The Mushroom and Curious Jeans?
The title might not be what you think and here is why. Reading into The Mushroom at the End of the World written by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, I am constantly amazed by the many analogies to fashion and how the global fashion supply chain operates in relation to the intercontinental supply chain of a mushroom. Matsutake is the most valuable mushroom in the world and it that grows in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere. It nurtures trees and helps revive forests and is also a precious edible gourmet delicacy in Japan. The book covers a global ecosystem around matsutake including the resources as well as the humans and often times leaves me questioning the similarities that the global fashion supply chain . The “value” of matsutake is not simply numeric but shaped through its supply chain which starts in Northern America and ends in Japan.
“By investigating one of the world’s most sought-after fungi, The Mushroom at the End of the World presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the pre-requisite for continuing life on earth.”
Accumulation of wealth across the supply chain is center to the sustainability of the defined business and capitalism is the system for concentrating this wealth which leads to new investments. The term “supply chain capitalism” reflects the global reach out of the fashion manufacturing, sourcing, out-sourcing, trading, distribution, sales, marketing and consumption. Almost 100 hands touch a piece of clothing before it reaches its new owner; a pair of jeans gets its final design through multiple meetings, samples, washes, fitting sessions to be possibly manufactured and retailed across multiple countries. The rise of the fast fashion retail in the early 2000s demanded the lower price supplier networks and the brands started having multiple contracts on a world-wide reach-out. Garment factories enrolled to service the volume businesses, the aging of a pair of jeans needed to speed up, more denim mills needed to be invested in to supply the insatiable consumers and the growing global demand. “In capitalist logics of commodification, things are torn from their life-worlds to become objects of change” says Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing and this is exactly what happens/happened with jeans. The life worlds of jeans are not only the natural resources transferred into the products but also the appreciation for the storytelling, the capital investments, the human element, the history as well as the future. Even though they were referred as commodity some 20-25 years ago, jeans still prevailed a cultural identity, a landmark of freedom, rooted in music, arts, philanthropy, design and youth. A promise of a better future for most. Today; majority of the consumers and designers do not have much of an idea under what conditions their jeans are manufactured. They have no connections to the people who have touched, admired, exchanged their jeans before it reaches them. Jeans become “inventory” as they hit the shelves. The joy is asleep, forgotten, the hard work is unaccounted for and right at this point they become accessories of the supply chain capitalism soon to be discounted if they take too long to hit the till. There is much to be done to redefine the value of our clothes and it gets easier once we start seeing them as a part of humanity and not just as things. The value definition embraces not only the material and the labor cost but the social, cultural, environmental impact costs transferred, shared, accumulated along the life-cycle.
The Mushroom at the End of the World assured me that the Denim Curiosity Table idea that we have been implementing in the denim industry is a way of co-creating a possibility for multiple diverse participants. Denim Curiosity Table is part of Future Possibilities platform of Soorty denim and garments and is an on and offline proposal dedicated to create a butterfly effect of change for the denim industry for the better and at scale. The table lays out the physical raw materials, the details of responsible manufacturing processes, examples of actual fabric designs, presentations of the technological advancements enables for better production, the reach out of the 100 hands that have touched them. It is for people who are curious about the details of a product, the value accumulation as well as the willingness to contribute to the future.
The Denim Curiosity Table is where we get to the roots, the design process, the cultivation of raw materials and we engage in real dialogues where we co-create the future as we assign a life cycle for a pair of jeans. We have been running workshops, presentations as well as open house sessions with the Denim Curiosity Table globally and would like to invite you to one happening close to you as this is where jeans stand their chance to become immortal instead of being an ordinary commodity. Our goal is to have the workshops in all major denim hubs and we invite brands, designers, manufacturers, freelancers, curious citizens alike. For dates and details please follow https://www.indigo-friends.com and https://www.future-possibilities.com.