While fast-fashion is rampant across the country today, few know of its dark implications. This website defines it as “A phenomenon in the fashion industry whereby production processes are expedited in order to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible.” Globally more and more people are getting aware of the necessity of “ethical fashion” (you can read our feature on 4 Indians Who Have Given up Fast Fashion), the large-scale environmental hazards the commodity fetishism fuelled by fast-fashion is devastating and hard to ignore after a point.
Not convinced? Let’s talk numbers because they speak more starkly than humanitarian appeals. The member of the family that owns the H&M label is Sweden’s richest person, the Spanish founder of the Zara fashion chain has overtaken Bill Gates to become the world’s richest man, while Forever 21 co-founders are reportedly worth more than four billion dollars. Yet, as seen in Rahul Jain’s documentary “Machines,” the workers of an unnamed textile factory in India get paid three US dollars per 12-hour shift and most of the workers take just one hour’s break between shifts. It’s time to ask ourselves - what is the true cost of fast fashion?
In an interview with Dazed, Jain reveals that the factory produces textiles for companies “worldwide” including “the usual suspects-high street chains.” Such are the demands of the speed at which fast-fashion wishes its consumers to support trends and such are the demands that will be fulfilled by workers wanting to fill their bellies. The factory in Jain’s ‘Machines’ is just one such factory in a country that reportedly ranks second as a global exporter of garments while preceded by Bangladesh. Textile industries create millions of jobs for desperate labourers across third world countries, however they insure that that their wages and draconian working conditions keep the cycle of poverty unbroken.
The documentary, which is 25-year-old Jain’s debut film and was awarded the Sundance World Cinema Documentary award for Cinematography this year, opens with a 13 minute long silence. The camera narrates the life of the textile labourers-the darkness of the rooms, the monotony of their work, the distressing hard labour, and the continuous jarring sound track of the machines that plays on loop while the latest prints in textiles churn out. Quite a juxtaposition to the sprawling, multi-floored brightly lit fast-fashion stores, where consumers leisurely (though compulsively) shop the latest trends while listening to mellow jazz tunes.
In a poignant moment in the film, a harrowed looking labourer crouched against a mountain of white bundled material says to the camera, “I have travelled 16,000km, to work here. Of my own free-will. No one has pressured me.” Jain’s film explores the complexities of this statement, through a central focus on the draconian demands and working conditions of textile labourers that the fast-fashion industry employs.
The disparity of the fast-fashion work chain is alarmingly unsettling in the film and we cannot wait for it to be released in India this October. You can watch the trailer below.
To watch the film’s trailer click here.
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