Art & Art History
Knock Off Enterprises: The Labor Behind the Label
In the exhibition Knock Off Enterprises: The Labor Behind the Label, Frau Fiber, activist and textile worker, mimics the expenditure of apparel production by taking apart a white-collar uniform for the purpose of reconstructing on-site a white shirt and business suit originally produced offshore. A suit and shirt, the archetypal white-collar uniform, is an American icon, standing for quality, dependability, and style and thus enhancing the wearer ’s professional image. The re-made garments are available for purchase in the storefront, priced on a geographical sliding scale (hours worked to make the reconstructed garment multiplied by the hourly wage scale in the original garment ’s country of manufacture—China, Guatemala, or Taiwan—equaled KO (Knock Off) Enterprises ’ cost of the uniform).
KO Enterprises made manifest the human cost in the mass production and consumption of the apparel industry by putting on display the labor of pattern making, cutting, and sewing garments in a performative process. Chicago once had a thriving garment industry, now lost. In 1925, during its heyday, it was located principally in three concentrations: the main garment district was on South Market Street between Monroe and Van Buren Streets. Secondary concentrations were found on the near west side, both southwest of downtown and around Milwaukee Avenue between Chicago and North Avenues. The Knock Off Enterprises sewing performance took place in four parts. First, the white shirt disassembly manufacturing at the UE Western regional Council offices; secondly, the suit pants and jacket disassembly manufacturing; followed, thirdly, by the Manufacturer ’s sale; and finally, whatever unpaid overtime was necessary to reach the five-uniform goal, all at a space located in a building at 1513 North Western Avenue. Frau Fiber worked diligently in an effort to complete five white-collar uniforms, but she fell 2.5 jackets short by the end of her project. After selling two completed white-collar uniforms at the Manufacturer ’s Sample Sale, Frau Fiber returned to her workstation for unpaid overtime to complete the job.
KO Enterprises is a multi-national organization that works to encourage others to stop shopping and start sewing! Micro projects include: Sewing Rebellion, KO Manufacturing and the Synchronized Sewing Squad. Frau Fiber is the organization ’s CEO.
Knock Off Enterprises: The Labor Behind the Label was commissioned as one of the projects in the 2008 At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago
Following a twelve-year career in the couture bridal gown industry, Carole Frances Lung (born 1966), also known as Frau Fiber is a textile worker, artist, and activist. As the character Frau Fiber, Carole has created site-specific performances of garment production labor in United States, Germany, and Ireland. In 2006, at Mess Hall in Chicago, she began the Sewing Rebellion, a national campaign to “stop shopping and start sewing.” Today national chapters have been established in Los Angeles; Ames, Iowa; Chicago; Brooklyn; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and New Orleans, these chapters meet monthly, sharing skills related to mending, altering, making and remaking apparel. In May of 2007, she implemented the Pedal-Powered Sewing Machine, offering her skills as a textile worker to the people of New Orleans, in the post-Katrina renovation of domestic space. In summer 2008, Carole produced Walking/Weaving, a performance of weaving labor and temporary sculpture for Socrates Sculpture Park in New York. Carole has been awarded a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant; an Irish Arts Council Commission Grant for OUT OF SITE; an At the Edge award at University of Illinois at Chicago, Gallery 400; and a Fred A. Hillbruner Artist Book Fellowship. She has lectured internationally, and has been a visiting artist at Northern Illinois University; School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Bates College; and Maine College of Art. She is currently Assistant Professor in the Art Department at California State University, Los Angeles. Carole Frances Lung received a BS from North Dakota State University in 1988, a BFA in 2005 and an MFA in 2007, both from the Fiber and Material Studies Department at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Bruton, Alpha. “KO (Knock Off) Enterprises.” westsidearts-chicago.blogspot.com, May 19, 2008.
Weinberg, Lauren. “Sew Intense.” TimeOut Chicago, May 21, 2008.
Knock-Off Enterprises: The Labor Behind the Label, 2008
Mixed media installation and performance
Postcard: Knock Off Enterprises: The Labor Behind the Label
Poster: Knock Off Enterprises: The Labor Behind the Label
Knock Off Enterprises: The Labor Behind the Label
An At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago Project
May 5–May 22, 2008
Frau Fiber, activist and textile worker, will mimic the expenditure of apparel production, reconstructing a white shirt and business suit originally produced offshore. A suit and shirt, the archetypal white-collar uniform, is an American icon, standing for quality, dependability and style, enhancing the wearer ’s professional image. The remade garments will be available for purchase in the storefront, priced on a geographical sliding scale (hours worked to make the reconstructed garment multiplied by the wage scale in the original garment ’s country of manufacture—China, Guatemala, or Taiwan—equals KO ’s cost of the uniform).
Location 1: white shirt disassembly manufacturing
UE Western Regional Council, 37 South Ashland Avenue
Days of operation: Wednesday, May 7; Monday, May 12; Wednesday, May 14
Location 1 hours: 10:30 am–6:00 pm
Location 2: suit pants & jacket disassembly manufacturing
1513 North Western Avenue
Days of operation: Monday, May 5 – Tuesday, May 6; Friday, May 9 – Saturday, May 10; Tuesday, May 13; Friday, May 16 – Saturday, May 17; Monday, May 19 – Thursday, May 22
Location 2 hours: 8 am–8 pm
Manufacturer ’s sale: Thursday, May 22, 7–9 pm
1513 North Western Avenue
Gallery 400’s At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago series annually commissions four new projects from Chicago area artists, designers, and architects. At the Edge aims to support experimental projects that might not find support elsewhere.
All events at Gallery 400 are FREE.
Gallery 400 is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. The Voices lecture series is made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly. The Daryl Gerber Stokols and Jeff Stokols Voices Series fund provides general support to Gallery 400 programs.
Knock Off Enterprises: The Labor Behind the Label is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.
Special thanks to the jury that selected the 2008 At the Edge projects: John Arndt (artist), Monica Haslip (Director of Little Black Pearl), Kerry James Marshall (artist and former University of Illinois at Chicago faculty member), Stephanie Smith (Director and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum of Art), Lorelei Stewart (Director of Gallery 400), and Deborah Stratman (artist and University of Illinois at Chicago faculty member).