Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 2, Episode 11 - Fashion - full transcript

John Oliver explores the concept of changing and cheap fashion and some of the ugliest truths of the manufacturing process.

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight !
I'm John Oliver.

Thank you for being with us.
Time for a quick recap of the week.

We're going to begin with Armenia.

They marked the 100th anniversary of
the beginning of Armenian genocide,

when as many
as 1.5 million people died.

You probably heard
about this story already,

because it's been all over the news
for an unexpected reason.

Kardashians are in the country
to tape their reality show

and pay tribute
to victims of Armenian genocide.

Kim and Kanye
did spend time commemorating

the 100th anniversary
of the Armenian genocide.

What is important in Armenia
this month ? What's the significance ?

It's the genocide thing
that's happening...

- How do you know that ?
- Because of the Kardashians.

God !

The only reason I know
about chemical warfare in Syria

is because
of "Vanderpump Rules."

And that's only
because I happened to Google,

"is there anything worse
than Vanderpump Rules ?"

and it was the only
thing that came up.

The Armenian genocide
is a controversial subject,

especially in Turkey,
where the government believes

the actions of Ottoman Turks
do not merit the term "genocide."

However, not only do historians
and at least 25 countries

believe it to be a genocide,
but so does an unlikely coalition.

Turkey has condemned
the Russian president Vladimir Putin

for calling the Armenian
massacre "genocide."

The Pope called it a genocide.
George Clooney called it a genocide.

Putin, the Pope, and Clooney !

Okay, for a start:
kill, marry and fuck, respectively.

That's the easiest round
of that game I've ever played.

That was very easy.

Secondly: if all those people say
it is a genocide, who says it isn't ?

The White House
has called it a mass atrocity

but President Obama has stopped short
of using "genocide."

If you're wondering
why he stopped slightly short,

it's because Turkey
is an absolutely vital ally.

To avoid upsetting them, the president
consulted his diplomatic thesaurus.

Genocide ? Can't say that.
Snafu ? That's too glib.

Big big murder party ?
That's warmer...

Armenia's terrible, horrible, no good.
Very bad day ? Let's go with that !

Still, President Obama being afraid
of the g-word is a little surprising,

especially because Senator Obama
was pretty comfortable with it.

For those of you who aren't aware,
there was a genocide

that did take place
against the Armenian people.

It is one of the situations
where we have seen a constant denial

on part of the Turkish government
and others that this occurred.

"And apparently, one of those other
deniers is myself from the future.

I know that because
he came back and told me.

I told him what he was saying
made no sense,

he just said 'Benghazi' and left.
I don't know what any of it meant."

The president has tried to come up
with a semantic workaround.

He put out a statement reading,

"I have consistently stated my own
view of what occurred in 1915,

and my view has not changed."

And he's released the same statement,
almost word for word,

on every anniversary
of the Armenian geno-trocity.

Like every year he's playing a game
where the secret word is "genocide."

It's like the most depressing episode
of Pee-Wee's Playhouse ever.

Let's move on to New Zealand.

The country whose major form
of transportation is bungee jumping.

Their Prime Minister, John Key,
has had a spectacular week.

A very unusual story
breaking here.

It involves the prime minister,
a ponytail and some pinot noir.

That is the single greatest news tease
I've ever heard.

Just take a moment right now
at home and imagine a story

in which those three things
come together, and I guarantee you,

what you've just come up is a lot less
weird than what happened.

John Key has apologized
to an Auckland waitress

who says he behaved like a bully
by repeatedly pulling her ponytail.

She says "he'd come up behind me
when I was ordering at the terminal,

tug on my hair and then pretend
that his wife Bronagh had done it."

He commented one time,
that's a very tantalizing ponytail."

If you're a full-grown adult male,
there's a very short list of things

that you can describe as "tantalizing"
without creeping out everyone:

there is steak...

And that is absolutely it.
That's the only thing.

The crazy thing here is, it turns out
this had been going on for a while.

The woman
says it began in November.

She told him to stop in March
but he continued to do it.

She tried to avoid him,
even telling his security

she "was sick of having
my hair pulled

and one day
I'll punch him in the face."

Why do I get the feeling
his security guards' reaction was,

"Please do. That would be awesome.
We're not allowed to but we want to."

But wait
until you hear his explanation

for a grown man pulling
a waitress's hair.

There's always lots of horsing
around and sort of practical jokes

and look that's
all there really is to it.

I realize she had taken offense,

it was all in the context
of a bit of banter that was going on.

And so I obviously
immediately apologized for that.

I gave her some wine.
She thanked me for that. No drama.

"No drama." You can't just pull
someone's hair for months

then make it all good
with a bottle of wine.

You're the prime minister
of New Zealand,

not a real housewife
of New Jersey.

