From Old Clothing to a New Blanket.
The short Documentary ‘Unravel’ (available in full here) directed and produced by Meghna Gupta and Gigi Berardi for Soul Rebel Films takes us on the journey of our clothing cast offs. There is a good chance that some of your charity donations may have headed across the oceans, to India’s industrial interior to be recycled from fashion cast offs to recycled yarn blankets. Unwanted clothing from the ‘West’ is shipped across oceans in large bales arriving at Kutch in Western India where each item is slashed at customs to prevent on-selling and trucked 719 miles to the Northern City of Panipat for recycling into new yarn for blankets.
An insight into Indian Views on Western Dress.
The documentary follows Reshma, a textile recycling factory worker of fifteen years, as she demonstrates the recycling process and shares her thoughts on Western dress and her dreams of travelling to see the clothes she handles worn by Western women (and to wear them herself). She joyfully states:
I’ve always wanted to see a Western person to see what they are really like…. I like foreigners. Foreign women are really good looking.
The team that work with Reshma in the factory share their refections on western culture throughout Unravel and having had limited exposure to Western culture they can only speculate the reasons behind the cast off and how some of the more ‘exotic’ designs they handle may have been worn.
A Dislike of Laundry Day or Just Not Enough Water?
The ladies who slash the clothing at the border are baffled by where all the excess clothes comes from feel like much of it is unworn. There is an adorable scene of the ladies playfully trying on a Wedding dress that made me think back to stock arrival day when I worked in retail and how we would do the same thing as we unpacked boxes. The general consensus among the clothing slashing team is that:
Clothes come over because there is a water shortage in the West. Water is just as expensive as clothes for these people. That’s why they wear their clothes a couple of times, then throw them away.
Another smilingly says:
Who knows, maybe they just don’t like washing their clothes!
When it comes to designs, the women are incredibly curious as to the purpose and wearability of many of the items that cross their paths. Reshma picks up a sporty full piece swimsuit saying ‘look at this one’ and gleefully giggles to herself at it’s strange appearance and how she has seen outfits like this on the Discovery Channel. Some of the other workers are more baffled by the underwear that is sent their way. Hypothesising that with the stones and fake pearls attached that:
Some poor helpless thing must be forced to wear them abroad… Someone must wear them after all…
Later in the documentary Reshma’s husband comes out with some wonderful refections on the art of dressing saying that:
You tend to get dressed for other people. But at the end of the day you’ll be as beautiful as God made you. All people have a natural beauty.
Whatever the ‘West’s’ real reason for disposing of perfectly good unwanted clothing one thing is certain from this documentary. And that is that no matter where you gather a group of people with a pile of clothes they will alway make a little time for playing dress ups!