“Clothes to Die for,” At What Cost?
“Clothes to Die For” is a BBC Two documentary based on the Bangladeshi garment industry. The collapse of Rana Plaza, one of the most tragic industrial events of the 21st century. The Rana Plaza tragedy took occurred one year ago, April 24, 2013. Over 1,100 garment workers were killed when their concrete building collapsed on them. The event took place in Bangladesh but awakened the entire world. The workers died because of bad working conditions in their building — a building full of factories whose sole purpose was to create cheap clothing for large western companies who would make millions mass producing high quantities of low quality clothing at cheap prices. BBC Two’s documentary, a part of their This World series, follows the survivors of the tragedy to hear their side of the story. We hear about their low wages, exhausting work hours and high numbers of underage workers.
We also learned that money, greed, and politics are the leading causes of the event. The film’s director, Zara Hayes, also looks discovers that the Plaza’s owner Sohel Rana built the building higher than safety guidelines permitted and had found a crack in the concrete one day prior to the tragic collapse. More alarming yet are the interviews of people who worked in the factories. Amidst their terrible work conditions, a few still hoped that their hard work would impact the lives of others. One interviewee said she hoped the western girls wearing the clothes would think of the women who made them. The no frills video teaches us that after being trapped in the rubble for three days, survivors were left to drink their own urine and blood to stay alive. Others had to perform amputations on themselves and others because medical help did not arrive in time. Since the tragedy some positive steps have been taken.
In an interview with Sustainable-Fashion.com, director Zara Hayes says that “the minimum wage for garment workers was doubled in Bangladesh in the wake of the Rana Plaza, though at around £40 a month that’s still one of the lowest in the world. Most western companies have now pledged to inspect the structures of the factories that make their clothes.” All of these events and the facts shared in the documentary are not meant to dissuade people from buying clothing made in Bangladesh. With clothing exports making up over 80 percent of their exports boycotting the industry could mean drastic loss to the entire economy. Instead, Hayes urges Sustainable-Fashion.com that “the best thing that everyone can do is to work to forge a longer-term relationship with Bangladeshi suppliers to grow and expand the industry and take it to the next level.”
Next time you catch yourself pinning a dress on Pinterest and thinking “that dress is to die for,” consider for a minute the implications of where your clothing came from and how your dress has affected the people it has touched. For better, or for worse.
Have you watched “Clothes to Die For”? What were your thoughts on the documentary? Comment below or tweet me @LydiaYekalam