of, got their break in jobs that were a far cry than the sweatshops of the beginning of the century.

What is sad to see is that most of the clothes we use are made in countries as far as Bangladesh, China, India, Hong Kong, and many others that practically have become today's sweatshops. That allows amazing profits for entrepreneurs that send the work to all those poor places where the workers are practically slaves with no future at all.

Marc Levin presents a balanced story of the garment industry that flourished in New York, but are no longer employing American labor. This trend doesn't seem to show any end in sight, as more and more industries are sending jobs abroad. The dream of many American as well as the immigrants have become a nightmare in a society dominated by media, information and service industries. It is indeed a sad day for the country."

"This is truly an outstanding documentary dealing with the garment industry in the U.S.

George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" is properly played at the beginning since the garment industry was synonymous with New York City itself.

The film is historical in nature tracing the beginning of the industry and detailing how the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire of March, 1911 paved the way for reforms as well as FDR's programs, which gave rise to the Wagner Act of 1935 and other reforms.

It dealt with the day to day activity of those 7th Avenue workers. The cutters, the designers, the movers and shakers of the industry are all discussed. What has happened to this once great industry? Out sourcing has ruined it and there is much talk of the Reagan years of the 1980s when unions were definitely frowned upon.

This excellent documentary shows the melting pot relationship of the garment industry to its people. Tastes may have changed, by this is definitely a piece of Americana, a bygone era which has left us and probably will never reappear. By the way, does anyone remember the Dress Walkout of 1958?"

"This film is a microcosm of America today. Everything is outsourced, including customer service. When we do go to stores ; Employees are multi-tasking. Very sad the way our nation has been sold to the highest ur I mean lowest bidder overseas. This film documented how Ronald Reagan was an elitist that helped bring our industries down, with blame to Clinton as well for NAFTA. Yes we all want goods and services cheaper. The American consumer is part of the greed process. The film geniously, portrayed how working conditions evolved from tedious and dangerous, to thriving for the middle class and immigrants... Thanks to labor unions and than to practically nil. The garment industry ,eerily, resembles the auto industry. The people in 3rd world nations, including children are slaving the way Americans did a century or so ago. My one criticism is that the film did not highlight the 80's designer jeans craze ... whether it be Jordache, Sassoon and later on Cavariccis. Overall a must see film that explored the garment industry in NYC from every,owners, shareholders, blue collar workers, as well as union and political influence."

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