While out shopping for a dress to wear on an upcoming date or a swimsuit to wear on vacation, how often do you think about where the clothes you're buying come from or who made them? Chances are, not often.
In an effort to shed some light on clothing supply chains and educate consumers about the clothes they wear, Laura Kissel, a filmmaker and media arts professor at the University of South Carolina's School of Visual Art and Design, directed "Cotton Road."
The documentary, which was screened on Wednesday night at Pratt Institute's Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, highlights the global cotton supply chain and tell the stories of the workers involved. The film follows cotton grown in the fields of South Carolina all the way to the factory cities of eastern China where the fiber is used to create the clothing Americans shop for every day.
It was while visiting a cotton gin while working on a film in rural Georgia a few years ago that Kissel was inspired to create "Cotton Road." After visiting the gin, Kissel became curious about the amount of energy and resources required to grow cotton and to ship it throughout the world. She was also interested in the lives of the workers making it happen — the farmers, gin operators, truck drivers, commodity brokers and more.
Throughout the process of making "Cotton Road," Kissel learned a lot about the demands factory owners have to meet in order to satisfy the orders from the brands they work with.
"The big brands, what they cared about was being able to sell a lot of something. It was the price point that determined their order. In some ways it falls in line with a lot of the messages that I got from factory owners. They have to deliver the order within a certain price and within a certain time frame. That puts them under a lot of pressure. That's of course where you get labor rights infringements because they have to deliver faster and cheaper. Workers are caught in the middle of that. Certain fashion giants are really focused on the price point and that's what's driving a lot of their decisions," Kissel told us.
In making this film, Kissel's goal wasn't necessarily to make big brands or factory owners look like bad guys, but rather, to educate consumers about what it takes to make the clothes they wear and to encourage them to be more mindful while shopping.
"Greater awareness is the larger goal that the film has — being able to bring the story to people. I think [supply chain] is something the average consumer doesn't really consider. If the film can prompt someone to have a greater awareness of the labor and lives and resources required to deliver clothing to them, they may have a change of opinion about their own relationship with clothes," she told us.
"So many people discard very easily the things that they buy and don't value them as much as they should given the number of resources it requires to make them."
Watch the trailer for "Cotton Road" here and let us know what you think of it in the comment section below.