From coats to handbags, the demand for brand name fashion accessories is at an all-time high. Beyond the glamorous façade lies a culture that thrives on the exploitation and abuse of its migrant workers. The DW Documentary Luxury: Behind the Mirror infiltrates these factories, farms and tanneries to expose the real cost of high fashion.
We all know the brand name fashion houses - Gucci, Prada, Polo, etc. But most aren't aware of their inner workings. How and where are their products actually produced? As shown in the film, even the most luxurious handbag begins its life as a dead cow carcass on the floor of a slaughterhouse.
The fashion industry is actually composed of a massive network of contractors and subcontractors. Not all of these entities are as strictly regulated as they should be.
The filmmakers discover that working conditions are especially repellent in the Italian tanneries, which are the factories where the animal hides are meticulously processed into leather. The factories suffer from lax safety measures, frequent worker injury, exceedingly long working hours, and shamefully meager pay. One whistleblower recounts an incident that resulted in the shredding and removal of three of his knuckles.
From there, the filmmakers travel to China where fur rules the day. Tens of thousands of animal skins lace the streets, and are offered at ridiculously low prices. To meet the insane demand, 70 million animals are killed for their fur every year in China. For animal rights activists, the demand for cheap fur comes at far too grave a cost. The animals are kept in abhorrent environments, and are slaughtered with a cruelty few have witnessed.
Undercover cameras expose the working conditions and abuses that thrive within the walls of these private operations. Luxury: Behind the Mirror also features several contentious confrontations with supervisors and other members of management who have allowed these lapses to occur without consequence. Meanwhile, the representatives at the top of the industrial chain claim ignorance to these infractions.
Persuasive and disturbing, the film provides a wealth of evidence that the underbelly of the fashion industry is anything but glamorous.