As Andrew Morgan and Livia Firth release Fashionscapes: A Living Wage, we go behind the scenes of the making of the film during unprecedented times.
On the 8th anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, Andrew Morgan (director of The True Cost) and Eco-Age creative director and co-founder Livia Firth, release Fashionscapes: A Living Wage – a powerful short-form documentary that follows the story of the activists and change-makers calling time on the poverty wages that trap millions of garment workers in never-ending poverty.
After working together on The True Cost documentary, named by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the most influential fashion documentaries of the last decade, Andrew and Livia launched the Fashionscapes series to explore sustainability issues and turn the camera towards stories of hope and possibility. Now, in the fourth film of the series, Fashionscapes: A Living Wage combines the voices of garment workers on the ground with top legal professionals who are working together to argue for the first ever EU legislation to ensure garment workers receive a living wage.
“This one is personal for me,” says Andrew. “After years spent witnessing first-hand the human rights emergency that is the modern-day fashion industry, I believe this moment holds the possibility for a new and needed chapter in this story. I’m so honoured to stand in solidarity with the game changers at The Circle, my ferocious friend Livia Firth and with millions of the world’s poorest workers everywhere in demanding an end to the grotesque exploitation of the world’s poorest workers.”
The film, which was produced with the support of North Sails Collection, is centred on the fact that thestatutory minimum wage in the largest garment producing countries comes nowhere close to a living wage, with most countries providing for minimum wage levels at less than 50% of that necessary to provide for a basic decent life. “We’ve normalised the grotesque poverty of millions of the world’s working poor,” says Andrew. “And many of the people, mostly women who fuelled this industry and its staggering profits, are still not being paid enough to live the most basic life… So, any kind of conversation around change, any kind of conversation around sustainability, cannot sidestep the reality that we’re living in a world that has been profoundly misorganised, with some of the greatest risks and unbearable burdens falling on the people with the least resources and opportunities.”
Of course, filming during the current global pandemic was not without its challenges. “The creative challenge on this film was intense at the beginning,” explains Andrew during a behind the scenes interview. “How do you make a film, shot in countries all over the world in a moment where we’re facing a pandemic and can’t travel?”
Complying with covid regulations, they were able to shoot the film across the world using local crews on the ground, with the support of Pulse Films Italia, combined with remote video calls.
“You know, doing things remotely can feel like you are also removed from the problem,” says Livia, who interviewed Labour Union activist Kalpona Akter, Business and Human Rights Researcher Thulsi Narayanasamy, and Human Rights Lawyer Jessica Simor QC, remotely from her living room. However, using local crews on the ground meant they were able to replicate the intimacy as if she were there with them.
The documentary brings to life the work behind The Circle NGO’s latest report, led by Jessica Simor QC, Fashion Focus: A proposal for new EU legislation on a living wage. For the first time the fashion industry, which allows its workforce to live in destitution for its own ends, faces a coordinated, structured challenge through international law.
“The fast fashion brands that have fobbed off civil society activists for years on living wage are being driven to change by a powerful alliance of women,’ says Livia Firth, ‘This documentary brings together women who are experts in poverty, degradation and injustice because as garment workers in their supply chains they live it every day with women at the top of their international legal careers. The resulting report and strategy is borne out of mutual respect and commitment. It holds the brands and retailers who have always maintained that a living wage isn’t possible, to account. A string of broken promises can now be challenged on the basis of a human obligation to protect human rights. I can now see a day when we will get justice for garment workers.”