But amazingly,
this story gets one step weirder.

Because then, people went back
and found other clips of him

randomly touching strangers' hair,

including this one,
of him pulling a child's ponytail.

That's good. That's very sweet.

- Do you know who this man is ?
- Yeah.

- Who is he ?
- The prime minister.

The ponytail pulling
prime minister right there.

What are you doing ?

John Key can't pass any dangling hair
without pawing at it.

He's more cat than prime minister
at this point.

This undermines his authority
during any diplomatic negotiations.

"We'd very much like you
to end the sanctions."

"We're not going to do that:

you're a creepy individual
who pulls women's hair."

"That's a fair point. Make sense.
I'll show myself out. No drama."

And finally,
a quick update on Dr. Oz.

We covered his propensity for
recommending dubious supplements.

Over the past 5 seasons
of his syndicated show,

Dr. Mehmet Oz has touted
a series of exotic diet aids.

I want you to write it down.
Garcinia Cambogia.

Raspberry Ketone.

It's called Yacon Syrup.

Sea Buckthorn.

Blueberry elbows. Acorn semen.
Pricklebush tickletush.

Write all those things down.

Dr. Oz has had a rough year, from
being grilled by a senate committee,

to having a major medical journal
claim that

"evidence supported less than half
of the recommendations on his show,"

to having one of his guests,
celebrity nutritionist Lindsey Duncan,

pay $9 million to settle a lawsuit
with the FTC for misleading claims.

It was hardly surprising because
the only job title more meaningless

than "celebrity nutritionist"
is "sloth wrangler."

They're very slow. You don't need
professional experience to wrangle that.

That's basically an inanimate object.
That's not a job.

You're picking up a stationary thing
and putting it somewhere else.

But the point is Dr. Oz
found himself under attack again.

Dr. Oz is being accused of promoting
quack treatments by top physicians

who want to get him fired
from his job at Columbia University.

Yes, 9 out of 10 doctors agree
that that tenth doctor has got to go.

On Thursday, Dr. Oz responded.

You've seen the headlines.
You've heard the controversy.

Now, Dr. Oz fires back.
Coming up next....

Dr. Oz breaks his silence.

Holy shit. They make it sound like
he's about to enter the thunderdome.

"Two doctors enter. One doctor
leaves. Because he was paged."

Dr. Oz spent much of the episode

attacking the doctors
who'd called for his resignation,

arguing that industry ties
were behind their criticism.

But none of that answers
the substance of the accusations

that he's a quack who serves viewers
horseshit dressed up as medicine.

And his response to that
has been pathetic.

It's called the Dr. Oz Show.
We very purposely on the logo

have Oz as the middle and doctor's
up in the little bar for a reason.

I want folks to realize I'm a doctor
and I'm coming into their lives

to be supportive of them,
but it's not a medical show.

It's not a medical show
because the word "doctor" is small ?

If the size of a word in a logo
designated its truth-value,

then this would be
the logo for pizza hut.

Because some bread,
tomatoes and cheese

got blackout drunk and fucked
each other in a dumpster

doesn't mean you get to call
the resulting abomination pizza.

Of all of Dr. Oz's flimsy pushbacks,
this was perhaps the weakest.

No matter our disagreements,
freedom of speech

is the most fundamental right
we have as Americans

and these 10 doctors
are trying to silence that right.

No. You are scientifically wrong
about that.

As you are about so many things.

First Amendment protects Americans
from government censorship.

It does not guarantee you
the right to simultaneously

hold a faculty position at a
prestigious, private university

and make misleading claims
on a TV show.

It absolutely protects your right
to say whatever you like on it.

Just as it protects my right to say
what I think about you on mine.

Which is this:
you are the worst person in scrubs

who has ever been on television,
and I'm including Katherine Heigl.

Do have any idea how difficult it is
to be worse than Katherine Heigl ?

You are also the admittedly
handsome ringmaster

of a middling, mid-afternoon
televised snake-oil dispensary,

and it says something that,
even when you do a show

with seven fake models
of human feces,

the biggest piece of shit on the stage
has his name in the title.

Isn't freedom of speech great ?
And now, this !

And now - political figures
interviewing themselves.

Is there money coming in the political
process from wealthy liberals ? Yes.

Is this ideal ? No.

Do I want to support the president ?
Yes I do.

Do I think the climate is changing ?
I think so.

Is there a clear, comprehensive plan ?

Do I think it's being thought of ?
I hope so.

Do I think it should've been done ?

Could we have done better Friday ?
Yes. And will we ? Yes we will.

I responded appropriately ?

- They're gonna do that ?
- We can do more ?

- Does it make us safer ?
- What would I do ?

- What have I learned ?
- What could I do better ?

What do I think of Congress ?
I don't know.

Moving on. Our main story tonight
concerns fashion.

