Black Friday - The True Cost
|Pickers Station - Sri Lanka 2015
Off the back of Black Friday weekend and the run up to Christmas spending frenzy, the thorough & informative docu-film The True Cost by Andrew Morgan makes for difficult viewing.
The True Cost discusses numerous issues within the garment industry, from production (low wages, soil & river pollution, pesticide contamination, disease & death) to consumerism, mass media and global capitalism. It is a collection of interviews with environmentalists, garment workers, factory owners, and leading companies in fair-trade & sustainable clothing practices.
The horrific footage of the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh is so disturbing you'll never want to set foot in high street clothing shop again (named accountable retailers easily traceable). Fast fashion literally made with human blood. An insatiable Western obsession with ever-changing latest fashion trends and dirt cheap clothing. But affordable to whom? The difficulty for the average unquestioning consumer lies in making a tangible link between growers & makers, and the finished product on the hanger. Far easier to pull wool over eyes, feign ignorance and carry on with life; too inconvenient to consider changing shopping habits.
While travelling through South East Asia, we stayed in the homes of workers, played with kids that never see parents, saw the squalor, matching real names & faces to the products seen on the high street back home.
|Sri Lanka 2015
This photo represents a European-consuming giant, beside a frail elderly Sri Lankan lady who performs back-breaking manual labour all day in the boiling heat; a job I could never imagine letting my own Grandma suffer. She lives at the bottom of the hill in a corrugated iron shed with other elderly workers...like livestock. I felt sick to my stomach.
I have included this photo but I despise it. It makes me feel ashamed about what it symbolises. My smile is one of discomfort and guilt, while her face is a picture of pain. What it does capture perfectly however, is that tangible missing link between mass-consuming retail and mistreated impoverished worker.
But we needn't physically meet people to grasp the hardship; the internet makes it easy to find real faces and accounts of garment workers. A simple search produces thousands of mourning relatives desperately holding out passport photos of the Rana Plaza victims. Watching The True Cost reduces you to tears witnessing the living conditions of Shima and her young daughter Nadia.
The film was made in 2015 and, thankfully, many clothing companies have since been forced to clean up supply chains. Nevertheless, it is paramount that consumers lead, take responsibility, carefully consider where & how money is spent, and what terrible human or environmental costs are unknowingly supported.
Have a look on the makers tag; research a retailer's code of practice; ask questions; take accountability for the part we all play in this; with the aim that every person in the supply chain is paid fairly and treated with dignity.