Kelsey Timmerman came to FIT and showed everyone his underwear.
In his presentation to incoming students during Orientation Week on August 26, the author of Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes, explained that his underwear, which were made in Bangladesh, were the inspiration for his book. “I was trying to meet the people who made my Christmas boxers,” he said.
Timmerman’s book was this year’s “Common Read.” Now in its second year, the Common Read is designed to engage the FIT community in a unified reading activity. For first-year students, it introduces them to academic expectations, respectful discourse, and provides a platform for engagement with their peers, colleagues, and faculty at FIT.
By introducing readers to the human element of globalization – the factory workers, their names and families, and way of life – Where Am I Wearing bridges the gap between global producers and consumers.
Only three percent of our clothes are still made in the United States, Timmerman said. “Do you know what life is like for the people who made the shirt you’re wearing?” The answer to that and other questions came for Timmerman when he literally followed the path of a t-shirt he owned. He wore the shirt to the factory in Honduras where it was made, and met the young man who had made it. “This moment forever changed my life as a global and local citizen,” he said.
But there is another side to the story, Timmerman pointed out. Because many companies outsource to countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, and China, jobs are created for the people who live in those countries. Timmerman posed the question to students of whether supporting this system is “exploitation or opportunity.”
“We have more in common than you think,” Timmerman said. “We are tied together in a single garment of destiny. But what if we were part of the solution? You all will be making decisions that will help consumers make better decisions.”