Blood, Sweat and T-shirts

May 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Blood Sweat and T-shirtsBBC3, Tuesday 29th April, 2008

The creators seem to have hit upon a particularly engaging format with Blood, Sweat and T-shirts, a docu-reality show about six young fashion lovers working in Indian factories making clothes for the British high street. With the aim of promoting a little more thought among young people about the world of cut-price fashion, Tuesday’s second episode continued to provide an enlightening glimpse into the daily toil of the sweat-shop worker – the grimy reality behind that pristine garment and its astonishing price tag on the mannequin in Primark.

In fact, the beauty of this programme lies largely in its crude reality-show approach essentially forcing us to address the issues based upon how much each individual presently gets on our nerves and whether this makes them the kind of person whose opinions we truly give a toss about. Take self-made man, Richard. Last week, his astounding cockiness at the sewing task planted a seed of dislike that only grew as the first episode went on and he proceeded to sneer at the people on the street about their littering. Before long, this turned into a full blown desire to shake him until his inapt, uncompromising grimace disappeared and he realised how ridiculously repulsive his attitude was.

This week, we saw him run into trouble shooting his mouth off about the “lazy? people around him as if this was perfectly ok because, as he later explained, he must “express? himself. He was lucky some geezer didn’t express themselves right back in the form of a punch in the gob, which he no doubt deserved, prancing around like some hard-nosed, drunken yob adamantly explaining over and over why exactly they’re entitled to their opinion. And, just like those not wishing to fuel a drunk with a bee in their bonnet, the others just sat in silence flummoxed at the incomprehensible rudeness of his ‘entitlement’.

Towards the end of the instalment, having threatened to leave the show, microscopic flickers of compassion began to appear in him as he started to realise that perhaps it wasn’t a case of straightforward indolence in the Indian nation after all and it was actually pretty hard to live the dream with such few opportunities available. Of course, the producers know how to stir up a bit of drama and plonk the subjects into “good guy / bad guy? boxes but what they’re really interested in is a journey, and it looks like Richard is going to be going on one of these.

With viewers following this and the others’, it no doubt serves to encourage fairly comprehensive thought about the grubby truth of the fashion industry in a way that an expose simply won’t cut it. This season, shocking but pretty remote documentary footage with voiceover stating ineffective facts in an admonitory tone is out, authentic empathy via hard-core reality-show experience is in. Nevertheless, as emotive as these contestants might make Indian sweatshops, it may take more than Blood, Sweat and T-shirts aka I’m British (and simply buy, not make these clothes), Get Me Out of Here to change an entire industry’s habits.

By Susan Allen