Wednesday 23 July 2014

Clothes To Die For

This week's ethical fashion must-watch has to be the documentary screened by the BBC on the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster. Part of the This World season, Clothes To Die For tells the story of some of the survivors of the collapsed building, inside which nearly 1000 garmaent workers died after it fell apart in April last year.
Of course, it's impossible to tell the story of Rana Plaza and its aftermath without focussing on the wider issues: how Bangladesh became one of the biggest garment-making centres in the world, and what sacrifices have been made to workplace health and safety to keep it that way.
The film, directed by Zara Hayes and shot by Patrick Smith, is particularly good at teasing out the moral implications of Western boycotts of brands that source largely through Bangladesh. In short, although the workers are paid a pittance by our standards, it's a life-changing amount of money to them. No-one wants to lose out, even if the risks may seem unacceptable.
The answers are simple, and Clothes To Die For does not flinch in putting them on screen. The workers and factories of Bangladesh need more money to survive--but the sums they're asking for are almost laughably small. As one factory owner interviewed for the film puts it:
"If the retailers want more compliant factories, they have to pay us more. Get the retailers together and make sure they pay us five cents more. Not even ten, we don't even want ten cents, we want five, we're happy with five cents on each garment."
Five cents on every garment you buy, to stop another Rana Plaza. That's about 3p. I'd pay that. Wouldn't you?

This World: Clothes To Die For is available on the BBC iPlayer for the rest of the week. You can watch it at the link below.

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