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Different models of production

Diagram of a basic supply chain model

In the above diagram of a simple supply chain we refer to mills and factories. The factories and mills may be privately owned (owned by individuals, often by families, so you frequently see referenced to ‘family owned’ factories); or state owned, owned by the government (once frequent, particularly in China, but less common now); or publicly owned (shares owned by the public, often listed on public stock exchanges); or co-operatively owned (wherein the workers themselves form a co-operative which has ownership.)

But mills and factories, however they are owned, are not the only ways to supply the fashion industry.

People may work on a self-employed basis from home. If what they produce feeds into factory production they are known as ‘homeworkers’ and will mainly be making to order with the specs and usually the materials provided. For example, our simple cotton top may require some embroidery and instead of that being done in the factory the piece may be taken to homeworkers to embellish and then returned to the factory for the final making up.

However, self-employed artisans may also sell directly to customers, be part of co-operatives or join together with other artisans in loose networks to design, create, market and sell their products.

Spinning, dyeing, weaving and knitting may be done on an industrial scale in mills, dye houses and factories or raw materials may be hand spun, hand woven, hand knitted on a smaller scale.

Or there may be combination of industrial and handmade processes in any particular supply chain.

Optional further reading:

Homeworker Guidelines and Information (Ethical Trading Initiative, 2010)
The Supply Change: Building links between designers and artisans (Ethical Fashion Forum, 2012)

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