This article has pained me in more ways than one to write to see where Barbados has come from as a garment export manufacturing country to the manufacturing of garbage in terms of producing high-quality garments. Back in the day as far back as in 1983, Barbados had over seventy-nine knowledgeable garment manufacturers and a workforce of over fourteen thousand workers employed in the industry.
Most garment factories back then employed a sewing machine mechanic, sometimes more than one depending on the size of the factory and the volumes being manufactured especially the larger factories. The same was true for in-house pressers to press each garment as it was being constructed since critical areas of each garment required pressing in order to maintain proper shape, fit and finishing.
Last week I accompanied a parent to one of Bridgetown’s leading department stores that sell school uniforms to give some advice on the purchasing of their son’s school uniform. I stood there horrified in a trance looking at the garbage for uniforms on the racks and could not grasp or believe at what I was seeing for uniforms especially the girls. It is no wonder why Barbados does not have a thriving garment industry or workforce, in my forty-five years plus in the garment industry as a manufacturer, trainer, and teacher, have I ever seen such crap as far as quality is concerned. I am still trying to come to grips with what is being produced and the extravagant prices that the public has to pay for the crap.
When one looks at the finish of these uniforms including the sizing, it is evident that the manufacturers of these uniforms do not employ an in-house sewing machine mechanic or a presser or pressers in their establishments and in most cases have a pattern maker. All the uniforms on the racks were puckering at the seams, stitching too taunt, wrong seam allowances, hem threads showing on the outside of the garments and it was quite evident that the garments were not pressed and looked unfinished. Fabrics and threads come in different weights and sizes as well as needles and every time you are going to stitch a different piece of fabric, the correct needle size has to be used and the needle tension has to be adjusted as well as the number of stitches per inch for the size of the thread and fabric, otherwise you will have the problems with puckering and threads showing on the outside of the garment.
It is a known fact that one of the main factors that destroyed our garment industry during the declining years in the 80’s and 90’s beside the concession issues with the government was that most of the factories did not have a pattern maker. Unfortunately, there were only two professional pattern makers/graders in Barbados, one was involved in teaching and the other was involved in their own business. In order for any garment manufacturer to survive and operate a successful garment business, they have to have an inhouse pattern maker/grader unless they buy into these services as well as other services that they can buy into.
Like everything else, rules and laws govern the garment industry in terms of quality control and where shortcuts will ruin the final outcome of a garment. When it comes to sizing a garment it is critical that buttonholes are spaced correctly, correct size and positioning of pockets, collar size and lengths and overall fit. The purchasing of North America or European patterns and adjusting them will not work here for Barbadians or the wider Caribbean except for a small percentage of people is because of body structures and types. These patterns are drafted for white people whose body compositions are completely different to black people although everybody falls into a particular size. Let me reiterate here, foreign-made clothes are manufactured for white people who have a shape more like a pencil and not for black people whose waist tends to be smaller and have very large hips.
Most factories rely on foreign patterns and try to make adjustments to them since they are not any professional pattern makers or pattern making businesses around. In any case, the local manufacturers would not seek the services of any of the two local pattern makers, because that is how we treat our own and would not want to pay them the same fees that would be charged by a foreign pattern maker. It is unfortunate that Barbadians have to pay these exorbitant prices for all this crap and it is time that Barbadians start paying for quality and service.
Th is article is spot on
I too ventured into the city a week ago Saturday, and was equally appalled at the price and quality of the school uniforms on offer.
While not versed in the technical aspects of garment making mentioned in the article, the flaws in the uniforms offered were glaring.
Better needs to be done and the large retailer who I visited needs to insist on better quality for its customers.
Good article wayne.These are the sort of things we should be speaking out against.
Consumer advocacy is dead in Barbados.
Wayne I have to agree with you. Sometime ago a friend of mine she is a dressmaker. She told me that a mother brought her daughter’s uniform which she purchased from one of the leading stores in Broad Street. My friend said that mother wanted her to “alter” the uniform. The girl was a slim girl and the unform’s pocket was down by the girl’s knee. I am no dress maker nor have I worked in the garment industry but what has been selling on the racks in Bridgetown should be thrown in the garbage.
The worse thing to see is a badly made uniform on a student.
While the author singled out school uniforms as an example, I’m sure many other garments manufactured here can be held up as glaring examples of slap dashed inferior products. But, as we are on school uniforms, for some time now i’ve wondered, why can’t the black women in Barbados enter into some manufacturing or procurement of school uniforms and supplies. After all, we blacks have the majority children in the school system. I’m sure there will be a ready market for their products. Here is an idea for some black bajan women, when you’re through making yourselves victims and all that you can bitch about, get cracking and create or restart this industry. I just returned from Cheffete, interestingly enough I gave three gentlemen a ride to Six roads, St, Philip, on our way these guys detailed a listing of plantations and other properties own by the Halloutes. 45 years in business, I know we blacks don’t get money to wash and rinse off, but Christ!! let’s do something for phuck sake.
Good article. Have to agree with Wayne
In the meantime, we have dress makers who keep one’s article of clothing for an usually long time then charge a large sum of $$ for simple alterations. In the past I’ve had to take clothing back to the USA to some African guys for alterations. As I was about to leave their shop in one instance I was told to sit and wait, see me sitting and waiting three months in Barbados. Then the fool got angry because I took my clothing back.
As long as blacks refuse to pull together we will always be at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.
There a dress makers who can sew well but for some people they would rather buy a uniform for $80..00 credit it on their card instead of paying a dress maker. The attitudes of black must change. We have the talent and the ability BUT our thinking is bankrupt.
From the pictures shared it seems even the basic skill of hemming is lacking, how is not having patternmakers the reason for this decline? There was a time when both boys and girls were taught needlework in home economics class.
True David but we now live in a global community where the need for fast must outspaced our next competitor
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