An exposé of high-street fashion labels’ inhumane working conditions
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The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in April 2013 killed 1,127 people, injured 2,000 and exposed the western world to the diabolical working conditions in Indian clothing factories. Labels were quick to distance themselves from the tragedy. Following the events, a team of lawyers at French NGO Sherpa, supporters of victims of economic crime, are working to expose the continuing hypocrisy of major high street brands and see that they're held liable for violations against international standards.
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Marie-Laure Guislain is a lawyer at Sherpa and recognises that opposing corporations at this level makes the odds heavily stacked against her and her team. One major obstacle in her way is the French legal system. Lacking finances and power, she must go down the route of gathering evidence on her own. “Our legal system lacks the political will and the financial means to conduct the kind of international investigation needed to bring the case to court.”
Guislain is after a major French fashion corporation, Auchan, and accuses them of misleading consumers with regards to the conditions at their factories in Bangladesh, a crime in France. Denying any link to the workshops in the face of physical evidence, Auchan donated $1.5 million US dollars as a ‘sign of compassion’ to the aid fund. Since they claim no further responsibility for the Rana Plaza accident, going as far as to request written guarantees that their donation is not considered an admission of liability.
Meanwhile, in Istanbul, countless workers have been afflicted with illnesses as a result of a highly dangerous method of jean production called ‘sandblasting’, where sand is fired through a nozzle at fabric to create a fashionable ‘aged’ effect. Illnesses such as the incurable Sillicosis results from repeated exposure. Sebahattin is one such worker who suffers from the condition. “They have stolen my breath. All men are dead or ill. They have forgotten us here. And there is still no justice. We are dying, and nobody cares about it.” Sebahattin’s friend, Fahrettin, died working in the factories. Sebahattin expects to end up the same way. Two thirds of his lungs are filled with sand particles.
This hard-hitting film shows that fashion on a budget can come at a steep price.
ALTEMEIER & HORNUNG FILMPRODUKTION – Ref. 6829
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