As you might have heard, at the end of May 2015 this fashion movie came out entitled THE TRUE COST OF FASHION by Andrew Morgan who funded it through Kickstarter. I’ve paid on their website and downloaded it and after watching it, all I can say is: “What an awful film.”
It is really awful, because you have to watch the suffering of people who make clothes.
It is awful, because you have to see the pollution of the environment.
It is terribly awful, because you see footage of the Rana Plaza collapse.
It is even more awful because you see women and men cry.
It uses shocking images alternating with images of piece and tranquility, which is a powerful tool. But all images, good or bad are ture, because after all, this is a documentary. That’s just awful.
And it is most awful because you can’t do anything about it.
If you are a consumer of the developed world, perhaps from the generations who were raised and groomed by fast fashion behemoths such as H&M, Inditex Group, Primark and Topshop (to name a few), then you probably have noticed that your clothing is exclusively made in the third world.
You will have noticed, that the prices are so cheap and perhaps you have wondered: how can it be so cheap? Or perhaps you have thought: So what, these people need jobs, right?
In this movie, we are once again reminded of fast fashion as a system, an industry and an economic machine.
It produces, we consume.
It produces more cheeply and we consume more.
It earns a growing enormous profit while our closets burst.
But the people who make the clothes don’t profit at all and although they do need a job, they also need the very basic human rights. Their minimum wages are a joke and the working conditions often deadly. Literally.
When Rana Plaza collapsed in 2013, I went into an H&M store. There was a fresh shipment of clothing styles. I wondered: “Are the people who made these dresses all dead now? Are the dresses hanging here, and they are lying under the rubble?”
[Image source and article here.]
Since then the big fast fashion giants pretended to have signed treaties for safer working conditions, but nothing seems to have changed on location. Every time you read a report on the situation, nothing seems to have improved for these factory workers.
So by the end of watching this awful film, you start asking: What can I do? How can I help? Can’t these people do the same job but under better conditions?
The film does not answer this. Although the it offers alternatives and shows organic cotton farmers and sustainable fashion brands (such as People Tree) which treat their Bangladeshi workers like human beings, it does not offer a one-stop-solution to the fast fashion cycle which is in motion.
Perhaps it is a riddle which is really hard to solve. Afterall, this is an industry and it is like an atomic bomb explosion. How can you stop it and its radiation? Is this industry like the Tobacco industry, which has seen a decline in some countries, while there is an increase in others? Is it unstoppable? This is one part which I am missing in the film. Some realistic answers and ideas for all consumers. Because I believe that most people do care to know where their clothes came from. And those who love fashion and fashion brands would feel much better, if their clothes were not a result of atrocities against humans.
So what can an insignificant consumer do? (Insignificant in that he or she cannot tell the corporations what to do or go to Bangladesh etc. and build a “nice” factory).
Perhaps, first and foremost, pay it some thought and re-evaluate your own values and ethics.
You can ask questions and demand answers and actions from the brands.
You can try and buy 50% less.
You can buy a few items from ethically sustainable brands.
You can donate to organizations that help those people, the environment and the way the industry operates.
Or you can put your fast fashion money aside and save up for one item which is not intended to be thrown away after a season.
You can make clothes yourself or mend the ones you have.
You can buy second-hand. Or swap with your friends.
You can tell your friends to participate.
I am sure we have options to do something about it. But the worst thing we can do is ignore it.
Please feel free to comment and tell me what you have done or what you would like to do.
Nota Bene: If you’d like to read a highly interesting article on this matter, please check this one which appeared in BUST magazine about a year ago!