On Arte, the dirty laundry of fast fashion – Liberation

The Franco-German channel is broadcasting a powerful documentary this Tuesday evening about the back of the clothes racks, between precarious workshops, greenwashing and unfair practices.

This is the model used by major clothing brands, such as Zara, Boohoo and H&M. Their goal: a clientele attracted by very affordable and constantly renewed clothing. But this democratization of fashion is based on unscrupulous and in many ways maddening production methods. Next Tuesday at 20:50 Arte will broadcast the documentary Fast Fashion, cheap fashion underwear, who during his hour and a half explores the mysteries of this model that has entered the sector of textile creation. From Denmark to Paris, via England and India, directors Edouard Perrin and Gilles Bovon decipher the mechanisms used by the giants of fast fashion. On the menu: dictatorship of novelty, precarious subcontracting and false ecological sales strategies.

From the start, the documentary sets the tone: 56 million tons of clothing are sold in the world every year, and this volume is exponential. It could even rise by 60% by 2050. Fast fashion is the main supplier. Example: Zara produces 65,000 new pieces per year, or 200 per day. To understand why the Spanish brand wants to secure this daunting offering, the film delves into its history and that of its founder and director, Amancio Ortega, with striking testimonials in support – a former fashion designer who notably worked for the company.

Precarious little hands

The brand copies the productions of luxury houses, while ensuring seven points of difference with the original product to avoid lawsuits. And any savings (of time and money) are good to take: the production chain, from factory to store, is wholly owned by Inditex, Zara’s parent company, and advertising is entrusted to social media influencers. , cheaper.

But other costs are rising. The documentary devotes a long and poignant sequence to these large poverty-stricken sewing workshops in which dozens of workers are crammed in for 3 euros an hour. “A scene worthy of the third world”, says the movie. These factories are in Leicester, at the heart of the English working class. Closer, so faster for product shipments.

In these makeshift factories, revealed by hidden cameras, PrettyLittleThing (British group Boohoo) clothing is made by precarious little hands and without the shadow of a labor contract. The same observation near a hangar, on the outskirts of Paris. When a delivery man manages to fit some 40 Zara and H&M packages into his tiny Citroën, the journalist with a hidden camera is sent away from the parking lot where these unlicensed workers are flocking, making their already precarious activity illegal. .

In the footsteps of viscose

It is also nature that bears the brunt of fast fashion: this (over)production makes the textile sector one of the most polluting industries in the world. In particular, the documentary goes to India, following in the footsteps of viscose, an artificial silk made from wood pulp and presented by fast fashion brands as the banner of their ecological ambitions. The dramatic images prove just the opposite: the chemical process required to produce viscose pollutes the water and makes the inhabitants of the villages around the factory in question sick, some developing disabilities.

Which alternative then? The film remains pessimistic about a future end to this frenzy of selling and buying textile products. Because fast fashion has also made fashion accessible to the middle class that has long been deprived of it due to lack of resources. It is also very practical in the age of sacred images and social networks (Instagram starring), where appearing twice with the same clothes is a strategic faux pas… Still, you can check the brand of your T-shirt or pants, sitting in front of Arte tonight.

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