Have you ever wondered who made the clothes you are wearing right now? Have you thought about how the girl or guy in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India or Cambodia who made your T-shirt lives? How much they get paid? Where their children go to school? IF their children go to school? Whether they have rights at their workplace?
To be honest. I didn’t. But I know so much more and will make a concerted effort not to buy cheap clothes made unethically after watching a screening of ‘True Cost’ with my lovely friend @deebrock.
‘True Cost’ is a documentary film by Andrew Morgan about the gritty, grim and dark reality of the cost of making clothes and the repercussions of the ‘fast fashion’ industry. It’s confronting, sad and eye-opening. It makes me want to do something about it, although I’m not sure what just yet. I’m starting small with not buying cheap clothes from certain fast fashion retailers (I don’t like to name and shame on my blog, so I’ll let you watch the doco and find out for yourself).
Here are just a few facts that I wanted to share with you:
- The fashion industry is the second largest polluter right behind the oil industry.
- One in six people work in the fashion industry.
- Workers in garment factories in poor countries like Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh are treated poorly, work in terrible conditions and earn minimum wages like $3 a day. They are also generally women.
4. Around 250,000 cotton farmers have died over the last 15 years because of going into debt to buy genetically modified cotton seeds.
5. The villages that these farmers are from have a high proportion of children with disabilities and people suffering from cancers due to exposure to harsh chemicals used on the farms.
6. Waste from the leather tanners in rural Indian villages are leaked into the water. The people from these villages suffer from many illnesses because they live on this polluted water.
7. Only 10% of clothing donated to thrift stores are sold. The rest end up in landfills or in markets in developing countries (for example, Haiti in the film) and wasted anyway.
The film has various stories but one that affected me was the story of a 23-year-old factory worker in Bangladesh who takes her small daughter to work or leaves her with a neighbour instead of sending her to school. She doesn’t have the time or money to look after her daughter properly. The ending for this particular story is bittersweet but made me teary.
But then there is another side to the argument that perhaps we contribute to their economy and keep these workers in a job (which was pointed out to me by my mum AND my boyfriend’s mum – great minds!). Maybe the meagre wage they earn actually goes further than we think? Maybe it’s somewhat empowering for these women (and men) to have a job that provides them with income to send to their families in the village?
I don’t know, I don’t think I’m going to stop buying cheap clothes for these reasons. I’ll definitely think of these workers and perhaps find another way to help them… But I’m not convinced that the problem will be solved by me not purchasing cheap clothes….?
What will you do?
Images are film stills sourced on Pinterest and via Google.