The collapsed Rana Plaza building near Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2013 (Abir Abdullah/European Pressphoto Agency)

The subject of garment workers rights has been something I have thought about from starting out as a young fashion and textiles student at 17 alongside the rise and rise of dirt-cheap high street stores such as Primark.  As I began to discover my skill set and trade learning and discovering just how much time and care can go into making one single garment I could never quite understand how these companies could possibly sell their garments at these rock bottom prices.  I mean jeans retailing for as little as £3, the same price you could buy a ready made sandwich perhaps?  I started to wonder how much was the garment worker paid?  How much did the materials cost?  How could this item be so cheap?  And that’s before even thinking about the cost of shipping, staffing costs, overheads and profit!  It was unthinkable to me.

Something didn’t quite add up.

So what is the true cost of fast fashion?

The True Cost forces us to think about the human cost of our endless consumption.  Here are just a fraction of the shameful truths and disturbing facts that have been highlighted in the film.

  •  In Bangladesh the average garment worker earns $3 per day.
  • Only 10% of donated clothing is sold on, the rest ends up in landfills or developing countries
  • There have been more than 250,000 farmer suicides in India linked the failure of Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds
  • The Cambodian military police open fired on a protest for garment workers campaigning to raise the minimum wage to $160 per month.  The current minimum  wage has been estimated as 25% of the money needed to cover the basic necessitates of living. (The True Cost, 2015)

I couldn’t help but feel compelled to write this blog post after going along to a showing of the ‘The True Cost’ at Dundee University.  The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary revealing the untold story of the impact the fashion industry is having on the world and asking us to question who made our clothes.   The film screening was followed by a panel discussion involving one of the co-founders of ‘Fashion revolution’ Orsola de Castro.

Fashion Revolution was set up as a direct response to the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Bangladesh on the 24th of April 2013.  On this day the Rana Plaza building collapsed killing 1,113 people and injuring a further 2,500. 

'THE TRUE COST' can be watched HERE and is also available on Netflix. 

Next I will address what we can do, how we can question the current system, my own views on the topic and how we can all be 'fashion revolutionaries'.