Looping the value chain: Designer copies in a brand-name garment factory
Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility
ISBN: 978-1-84855-058-2, eISBN: 978-1-84855-059-9
Publication date: 1 September 2008
This chapter concerns itself with a garment factory in Trinidad, West Indies, producing brand-name clothing for the Eastern Caribbean market. Workers in this factory not only stitch garments for an hourly wage; but also stealthily operate a secondary assembly line, creating precise duplicates of the factory's products for themselves to take home and wear. Manufactured on the shop-floor alongside “legitimate” production, the copied garments are identical in every way to the genuine ones they mimic. In this chapter, I argue that workers have created a “loop” in the value chain: a simultaneous moment in which they are both producers and consumers of the factory's products. While “genuine” garments circulate through market-capitalist networks of exchange, copied garments only circulate through social networks – thereby accruing and representing forms of “value” that are distinct from market value. By looping the value chain, factory workers create non-market values alongside market-oriented ones, showing both sets of values to be interdependent. Workers’ own commentary on these processes offers a unique window onto contested meanings of “value” at work on the shop-floor.
Prentice, R. (2008), "Looping the value chain: Designer copies in a brand-name garment factory", De Neve, G., Peter, L., Pratt, J. and Wood, D.C. (Ed.) Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 97-121. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0190-1281(08)28005-4
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