Personality you can buy.

It's what makes some people
look fun and fabulous,

and what makes
most men in their 20s

wear variations of a plaid
button-up shirt every single day.

"I've decided
I'm not even gonna try.

I'm gonna wear versions of this
until I'm dead. That's it."

We buy a lot of clothes
in this country.

In 2013, Americans purchased,
on average, 64 items per person.

And we're able to do that
because clothing is incredibly cheap.

As you'd know if you've ever turned
on your TV in the morning.

The price of this dress shocked
a lot of people in our office. $39.99.

Blows me away !

- Kohl's, LC by Lauren Conrad, $35.
- That's amazing !

This is the dress
by Norma Kamali.

- It is $24 at Walmart.
- Get out !

Get out. Seriously, get out.
Security, get her out of here.

There is no way that dress is $24.
Go fuck yourself. You lied to me.

And look: for the consumer,
low prices are fantastic.

And nowadays, those clothes
will even look good.

Trendy clothing is cheaper than ever,
cheap clothing is trendier than ever.

This is largely thanks to the rise
of "fast fashion" retailers

that produce stylish, low-cost clothing
like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21,

that enables Midwestern tweens
to dress like 40-something alcoholics

attending the funeral
of a Tel Aviv nightclub owner.

It's a powerful look.

A big part of these brands' appeal
is that there's something new to buy.

Just look at H&M's
rate of turnover.

Stores are replenished daily.
From the streets to the runway,

the latest trends are scoured
and can go from a sketch

to the rack in as little as 3 weeks.

We have new garments coming
into the stores almost every day.

So if you go to an H&M store today
and come back 2 days later,

you will find something new.

"Yes, one day maybe you will find
a shirt and it says 'rise and swag.'

Maybe next day you find shirt
with 'pardon my swag.'

And maybe next day after that

you find cocaine-dusted copy
of 'Nylon' magazine in fitting room.

Something new at H&M always.

H&M's prices are so competitive
that, a few years back,

they put out a dress
that cost just $4.95.

That means you could take a $5 bill,
scotch tape it over your genitals,

and you'd be wearing a more
expensive piece of clothing.

I went online,
and a jar of cricket food costs $5.

A bunch of weird orange cubes
you feed to a bug

are worth five cents more
than this dress.

That dress is 7 cents more than a DVD
of "the Ghosts of Girlfriends Past."

"Inexpensive DVD," raves Variety.

And yet, somehow, fast fashion
companies are massively profitable.

The chairman of H&M is the 28th
richest person in the world

and the co-founder of Zara
is the 4th richest person in the world.

That means people who own
oil fields are worth less

than a guy who makes
distressed jean shorts.

Buying clothes is cheaper
and easier than ever.

And not just
at fast fashion companies

traditional retailers have
lowered their prices as well.

The only way brands make money
is through volume.

And that's why even basics like jeans

now go through fashion cycles
with the lifespan of mayflies.

The big trend is skinny jeans.

Forget about the skinny jean.
Now it's all about the flare jean.

Boyfriend jeans:
big thing for spring.

Jonah is wearing the it jean of the
season and that is the baggy jean.

She's marrying these two trends
that have been so controversial,

the culotte and denim.
We've got a denim culottes.

Denim culottes !
Finally an answer to the question:

what if an 18th century cabin boy
was also Canadian ?

But as great as all these stylish,
cheap clothes are,

it's hard not to look
at those prices and wonder:

how does any clothing company
make money ?

Although, let's be honest:
you know the answer to that.

Half of our clothing used to be made
in the US as recently as 1990.

And today, 2 percent
of the clothes we wear are made here.

We produce clothes
almost entirely overseas,

where it's much cheaper.

And if 98 percent of your products
could be made abroad,

you should really start changing
your name to reflect that fact.

So American Eagle should really
become Bangladeshi Swamp-Hen,

and Banana Republic
should really become...

Actually, that one is fine.

They got ahead of themselves
there for once.

I know you think you've heard
this story before. Because you have.

If you remember, in the 1990s,
sweatshops were a key point of outrage.

Companies like Gap and Nike
were protested,

and then most famously,
there was this.

Kathie Lee Gifford

said she was shocked to learn
that a clothing line bearing her name

was manufactured in sweatshops
and by underage workers.

Yes, Kathie Lee's clothing line
was caught using child labor,

which was surprising, given
how kindly she had always treated

the small, elderly boy
who co-hosted her show.

And the outcry
over sweatshops wasn't just loud:

it got some results. Kathie Lee
even testified in front of Congress.

We are now morally compelled
to ask, each of us,

what can we do to protect labor rights
in factories around the world

and right here in America ?

And given that it was my neglect
that compelled us

to ask
this important moral question.

I say to you: you are welcome.
Let's start day-drinking !

