A new book from Anaïde Gregory Studios explores the sprawling, diverse world of production in China. The book was created after the pair of Swiss designers went on a five month tour of the manufacturing industry in China, spanning factory cities to family businesses. On the resulting blog Made In China Diary, the designers recounted their tours of manufacturing centers and interactions with the people who inhabit them. Their photographs unveil the surreal and sometimes absurd shadow world that fuels our culture of consumption, where socks are made in the billions and Christmas decorations are sold year round in a country devoid of Christians.
“Datang is a city of 200,000 where everything revolves around sock manufacturing,” they write. “The supply chain is located at the city’s outskirts, with thread and machine producers and logistics and distribution companies, allowing Datang and surrounding areas to churn out over one billion pairs of socks annually.”
At a giant market selling every conceivable product, women nap amidst thousands of vibrant plastic flowers and sparkling Christmas trees. Miserable working conditions in a town of furniture factories provoke cognitive dissonance.
“Work is done by employees who work 6 days a week amidst epoxy fumes and fiberglass dust, without any protection,” Anaïde and Gregory write. “The contrast between the conceptual rigor of the designs and the chaotic way these designs are turned into finished products is striking.” In these cities, there is no distinction between craftsmanship and industrial production. Whether a family or a massive corporation, everyone has the same mandate: to produce as much as possible as quickly as possible.
It’s a marvel of the modern world that the objects we use in everyday life originate in places where people live so differently than us. Made In China Diary, both fantastic and sobering, is a reminder that everything truly comes from somewhere, which is sometimes easy to forget.