Sonia Waraich, India West
San Leandro, Calif. — An exploration of how the new world of fast fashion is leading to human rights abuses and the destruction of the environment in many parts of India, Bangladesh and developing countries across the world is the focus of a new film by Andrew Morgan called “True Cost.”
Lucy Siegle, a fashion journalist and executive producer of the film, explains in the documentary how the fashion industry used to have two seasons, fall/winter and spring/summer, during which they would have shows to introduce the latest fashion line.
Now, Siegle says that “instead of two seasons a year, we practically have 52 seasons a year.”The film points out how the push for more clothing at a faster rate puts pressure on workers at every level of the supply chain, breaking down every part of the production process and its destructive impact.
“True Cost” delves into the lives of Bangladeshi factory workers who suffer dangerous conditions that have led to disasters like the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1,129 people.
Morgan interviews 23-year-old Shima Akhter, a garment worker in Dhaka, Bangladesh, who describes being brutally attacked by factory management when she tried to form a union to demand better working conditions.
The film highlights the struggles of Punjabi cotton farmers who are suffering from unprecedented rates of cancer and birth defects from the use of pesticides.
Dr. Pritpal Singh describes in the film how children born in these villages are also suffering from severe mental retardation and physical handicaps, side-effects which he said the pesticide companies deny are associated with their products.
“It’s a very dangerous phenomenon in Punjab,” Singh says.
Many farmers also go into debt to buy genetically-modified cotton seeds from companies such as Monsanto, which require more of their products in order for the seeds to grow.
Activist Vandana Shiva explains how farmers end up drinking the pesticides to kill themselves when they get into too much debt.
According to the film, in the last 16 years there have been more than 250,000 reported farmer suicides.
“True Cost” also examines how the leather factories of Kanpur — where Western brands can get cheap leather — are polluting the Ganga River daily with more than 50 million liters of waste water and toxic substances, such as Chromium-6.
The film shows how residents of this area are also dealing with a multitude of health complications.
Yet the fashion industry has been seeing record profits equaling $3 trillion per year, according to the film.
As Orsola de Castro, a fashion designer, points out in the film, “The shift is moving ruthlessly towards a way of producing that only really looks after big business.”
Yet, the situation is not completely hopeless thanks to the fair trade movement led by individuals such as Safia Minney of People Tree Fashion, who design their collections from the ground up. – Agencies
Sonia Waraich, India West