People Tree partnered with Fairtrade Hackney to organize a sold out screening of The True Cost at Hackney Picturehouse last week.

The True Cost is a ground breaking documentary featuring a detailed examination of the true human and environmental costs of the fashion industry, an industry which employs 1/6th of the world’s population.

The True Cost team travelled to Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, China, Texas and countries across Europe to map the complex story behind the production of clothing and the detrimental impact that the fast fashion industry is having directly upon garment workers and farmers; consumers and our environment.

 

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There are many uncomfortable moments and questions raised throughout the documentary. From the shocking fact that every half an hour an Indian farmer commits suicide due to unmanageable land and subsequent debts owed to GM multi-corporate companies to the chilling scene recorded from CCTV footage of shoppers clamouring to ‘grab a bargain’ on Black Friday. The slick high street brands advertising are shown in juxtaposition to the producers making these ‘cheap, disposable’ clothing that when discarded, does not biodegrade but ends up in landfills, or when donated is sent to developing countries, like Haiti, blighting landscapes in huge mounds. It shows us that our garment industry is shockingly unsustainable and the costs whether to consumers, producers or the land and water ways are far too great and affects us all.

In particular, the interview with Shima Akhter, despite having watched the documentary before, is still incredibly hard to watch without feeling both deeply sad and angered. We see where she lives and meet her family, who she only gets to see once a year, because of the necessity to travel into the city to work. She describes how she and her co-workers were locked inside their factory and beaten, literally punched in the stomach and hit with chair legs, because they asked for better working conditions and dared to try and form representation for themselves. She poses a powerful question around basic safety and conditions for garment workers, referencing what had happened in Rana Plaza to other workers and tearfully stated: “I believe these clothes are produced by our blood”

 

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To make the film, Andrew’s team joined Safia in Japan, Bangladesh and the UK to document People Tree’s pioneering and responsible approach towards fashion. The screening also featured interviews with John Hilary, Executive Director for the influential lobbying group, War on Want. John provided a context to try and understand the impacts of our current economic systems and its inherent limitations.

 

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There was a lively panel discussion held afterwards, which in my view, showcased the perfect triad to represent a viable and alternative approach to fast fashion, featuring Safia Minney MBE, John Hilary and Lord Peter Melchett, the Policy Director at the Soil Association. Together, they answered both heartfelt and analytical questions from the audience.

 

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This really is a must-see documentary and can now be watched on Netflix or if you don’t have Netflix, you can purchase the film for half price from our website.

 “I hope True Cost inspires and motivates people to care about each other and our precious earth. I believe the secrets of sustainability and well-being in society lie with the farmers and workers – with the people – not in the Ivory towers of big corporations and the establishment who are dangerously out of touch. Good business and economic practice can pull people out of poverty and innovate and generate new environmentally sustainable production and supply chains. Fair Trade and sustainable fashion can empower the poor, bring about social and environmental justice and transform our economy and the well-being of society. Fast fashion as we know it must stop!”

Safia Minney, Founder and CEO of People Tree

 

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