[Excerpt from the Districts of Dunwall, a recent book]
This chapter will focus on the once lavish Drapers Ward. Before the reign of the Kaldwin dynasty, the locale held none of the prestige that it has so recently enjoyed. Drapers Ward was once a simple manufacturing hub for fabrics and textiles, exporting raw weaves to all corners of the Empire. Water driven mills turned day and night to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding cloth industries. For decades, Drapers Ward supported a modest trade, until key manufacturers began relocating factories to Serkonos and Morley. The price of labor in these places was much lower, and the limited availability of Dunwall riverfront property, which was required to turn the mills, made expansion of operations impossible.
At the end of this period, declining production and abandoned factories created an opportunity for a new generation of skilled and ambitious industrialists. A loose confederation of clothing merchants, included [sic] such luminaries as Percy Oliver, Agatha Chesney and Mortimer Hat, established a new model of business: high end clothing that was designed to appeal to Dunwall's elite, sold at a substantial markup.
The best sartorial designers from across the Empire were lured to the boutiques of Drapers Ward, where they found themselves free from the need to solicit patrons. In fact they were elevated to high society, courted and pampered. The powerful and influential began to frequent the new Drapers Ward, paying any cost to be seen in the latest styles. The district was wildly successful; extravagant wealth and luxury among the proprietors and designers became the norm.
But not all was glamor and fun. Reinventing Drapers Ward was an expensive project, and investigations into the sources of capital funding the revitalization often led to dead ends. It was commonly whispered that Mortimer Hat had been a ruthless gang leader in his early years, and it was a very poor secret among the City Watch that he still commanded a private army of hardened men that would protect his interests.
A terrible truth emerged over time. While the designers and merchants held court in exclusive boutiques, the mills and factories that produced the clothing were houses of suffering and abuse. Despite the coin generated by their business, the workers who stitched the garments never took part in the flow of wealth. Instead, Hat's men enforced brutal working conditions on them. As this corruption intensified, with violence occasionally spilling out into the open streets, the well-to-do declined further invitations to shop at the boutiques. Business fell precipitously and now with rumors of a plague looming on the horizon, the golden age of Drapers Ward may soon be at an end.