QIAOTOU, China -- The humble button may not seem so significant -- unless you're in Qiaotou, China, where hundreds of factories produce more than 60% of all buttons on earth.
"We manufacture about 2 to 3 million buttons a day," factory worker Sun Yongliang says. And that's just his company, Mailifa.
According to Sun, China's recent economic slowdown hasn't really hurt button-town. "As long as there is human civilization people will have to wear clothes," Sun says. "And as long as there are clothes, there will be buttons."
In the center of the world's button capital is a mall with more than 550 shops dedicated entirely to buttons. Sun's son Sean and daughter-in-law Ning both work there.
"If it's a cheap button, don't buy it," Ning says. Shell, horn, and coconut buttons are "in," but apparently polyester is not. "The material is much lower than the other materials," says Sean.
The couple went to university in Austin, Texas but came back so they could help the family business. Sean says he is introducing computer systems to modernize how the old business is run. "Our labor is increasing, and if we don't change ourselves there is no place for us to live in this world."
The family wants to put their town on the button-map. If Italy is famous for its pizza, and Napa for its wine, doesn't Qiaotou deserve a little recognition too?
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