The high cost of fashion – video series

Video series about the garment industry workers and the high cost of cheap fashion.  Harrowing video footage about their real life struggles.

I'm a bit behind the times here out on the island, but I know there was a shocking book all about the ‘high cost' of cheap fashion, and then the news and documentary about the collapse of the factory in Bangladesh, where 1,129 garment industry workers lost their lives in 2013.

Dhaka_Savar_Building_Collapse “Dhaka Savar Building Collapse” by rijansFlickr: Dhaka Savar Building Collapse. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I'd heard of both of course, but never really looked into it too much.  To be truthful, I actively try to avoid bad news and live a happy life pretending bad things don't happen.

But then I stumbled across this video series and couldn't avoid it any more.  The short video series follows a group of young Norwegians as they visit with garment industry workers in Cambodia, see how they live and work, and learn about their lives and struggles. It starts out quite happy and optimistic, the young people are looking forward to their visit.

But then by the end of the series, I'm not sure who was crying the most – them or me.  The videos are all in Norwegian but with English subtitles, and I highly recommend taking the time to watch them.

And to think that this was one factory that would allow them in, it's probably far, far worse in other places that they were not allowed to see.

So take a look at the short video series below, and perhaps buy the book –

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Has anyone read the book?  Got any more personal experience of this?

On a back-packing trip to Vietnam about 8 years ago, I visited the ancient city of Hoi An, and there they have a thriving clothing industry.  You can get clothes custom made over night there.  Take in a picture and they'll copy it for you.

I feel bad about that now, thinking that I perpetuated this in some way, but I suppose every time we buy high street fashions, we are contributing to the problem. Makes me so glad that I sew mostly my own clothes now.  But now I worry about the fabric industry!

What are your thoughts on this?

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Theresa Garton
Theresa Garton

I listened to an excellent series on Planet Money that discusses the garment industry, and developing countries that use garment manufacture as their main industry. It was very enlightening. Look for podcasts on the Planet Money t-shirt. Very comprehensive look at the global economy, and how garments fit in with it.

Stephanie Woodson

I had the same question – is fabric produced the same way? I wrote a long, long post about the book!


I started crying watching the trailer, and can’t yet bring myself to watch the videos. It is almost impossible to buy 100% ethically no matter how hard you try. Someone, somewhere is suffering as a result of humanity’s greed and need for more, more, more stuff.

The small contribution I can make is only to use fabric reclaimed from op shop or unwanted clothing instead of ‘cheap fashion’. But an income is an income, and is it worse to buy the fabric/clothes and provide no income to the workers, or not buy them and provide no income?

What we really need is for industry to look after its workers and sacrifice some of the profits from the ‘top earners’ of the business to spread more fairly among the hard workers who get paid a pittance. CEOs earn hundreds of times more than their workers – in countries like Bangladesh it is probably thousands of times more!

Nancy Harbison

Remember the “look for the union label” commercals? You have to have regulations and a worker voice for fair working conditions. That’s why the jobs went to unregulated countries. You have to pay more money for fair wages because with big companies the money goes to the workers last.
On a happier note, I love your site and how positive you are, so here’s to positive change and to the good things we learn and share here!


I think we might find our fabric is being made under the same conditions.


I wonder if the fabrics we buy are made in the same conditions.


This is soo distressing ! To see how people have to work so hard for pittance. Thanks for the post.


I worry about this too. Just one more example of how easy it is to be disconnected from where our goods (and food) come from. Thanks for the post, and the reminder to check labels!