Few people really think where their clothes come from. For this and not only, the BBC has dedicated a special on the subject, focusing on a lingerie factory run by women in northern Albania.
BBC: The mountain girls making bras for Europe's chests
A woman is examining the elastic in a way that would be considered highly inappropriate in any other context. It is one of the 3000 people employed in the textile industry in this city of northern Albania; under his imposing Illyrian, then Roman, then Venetian castle, Scutari has a distinct literary past. But despite its high cultural heritage and its reputation for intellectualism, today it is the largest producer of underwear.
Scutari has a long tradition of devoted Catholicism and this cultural link with Italy has strengthened and continues to strengthen relations with Albania's main client. It is no coincidence that Mirela, the owner of the factory in question, speaks Italian perfectly. When the town was occupied by Mussolini, Italian had become the official language: later, during the communist period in Albania, the radios were secretly tuned to Italian channels to listen to news from all over the world, so learning Italian represented a way out.
Mirela has 43 years and has a degree in economics, as well as 22 years in the industry behind it. It is hard on those who do not try to get out of poverty. She proudly talks about how women working overtime are making a significant contribution to the economy: textiles are the country's second largest export, after minerals, and Albanian factories provide international brands like Zara and Bata.
However, wages are low, admits Gjergji Gjika, director of the chamber of commerce. He also states that there are about 76.000 people employed in this sector in Albania and that it is often women who have just arrived in the city from the harsh life of the mountain villages that constitute the labor force of this industry. Even for owners like Mirela it is difficult to find a permanent workforce, as more and more families emigrate to the richer European markets.
This article was originally published in English on with the BBC the 12 August 2018 from the title "The mountain girls making bras for Europe's chests"
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