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I have a beautiful granddaughter who was born with Down syndrome. She has enough challenges to face in her life and I want to make sure that finding appropriately fitting clothes will not be one of them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

China 2011 Day 5

A very busy day is planned; we’re headed to the textile market in Guangzhou.  This is the largest fabric market in the world. The population in Guangzhou is about 20 million people, I don’t know if there is any way to wrap your head around those numbers?   Jillian and Cara sent me here with swatches of fabric for our blouses, shirts, a jacket, pajamas, a skirt, casual pants and hoodies.  Jacky will help me find fabrics like the ones they have chosen.  I don’t expect this to be an easy task. The fact that this place is so big scares me.  Too many choices are more difficult than only having a few.  I will have to rely on Jacky’s expertise in this area to help me muddle through this enormous place.

But, this is Jacky’s specialty; with the type of business Jacky has, he has to know about all types of cloth, not just denim.  Denim is its own specialty and requires a different type of knowledge.  So it’s nice to have two experts to help with our clothing line.  Both have helped above and beyond any expectations I could have had.
Yuan arrives around 10:30 AM.  Jacky arrives shortly thereafter.  As Jacky drives and has his own car (a Buick) we don’t have to rely on anyone else for a ride.  The trip to Guangzhou takes about an hour and the traffic is unbelievable.  Surviving the traffic in China is a miracle in itself. 

When we get to the market, I’m absolutely overwhelmed.  There is building after building each about seven stories high.  On each floor are hundreds of little cubby holes that have different fabric shops; thousands and thousands of them…OMG…how do I even begin? Thank God Jacky takes charge and seems to know where to go.  He spends many days a week here choosing fabrics for his customers so he seems to know just which little shop to visit based on the swatches I have. 
We seemed to find most of the fabric the girls sent me to find.  But the one thing I really wanted to find the most, I just don’t see it anywhere.  One of the things I really want to make this year is Christmas pajamas.  I want to make pajamas in our “Down size” and then make the sibling sizes to match.  We hunted for almost two hours for flannel with a Christmas pattern.  I’m so disappointed; how can there be no flannel with a Christmas pattern on it in the biggest fabric market in the world? 

Jacky reassures me that he can have flannel printed with any design we want on it so I give up the hunt and decide to let Cara design our own Christmas pattern and have it printed onto the flannel.  It will make it even more special if we have our own design.  So we fight our way through the enormous crowd of people that are here and finally get back to his car.  The traffic leaving is even worse than when we came.  How can any human being survive on these crowded streets?  There is absolutely no traffic control whatsoever.  People pay no attention to traffic lights or laws or anything.  They drive like nothing I have ever seen in my life.  Jacky drives a beautiful car without one ding in it…HOW???

The day has been completely exhausting.  Jacky drops Yuan and I back at the hotel.  We say our goodbyes and I thank him for all his help.  He instructs me that when I get home I must email him the corrected spec sheets right away so they can begin making the new sample T shirts.  If these are a good fit (and I think they will be), then he will make another set of samples with the artwork printed on them for my approval.  If everything is approved, we can begin production.  So much time is lost, but this is the process and it just takes a long time.  I’m sure most people have no idea how much time is involved in creating just one piece of clothing.
By this time I’m starving, it’s time to eat and Yuan and I look for a different restaurant to have our dinner.  Since most people have no kitchens they usually eat all their meals out. Restaurants are everywhere; so we pick one…mmmm what will I try tonight?  I decide to get really brave and try one of Yuan’s favorite hot and spicy meals.  Boy, I don’t know how he can eat these foods.  My mouth needs an entire fire department to put out the flames.  I must admit it really tasted good, but the pain in my mouth and on my lips was almost unbearable, I don’t know how he can eat this type of food on a regular basis; he must have a cast-iron stomach and a firewall in his mouth.  Yuan walks me back to the hotel and we say goodnight.  I know he’s headed back to his factory and will probably work late into the night. 

I can’t believe how proud I am of Yuan’s accomplishments since I first had contact with him back in November of 2009.  At that time he was the general manager of a jeans factory, he was 25 years old and graduated from one of the best colleges in all of China.  In China, only the cream of the crop get to go to college, but only a very small percent get to go the their best colleges.  He graduated from one of China’s top colleges in Beijing and learned to speak English very well. 

When I first started working with him and the factory where he worked, he was very proud of the company and I was confident that they would do a great job.  The company was owned by a woman and after I had been working with him for about six months, the woman’s husband came back from the army and came to work at the factory.  Well, this was a complete disaster for her business.  He didn’t know anything about the industry and came in like a tyrant.  Almost all the experienced people began to leave.  In less than a year about 90% of the staff had left and other, less experienced people took their places.  Yuan was really struggling to work there.  His dream was always to have his own factory, but he thought he would be older before that could happen. 

But, things changed for Yuan.  He and the production manager from the factory decided to open their own factory sooner than he ever planned.  So, in December of 2010, Yuan gave notice where he worked.  He worked through the month of January and when their Spring Festival came in February, he left for good.  During the holiday time, he and his partner set up their own factory.  It happened very fast.  By the time the holiday festival was over, their factory was up and running.  I’m so amazed at his accomplishment in such a short time.  I was so relieved that he would be in his own business with complete control of how it would operate.  His ethics and standards and beyond reproach so I know when we get our jeans from him, they will be the best they can be.  The production manager is responsible for the factory and Yuan handled everything else. 

Since I began this journey, the good things that have happened cannot be explained. Yuan having his own factory is another example of this.  Jacky is also a special gift.  He can have anything else made that we would need and I trust him completely.  What more could I ask for?  Both young men have given so much to help Downs Designs create its own standard sizing.  I really couldn’t do this without their help. 

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