A MEND: A COLLECTION OF SCRAPS FROM LOCAL SEAMSTRESSES AND TAILORS (CHICAGO)
The politics of immigrant sweated labor in the United States informs my project, A Mend: A Collection of Scraps from Local Seamstresses and Tailors. Usually because many immigrants do not speak English, their employment options are limited. Many of them end up getting jobs that offer low wages, requires repetitive manual labor, and are sometimes hazardous with no unions or collective bargaining protections. Inspired by my mother being a seamstress, I am interested in people who do sweated labor. Sweated laborers often work long and tedious hours for low wages, and oftentimes take extra work home or to places where work is unregulated.
I have been going around to tailors and seamstresses in the Chicago area. I have been using their services, talking to them about my project, asking them to donate their jean remnants, and asking them: From where did you immigrate? How long have you been in the US? How long have you worked at as a seamstress or tailor? What type of work did you do before? And how much do you charge to hem a pair of jeans? Do you enjoy this type of work?
While answering these questions, their stories slip out. I continue to visit many seamstresses and tailors in the area. Many of them have also been collecting jean remnants for my project. From this collection of oral histories, I'm interested in seeing the similarities among the immigrant workers' stories in order to understand a collective identity, and hear about their hand labor.
Photos by: Hyounsang Yoo