‘Fashion today is the number 2 most polluting industry on earth, second only to the oil industry.’ – Andrew Morgan.
During one of my lectures it was recommended to us that we should watch the documentary, ‘The True Cost’. It took me a few weeks to finally get round to this, something I now regret immensely. Whilst a heartbreaking and harrowing watch, ‘The True Cost’ illustrated the faults in the fashion industry that need to change, and need to change soon. Don’t get me wrong I love clothes. I love buying clothes. I love wearing clothes. I love following fashion trend after fashion trend. What I have discovered is that I don’t necessarily love the consequence of this.
‘The True Cost’ is a documentary produced by Andrew Morgan in 2015. Within it he explores the many hidden sides of the fashion industry, from the mistreatment of garment factory workers to pollution. He interviews people from these sectors, and from this we get to see first hand how damaging the fashion industry truly is.
The rise of ‘fast fashion’ is mainly to blame. The investopedia defines fast fashion as ‘a phenomenon in the fashion industry whereby production processes are expedited in order to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible.’
The film shows people who ultimately suffer the consequences of fast fashion – the factory garment workers, in places such as Bangladesh and Cambodia. When the film was made there were around 40 million garment factory workers, and 4 million of these factories were in Bangladesh alone. Morgan also informs us 85% of these workers are women. Women just like Shima Akhter.
Shima and her daughter Nadia stole my heart during the documentary, as Shima often talked about wanting to give her daughter the best future possible, away from garment factories. At one point Shima says, ‘I believe these clothes are produced by our blood […] I don’t want anyone wearing anything produced by our blood’. This is in referral to the dangerous, often deadly, working conditions that she and other garment workers are forced to work in.
For example look at the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013. The building collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and around 1,129 workers were killed. All so we could get cheap clothes from places like H&M and Zara. The workers concerns about safety are often ignored, confirmed when Shima says that after she formed a union with her colleagues and gave her employer a list of things that needed improving they were beaten with fists, chairs and scissors. You could also look at Cambodia, where workers took to the street to protest the unfair minimum wage at garment factories, and were attacked by police, resulting in the death of women and injury of many.
The people at the top of the fashion industry just don’t seem to care. Benjamin Powell, director for free market institute, told Morgan, ‘They (sweatshops) are places that people choose to work, admittedly from a bad set of other options’, as if this could possibly justify the disgusting treatment of the workers.
The documentary talks in depth about other issues linked to the fashion industry, such as the use of pesticides and how these link to an increase in birth defects, cancer and mental health illnesses in Punjab, India, or the fact that in the last 16 years there has been more than 250 thousand farmer suicides in India, which equates to about 1 farmer every 30 minutes.
Morgan also points out that the fashion industry is responsible for the 11 million tonnes of waste in the USA alone each year from people throwing away clothes. It’s statistics like these that make you wonder what it will take for people to realise that cheap clothing isn’t worth this level of destruction, both of the planet and humankind itself.
I am a person with strong ethics and morals, and like to think I often do things in the best interest for everyone, not just myself. Yet here I am, writing this blog post whilst wearing a sweatshirt from Primark. Does that make me a bad person? Or an uneducated one? I’m not saying that we should stop shopping and resort to wearing burlap sacks from now on, but increasing our awareness on the issue is not a bad place to start. Prehaps instead of relying on these cheap brands we should start to support designers like Stella McCartney, and Safia Minney from the People Tree. People who have looked at the fashion industry and said, ‘Hang on a minute. This isn’t right, and I can do better.’
I’ve only just begun to talk about the important points ‘The True Cost’ makes, so I urge everyone to watch this documentary, or at least do some research into the issues it highlights. After all, women like Shima deserve just the same amount of human rights as women like me, whether they’re the ones making the clothes or purchasing them.
Until next time,
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Images sourced from ‘The True Cost’ movie and Give me 5