Disclaimer 1: This story is a fiction! Any specific analogy with reality is only coincidental...
Disclaimer 2: This article is not intended for Game of Thrones fans only!
The origin of a garment is of crucial importance when one chooses to be interested in social, ecological, or economic issues. To obtain this information, we refer to the famous label made in .... which generally indicates the place of final transformation of a garment; the place of exclusive or partial manufacture.
If for some consumer products, the information indicating the final origin is "sufficient", the textile supply chain is often too complex to be limited to this data. Between the place of harvest or manufacture of the raw material, the place of spinning (transformation of the fiber into yarn), the place of weaving (manufacture of the fabric), the place of manufacture (manufacture of the garment) and the place of sale, several countries and continents are often involved in the supply chain of a single garment. According to Oxfam, it is estimated that a pair of jeans can travel up to 65,000 km to the final consumer, or 1.5 times around the world.
Using George R.R. Martin's fantasy universe, we will rewrite the story of a cotton tunic made in Port Réal...
In the year 297, Jamie Lannister is walking through the streets of King's Landing to find a new tunic to wear proudly at court. After an hour of strolling through the streets of King's Landing, he comes across a shop that has just opened: "Tunics made in King's Landing". Jamie is very happy, he's more than tired of buying made in Qarth... and as he's a knight of great conscience, he thinks it's a shame that so many slaves are exploited to make and transport the tunics to King's Landing. Jamie is a Lannister, he thus buys 150 tunics for his own use, which he pays cash for, of course!
Tunics made in King's Landing
At the request of the Queen, a royal investigator goes on a mission to report on the merits of this new shop. To do so, he decides to interview the region's newest successful entrepreneur:
Royal Investigator: Queen Cersei will be delighted to hear that we are producing on our soil again! Can you tell us more about the origin of your tunics?
Gendry (the tunic maker): Of course! Our tunics are made in our workshop located south of King's Landing, on the road to Stormlands.
Without missing a beat, the investigator sets off for the tunic factory.
The investigator discovers a beautiful workshop where more than 70 garment makers work singing. He asks to speak with the head of the workshop:
Royal Investigator: How many tunics do you make each day?
Robert (the workshop manager): We produce 10 tunics a day, which is more than 3000 tunics a year. We manage to supply 13% of King's Landing's demand (2019 study), which is almost the entire wardrobe of Sir Jamie Lannister.
Royal Investigator: Why not produce more?
Robert: Unfortunately, our tunics are more expensive than those produced in Essos and not everyone can afford one. Also, if we encroach too much on Essos' exports, they might stop selling us cloth...
Royal Investigator: Make your own cloth!
Robert: We should do a market study... For the moment we import 100% of our cloth from Volantis (a port city on the continent of Essos).
The royal investigator understands that to satisfy the queen, he will have to travel a little.
Volantis: King's Landing Fabric Factory
Royal Investigator: You've got a good deal here!
Xerox (in charge of weaving): Tell me about it! We are the biggest exporter of cloth on the continent and we continue to grow year after year.
Royal Investigator: How do you explain this success?
Xerox: Volantis has a direct connection with Qarth (a slave city located in the east of the continent of Essos), they sell us the cheapest yarn on the continent!
The royal investigator mutters in his beard "another three weeks of riding to reach Qarth, it's starting to piss me off".
Qarth : the city of cotton yarn
After three weeks of travel, the investigator is a little on edge... He tries to expedite this umpteenth meeting.
Royal Investigator: Why does everyone in Volantis get its yarn from you?
(Someone who works at the spinning place): Dear sir, for the simple reason that we have the cheapest cotton on the continent.
Royal Investigator: Don't understand...
(The same): 51% of the WORLD's cotton crop was held by the Dothraki in Vaes Dothrak (a region in the northeast of the continent of Essos). We have decimated the Dothraki and taken over all the cotton crops!
This time, no need to go to Vaes Dothrak to understand. Besides, the royal investigator doesn't feel like continuing his adventure to be honest with you. He turns back to deliver his message to the queen.
Royal Investigator: My Queen, I have just returned from a great expedition that took me to Vaes Dothrak in the North-East of Essos. My conclusion is this: without re-industrializing Westeros, investing in weaving, spinning and farming, we will never be able to produce truly local!
Queen Cersei did not bother to answer the investigator, she had him executed to save her voice...
Appendix: Discover the route of the tunics made in King's Landing
Moral of the story
The final transport of a garment (from the place of manufacture to the place of sale) is responsible for a small proportion of the textile industry's ecological footprint. However, current supply chains often make our wardrobe travel around the world several times... This is why it is urgent to re-centralize the production sites and drastically reduce the round trips upstream of the value chain!
All quotes are translated from French to English
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