Residency project comes to life as New Market Goods
Member and former MSS resident Stephen Kennedy has been busy building a brand called New Market Goods. He’s partnered with Deshal, a small community of artisans in Dhaka to produce a line of popover shirts, with the goal of better understanding and highlighting positive production practices in Bangladesh. If you’ve been by the clubhouse over the past month, you may have seen the shirts on display in the popup nook, but if you missed them, be sure to check out their Kickstarter.
A bit more backstory on New Market Goods, from Stephen:
The design we’ve developed is an all-cotton popover shirt. It takes cues from the punjabis frequently found on the streets of Dhaka, such as the band collar and a placket that extends only to mid-chest.
We’ve hybridized the style with more traditional button-down features: a slightly more fitted silhouette that hits at the waist and side gussets. The design itself is fairly minimal, and is really meant to highlight the textiles, which are produced in one of the last remaining hand-loom communities called Pabna, in western Bangladesh.
Our production partner, Deshal is a popular Bangladeshi clothing line that started nine years ago as the passion project of three friends and artists – Kanak, his wife Ishrat and their friend Shobuj. We were stunned by the incredible, hand-loomed textiles that they use, and how the design of their garments (punjabi, tunics, saris) reflects the need for comfort and coolness in such a tropical climate. As a friend wrote about them, “Deshal gives a new meaning to the word factory – bright paints, colours, folk music, quiet smiles and Ishrat, Kanak, and Shobuj can be seen on the factory floor almost every day.” Their line has been super successful and they have several retail outlets throughout Dhaka.
While visiting their factory, we’d share clothing we liked and work together to design custom pieces with their textiles. After a few visits, everyone seemed game to start something new that could be sold in the US. We agreed to start small: produce a small run of a single design in a couple of different textiles. By learning from the ground up with Deshal, we’ll be able to focus on developing a quality product while gaining full exposure to the garment production process.
While we’re big supporters of the movement to bring manufacturing back to the US, the reality is that the majority of our garments and products will always be made in places like Bangladesh and China. Horrendous incidents like the factory collapse in Savar last year, shake us up and open our eyes to the terrible conditions in which our clothing is made. But within a few months, the focus subsides and companies continue to turn a blind eye.
We think it’s extremely important to work more closely in these contexts to develop practices that are beneficial for all parties involved. Making improvements is complex and requires a change in perspective from consumers, brands, industry leaders, local government, factory managers, and the garment workers themselves, but the last thing a place like Bangladesh needs is to have the garment industry leave. It’s become an integral part of improving economic conditions, and brands that aren’t willing to take responsibility for fair labor standards will likely continue the cycle of exploitation elsewhere.
For everyone involved, NMG is currently a passion project; we all have full-time jobs and find ourselves burning the midnight oil to get this thing started. Our Kickstarter, now live through July 20th, is our first step toward seeing NMG and Deshal grow together! We could certainly use your help getting the word out.
Stephen earned his Bachelors in Industrial Design at Georgia Tech and a Masters in Urban Planning at MIT. For the past several years, he has been working as a hybrid planner / designer on transportation mapping initiatives in Bangladesh, signage initiatives in New Orleans, waterfront greenway planning in the Bronx, participatory planning in Indonesia, stormwater management strategies in West Philadelphia, and New Town redevelopment in Kiryat Gat, Israel.