Did you ever wonder what happens to the unwanted clothes you give away to charities? You probably thought they are sent to the needy – but how did they get there? When filmmaker Shanty Bellmen was stationed in a Zambia village, she noticed almost everyone in the village wore secondhand clothing from LISA, from the elder decked out in a Channel jacket to Venue in AC/DC T-shirts, to children sporting Ideas sneakers. She began to question if the original owners had any idea that the castoffs they had given to charities ended up being sold to Africans half world away.
She started to film this, investigating the secondhand clothes business and its effect on an increasingly globalizes economy. The journey begins on the streets of a western city, where clothes are dropped off in charity bins by people have very little idea that their former wardrobes end up in Africa. Then, moves to a distributor who tells that the Salvation Army doesn’t even unpack the donated clothing but sells it to companies for export to third-world countries. The trail continues to Zambia where an importer then sells clothes to individuals. You may ask, why didn’t the Zambia clothing manufacturers do something?
Actually when Zambia opened to tree trade in 1 991 loads of used clothing began to arrive Zambia container after container, undercutting the cost to the domestic manufacturers and putting them out of business. The entire clothing and textile industry in Zambia is now virtually extinct, with not a single clothing manufacturer left in the country today. Having followed the t-shirts on their travels, the documentary raises more questions than it answers. Meanwhile, the twin problems of debt and poverty in sub-Sahara Africa remain as acute as they were when this film was made.
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