Made in Ukraine

A task in an online course on transparency in the fashion biz: pick a garment and research its origin. Look for the human traces in your clothes. Track their journey.

All clothes have human traces in them. You’d be surprised how much is still made by hand today. All clothes have long-distance journeys. Most of them travel farther than their owners ever will.

But there’s one shirt in my wardrobe, the shirt I pick for this task, which hits close to home. Literally. Close to my home. It was made in Ukraine, as was I. Just like me, it traveled from there to the UK.

We’re both immigrants, my shirt and I.

My shirt’s parent brand, New Look, has published its list of factories. Three of them in Ukraine. All three, in and around Lviv, a beloved West Ukrainian city known for coffee, chocolate, cakes, and culture. A little Bohemia, six train hours away from the capitol.

One of the factories, Trottola, is famous enough to have featured in a TV show. They also make clothes for Zara. In one of Zara’s shops in Kyiv, the journalist shows a clothing label to the camera. “Made in Ukraine.” Such pride in her voice.

The video cuts to the factory. A man is pushing a rail full of clothes. “All these going to London tomorrow,” – says a coiffed, made-up shift supervisor. A garment worker with short silver hair hovers nearby, smiles awkwardly.

“All the way to London?” the journalist asks, then tries a jacket on, “to get the jump on the latest English fashion.”

The whole scene less than sixty seconds long, but oh, the emotions. On everyone’s faces: the pride, the excitement, the almost-disbelief, the pride. (OMG, they’re taking us seriously in the West!)

Breaks my freaking heart.

My shirt was made in that factory, or one just like it. It traveled, “all the way to London,” or all the way to New Look’s warehouse. We met somewhere in the Midlands.

Since then, we’d made a few journeys together, the shirt and I: back to Ukraine and then the UK. I always needed to convince the Home Office I was worthy. The shirt was allowed in just fine. We were both made in Ukraine, but only one of us was made by order of a British company.

Never thought I’d be jealous of a shirt.

No, no, I kid. There’s no hard feelings between us. After all… we immigrants need to stick together.

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