Very rarely am I speechless. So shocked that I cannot get one of the thoughts racing through my head out of my mouth. But it happened this week as I watched The True Cost, as part of Fashion Revolution Week.
I know it sounds extreme, but I feel like this film has changed my life. More specifically, the way I will buy and appreciate fashion going forward. It has also strengthened my belief that what we are trying to achieve with Zurii is really important. That idea that we as women can have beautiful and stylish pieces that empower those who make them, rather than disadvantaging and destroying them.
If you haven't seen it, The True Cost is a documentary that takes a hard, detailed and honest look at our thirst for fast fashion (read cheap and disposable) and the impact the industry is having on other human beings and the environment. The impact is nothing short of horrific.
Here are some numbers that will break your heart:
- In Bangladesh garment workers earn roughly $2 per day for 12 hours of sewing work. This is just a quarter of the living wage
- 80% of garment workers are women
- A survey of 219 fashion brands found only 12% could demonstrate any action towards paying wages to garment workers, above the legal minimum
- It takes 2720 litres of water to make a t-shirt. That’s how much we normally drink over a 3 year period
- Two-thirds of the world’s clothing comes from synthetics which are made from petroleum
- Only 10% of clothing donated to charity is sold in vintage or second hand stores. The rest is shipped to countries like Haiti and Kenya, destroying their local textile industry and leaving them to dispose of unwanted stock
While the statistics are bad, the stories of the workers broke me.
Stories like workers and their children suffering with jaundice because they are forced to drink from a local water supply polluted with chemicals released from a nearby factory. These workers spend most of their small income buying medication to treat the jaundice, while still working in the factory for income.
Is this human cost worth it for us to have $20 t-shirt? I say NO!
So how do we change the status quo? I believe the answers lies in people power. As consumers we vote with our wallets. It’s up to us to ask more questions of the brands we love. Questions like do you pay a living wage to your workers? Is this fabric ethically sourced? Do the factories you use guarantee safe working conditions?
The more we ask the more pressure is put on labels to step up and provide what we as buyers want. It’s about making a start. We can't change the world overnight, but we can begin asking more questions and thinking twice before we buy something that looks like a cheap bargain.
Remember, fast fashion isn't free. Someone somewhere is paying.
Here is a short trailer for anyone keen to see more.