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Consumer Connection

Our modern economy is woefully impersonal. We rarely come to know the people behind our clothes and comestibles. Scott Ballum, a Brooklyn-based designer, took this state of affairs as a challenge.




For all its efficiencies-or perhaps because of them-our modern economy is woefully impersonal. We rarely come to know the people behind our clothes and comestibles. Scott Ballum, a Brooklyn-based designer, took this state of affairs as a challenge. In March, he pledged to spend a year buying only the things he could trace back to a specific person, and he's since begun chronicling the experience online, with what he calls the Consumer Reconnection Project.

"The idea that the consumer would want to meet the producer is far removed from our everyday life," says Ballum, and, as you might imagine, his efforts have been greeted with frequent bafflement. Big manufacturers aren't eager to have him on their factory floor for fear he'll snoop or cause an accident, and company reps struggle to categorize his telephone calls (are they press inquiries or a customer-service issue?). To drink his morning coffee, Ballum first introduced himself to the owner of his local café, then to the man who roasts the beans and, finally, to the Nicaraguan woman who grows them (conveniently, she was visiting Brooklyn). A lot of work for a cup of coffee, sure, but for Ballum, the rewards are obvious, and tangible. In a disconnected world, he actually knows where his stuff comes from.



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