DOCUMENTARY China Blue
"I wanted to put a human face on this issue of modern slavery, we all know that Third World workers are being exploited on our behalf. But as long as they are faceless masses, we can easily ignore the problem. Once viewers get to know Jasmine and her friends as just normal teenagers with dreams, humor and personal journals, it’s no longer acceptable that these girls are treated so poorly just so we can have cheap clothes." - Micha Peled (Director China Blue)
I often get asked what sparked my interest in ethical fashion and I know for certain that it was after watching the documentary China Blue. I was a student at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Melbourne at the time, studying fashion technology and I was as far from 'ethical' as one could be. Honestly, I don't know how I came to be studying fashion at all! I had studied a few years of physiotherapy before deciding it wasn't for me and toyed around with applying for industrial design and teaching courses, one thing led to another, and before I knew it I was enrolled in fashion school in 2011.
A small sustainability subject was thrown into the school's curriculum in my second year and I had zero interest in it.
I distinctly remember labeling my tutor a hippie. She had dreadlocks, wore a lot of linen and kept telling us she had an exhibition running about a pair of jeans she hadn't washed in 20 years. (You can't blame me, can you?) I'm pretty sure I skipped most of the lectures but I just so happened to attend the one where we watched China Blue. The documentary follows the life of 17 year old Jasmine, a Chinese garment worker. She leaves her family and the village she grew up in (the same story for an estimated 130 million other young Chinese women) to work in a large garment factory in the city.
Watching her life unfold completely floored me.
We've all heard of sweatshops, but watching people, children even (Jasmine is 17 and her friend is only 14!) endure unnecessary hardship for the end goal of cheap denim? Has humanity lost it's mind?! How could this be happening in the world today? Why isn't anyone doing anything about it? I thought I'm studying fashion, an industry that designs and produces clothing, and no one thought to tell me about this until now? Why would I want to work in fashion if this is what I'm contributing to?! I don't know what the curriculum looks like in fashion schools today, but I hope to goodness that a large proportion is dedicated to designing for circularity, sustainability and a freaking living wage!
So that was the beginning of ethical fashion for me.
I've attached a link to watch the entire China Blue documentary here, with full credit to Micha Peled, the director. He and his team risked a LOT to produce this documentary, read here for the process they went through in order to produce the film. Independent organising of workers is still illegal in China, which means employees do not have the freedom to associate with a union in order to negotiate wages or working conditions. When interviewed about his intentions for this documentary, Peled's words from 2005 still need attention, so while it's encouraging to see a movement toward fair labour and overall sustainability in fashion 2019, I believe we still have a way to go. Join us!