About the Price of Our Clothes

Project Partners Alison Morse (left) and Rachel Breen (right)

On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As soon as we heard that the carelessly constructed factory crumbled and killed over a thousand of the mostly poor, mostly female garment workers who labored inside it, we thought of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911. The fire in this New York City garment factory, sparked by terrible working conditions and unregulated building codes, killed nearly two hundred mostly young, poor, female immigrant garment workers. Connections between the two events ignited our horror and imaginations. Rachel created visual art; Alison wrote poetry.

When we saw each other’s work, we wondered what would happen if we collaborated, weaving our respective media: visual art, social engagement, poetry and storytelling; into a project that would delve deeply into connections between the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the Rana Plaza disaster. How might our lives be intertwined with the history and ramifications of both events? We have decided to find out.

We are now collaborating on a project: “The Price of Our Clothes.” With this project we seek to engage American consumers about the ways in which we’re tied to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the garment workers in Bangladesh, and how we might be able to support those workers. This blog will chronicle our process. We invite friends and colleagues to comment on and contribute to the collaboration as it unfolds. Your involvement is important to us.

About the trip:

We’ve been researching both events on-line and in print, but in February, 2015, we will be traveling in Dhaka, Bangladesh to see, hear, smell, feel, touch and taste the lives of the garment workers there. We received a grant from the Rimon Foundation to do this research and will arrive in Dhaka on February 4th. During our two-week stay, we plan to visit Rana Plaza, interview survivors and families of victims of the factory collapse, NGOs helping these survivors and families, Dhaka garment workers, factory owners, garment workers union representatives and lawyers, and reporters who covered the collapse and the lives of garment workers. We will also explore what alternative work opportunities might be available to Dhaka’s garment workers.

Have you traveled to Bangladesh? Do you have friends there who you would like us to meet? Do you have questions about the garment industry that you feel are important to ask? Please let us know!

Next up on the blog:

Look for individual posts from us that delve more deeply into our artwork and writing as well as our travels and work together.

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About the Price of Our Clothes

11 thoughts on “About the Price of Our Clothes

  1. Rosemary says:

    This is important work on so many levels. Do as much as you can while you are over there. Get everyone’s contact info and get written permission from everyone to use their stories/images. Take photos or video if you can. This is just my kind of thing… Alison, you are creating the world in which you want to live – the work you want to do. I commend you.

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  2. Patricia Cumbie says:

    I am looking forward to learning more about this issue through your blog and artwork. I am certain it will be riveting, thoughtful and provocative. Bravo to you both.

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  3. Susan Weinberg says:

    Loved your piece on this in the Artist Lab show and am so glad to hear you are digging deeper into this important topic. I will follow it with interest.

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  4. My ears and eyes are open to all that you both bring to this fabulous project and collaboration. I am eager to experience what will emerge from the combined efforts of a favorite writer, and a favorite artist of mine.

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  5. The connections you are weaving through the intricacies as well as the overarching political truths are the keys to human understanding (and therefore change). I feel exhilarated knowing you are doing this work. Will be interested also to read about how the mechanics of the collaboration unfold.

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