Saturday, 24 October 2015

The True Cost of Fashion

The Globe was the venue for last night's film and fashion show, hosted by Fairtrade Hay. There was even a glass of Fairtrade bubbly included in the ticket price - or apple juice for the non-drinkers.
First of all, we went downstairs to watch the film The True Cost, which has gone behind the scenes of the fashion industry to show just how destructive throw-away fashion really is. It's not just disasters like the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, which killed over a thousand people - it's chromium used in the tanning of leather for cheaper shoes polluting the River Ganges and the local water supply, leading to deaths and disabilities. It's cotton farmers in Texas dying of brain tumours caused by the chemicals sprayed on the cotton - it's so common in the area that they have their own specialist cancer clinic. It's peaceful protestors in Cambodia campaigning for a minimum wage being met by riot police. It's the vast piles of throwaway fashion going to landfill. And it's a garment worker who can only see her little girl a couple of times a year, as she works in the city and her parents in the home village are looking after the child. Several of the people interviewed were in tears as they spoke. Not one major clothing company agreed to an interview.
This was all sobering and serious stuff, and it really should be widely seen. Because we all buy clothes, and our choices influence the industry.
We also saw the people who are trying to change the way the industry operates - the organic cotton farmer in Texas, the lady from People Tree visiting the factories that make the clothes, the American economist who wants to change the system, and the Indian lady who was talking about poor cotton farmers committing suicide in India, amongst other things.

We are fortunate in Hay in having three shops that sell Fairtrade clothing - and we are also fortunate in having a lot of good sports who were prepared to take to the catwalk to model them! Including two male models! Eighteen Rabbit, Number Two and Flow all sell clothing from Fairtrade companies like Mata, No Nasties, Tobias Clothing, Monkee Genes, Fabrica Social, Rapanui, People Tree and Braintree - and they were also wearing jewellery from the Tuareg silversmiths in Timbuktu, provided by Jump4Timbuktu and Haymakers Gallery.
The clothes may be a little more pricy than many in the High Streets and supermarkets, though in many cases they compare very well, and they are made to last - the leather handbags and satchels being modelled will last for life.
(I couldn't help thinking about Monsoon/Accesorize, which has been in the news recently for failing to pay staff in this country the minimum wage - if they thought they could get away with that in the UK, how do they treat their suppliers? And their dresses are quite expensive.)

Any profits from evenings like this one are invested by Fairtrade Hay in Shared Interest, an organisation which provides loans to fairtrade companies in the developing world, including farmers, co-ops, workers and craftspeople.
And on 2nd November a speaker from Shared Interest will be in Hay, at Tomatitos at 8pm, talking about investing in a fairer world.

The evening was funded with help from the Welsh Government, Fairtrade Wales/Cymru Masnach Deg and Hub Cymru Africa.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the fashion industry might like to try, and

Thursday, 1 October 2015