How does a simple T-shirt get made? To find out, NPR and Planet Money decided to make one – and track every step of production.
Turns out, there’s nothing ordinary about a simple shirt.
Part 1: Cotton: It all started in Mississippi. Or, if you go back far enough, in a seed lab.
Part 2: Machines: To become yarn, our cotton travels half way around the world and meets some really cool machines.
Part 3: Poeple: At the heart of the process are people like Jasmine, a garment worker in Bangladesh who worked on our shirts.
Part 4: Boxes: The journey took us around the world. The trip would have been impossible without the humble container, the unsung hero of the global economy.
Part 5: You: The journey starts and ends with people like you, who bought the shirt. In between, we learned, is an entire world.
From the team:
To figure out how many shirts to make, and to raise money to pay for them, we turned to Kickstarter. Our goal was to sell 2,000 shirts. In the end, we sold 25,000.
We wanted to see the hidden world behind clothes sold in this country, so we decided to make a T-shirt. We wanted to make an ordinary shirt like the vast majority of the shirts sold in this country — not organic cotton, not hand-sewn in the United States.
We flew drones over Mississippi. We got mugged in Chittagong, Bangladesh. We met people whom we’ll never forget — the actual people who make our clothing. At every location we had radio reporters and videographers.