This week the BBC2 aired its documentary, Clothes to Die For. A behind the scenes look at the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Bangladesh, the documentary shows how harrowing the clothing industry can be. While western shoppers continue to search for the bestbargains and cheapest clothes, workers in Rana Plaza reported they were earning under four pounds per day, despite knowing the building was not safe.
Over 1100 workers diedThe collapse of the factory saw over 1100 deaths and nearly triple the number of injuries. The opening credits of the programme juxtapose clips of fashion vloggers in the UK and Europe bragging about their cheap fashion hauls from shops like Primark (this was ‘just 8 pounds so I bought it in two colours’), H&M and Forever 21, with video of Bangladeshi factory workers trying to comprehend what life is like for western shoppers. ‘The girls [we make clothes for] will remember us one day’, says one worker hopefully.
The programme depicts the incredible growth of the garment industry in Bangladesh since the late 70s. The 15 billion pounds a year industry is now the country’s single biggest earner, making up 80 percent of all exports and employing millions.
But, rising profits and increasing demands for cheaper, faster production has created a darker, corrupt side to the industry, eventually leading to the tragic factory collapse last April, described by eye-witnesses here as a ‘massacre’ and ‘like a grave from the inside’.
Sohel Rana, the man who owned the Rana Plaza factory, opened in 2009, is painted as an intimidating figure who used his connections to inspire fear in factory workers and stop people speaking out when corners with cut on workers’ safety.
Watch the documentary on BBC iPlayer for free until July 28th.
Image: Factory worker