I don’t think I’ve ever written a film review as a blog on here before, but I watched a film the other day that I think you might find interesting. It’s called Greed and it stars Steve Coogan as a multi-millionaire retail businessman whose empire is collapsing. Throughout the film he’s busy trying to organise his 60th birthday party in Greece, whilst also testifying to a parliamentary select committee in the UK the about the collapse of his businesses, the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and his treatment of workers.
The film looks at much of what is wrong with the high street fast fashion industry and shines a light on how this has happened, including a sensitive nod to the Rana Plaza disaster and coverage of the refugee crisis in Greece.
In case you haven’t already guessed, it’s loosely based on the life of Sir Philip Green, the mega-rich owner of Arcadia, the parent company behind the likes of Topshop, Top Man, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis. Styled as a ‘mockumentary’, the film has an all-star cast including Isla Fisher, David Mitchell and Stephen Fry – there’s also quite a lot of famous cameos at the end.
The film starts with charting the rise of the fictional Sir Richard McCreadie as he starts his businesses through questionable dealings and practices. In order to improve profits, he heads out to factories in Asia, pushing the factory owners to produce clothing for less and less money.
The film then shows him answering questions in the select committee about the working conditions in the factories that manufacture his clothes. Predictably, his answer is that it’s got nothing to do with him as he doesn’t own or operate the factories, he just works with them.
Worth nothing at this point, is that this is the same reason given by Boohoo last year when asked about the illegal practices at factories producing their clothes in the UK last year. They initially claimed it had nothing to do with them – they just set the price and the factories decide how to manufacture at that price or whether to accept the work. I blogged more about that here.
The film also looks at the supposed dodgy dealings enabled by the banks and alleged ‘asset-stripping’ of the companies. That is to say – he took millions out of the businesses, paid to himself and his wife in dividends (they live in Monaco so don’t pay UK tax), and the businesses then collapsed with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and with pension black holes for many workers.
Watching through to the credits, the film ends with a number of increasingly alarming statistics, including that 8 out of 10 garment workers are women, and 9 out of 10 billionaires are men. It contrasts the daily wage for workers in various countries (Bangaldesh - $2.84/day) against profit made by the top 10 fashion brands ($18 billion in 2018).
I’ll be honest – I’d never heard of the film and it was my husband’s choice! But I’m really pleased I watched it as it, very neatly, demonstrates the need for closer scrutiny of business dealings and more transparency and ethical practices in the fashion industry. It’s also worth noting that, whilst Sir Philip Green’s empires may have collapsed, he is not the only high street fashion brand to operate in this way.
If you want to be more sure of how your clothes are made, I always recommend looking at Ethical Consumer Magazine or the Good for You app or websit - find out more here.