What's wrong with you people ?
It's after 9 a.m. !

Cheers. Good morning.

But amazingly,
and I know this is hard to hear,

Kathie Lee
did not solve everything.

There has been a pattern
of troubling behavior

in the garment industry
for the past 20 years.

Look at Gap,
the nation's number one supplier

of polo shirts
for frat guys to vomit on.

In the '90s, they were
criticized for labor abuses

at a factory making their clothes
in El Salvador.

In response, they agreed to start
"an independent monitoring program."

They had that fun ad where idiots
in ill-fitting khakis swing-danced,

so we kind of forgot all about it.

Until five years later,

when the BBC visited a factory
making Gap clothing in Cambodia.

We'd been told there were children
here making clothes for the Gap.

This is Sun Thyda. She's 12 years old.
She told the factory she's 18.

This is Chan Sita. She's 14.
She too lied to get the job.

Monitors never questioned them.

That is no excuse.

If a child gained entry to a bar using
a Pinkberry punch card as a fake ID,

it is the fucking bar's fault.

"It says your middle name
is 'one free topping.'

Cool middle name.
Have fun in there."

In response,
Gap revoked approval of that factory,

and enhanced their age
verification requirements,

which sounded pretty good.
Besides, it was the year 2000,

and they had that ad campaign
where pastel morons did the mambo,

so we kind of forgot
all about it again.

Until seven years after that,

when a British newspaper
visited a workshop in India.

According to a published report,
these children aged 10 to 13

were working as virtual slaves,
stitching shirts for Gap Kids.

Having children make clothes for Gap
is bad enough.

Having them make clothes for Gap Kids
is somehow worse.

"Make a beautiful shirt
that's exactly your size.

It'll be worn once and thrown away.
Now make a thousand more for me."

In response, Gap said it didn't know
its clothes were in that workshop,

and demanded its supplier make

"significant improvements
to its oversight of subcontractors",

and everyone felt better,
especially because it was 2007,

and Gap had just had
that mind- blowingly cool

"holiday in your hood"
campaign with Common.

I know we're talking
about child labor,

but that may be the saddest
that I've felt so far.

Then, in 2010, a fire broke out
at a factory in Bangladesh

that produced Gap clothing,
killing 29 workers.

After that Gap launched
a building and fire safety plan.

Which was great,
because it meant nothing alarming

concerning Gap's presence
in Bangladesh

was ever going to happen again.

Until 2013,
when Al Jazeera found this.

No fire extinguisher. No fire exit.
It's a shack in someone's back yard.

- How old are you ?
- 14.

- How long you've been working here ?
- 2 years.

We attach, all of us together.
Today Sir said, "Finish them today."

It says "Old Navy."

Old Navy is owned by Gap Inc.

I guess at this point,
it seems sweatshops aren't one

of those 90's problems we got rid of,
like Donnie Wahlberg.

They're more
like one of those 90's problems

we're still very much dealing with,
like Mark Wahlberg.

Gap says those Old Navy jeans
were rejected products,

sold without their knowledge,
and never ended up in their stores.

All brands in the industry
have problems.

Gap is by no means the worst.
And if you ask Gap, as we did,

they'll point out they've made
real improvements,

and tried as hard as they can
to fix all this.

But that means a company
trying as hard as it can

has been not infrequently
connected to labor violations

in multiple countries
over two decades.

When you weigh all this up, it seems
the only situation in which Gap

could claim to be
unambiguously helpful to people

is when someone shits their pants
directly outside one of their stores.

"I never thought I'd say this,
but thank god Gap is here to help !

You people are angels."

And one of the biggest problems
with holding many brands accountable

is that deniability seems to have been
stitched into the supply chain.

Look at Walmart.

They insist they hold their suppliers
to high safety standards.

But CBS visited a factory in Bangladesh
making clothes for Walmart

and found otherwise.

The boss at Monde Apparels,
Masudul Haq Chowdhury

showed us an evacuation map marking
the location of 13 fire extinguishers.

But nearly all of them were missing.

If they're not there,
then that's not a map.

It's an aspirational poster
for fire safety.

But if that factory does not conform
to Walmart safety standards,

how were their clothes there ?

The managers told us the factory
hasn't been approved by Walmart

for production but they had an order
for a million Walmart boxer shorts,

subcontracted to them
by another factory.

Walmart sent it to an approved factory,
and that factory

sent it to an unapproved factory
without Walmart's knowledge.

It's a crazy,
one-in-a-million random accident

that's only happened multiple times
over the past few years.

Walmart say their clothing
suppliers in Bangladesh

were doing business with the factory
without their knowledge.

One of its suppliers subcontracted
part of the order to Tazreen

without their permission.

The order was placed with the troubled
factory without its knowledge.

It had no idea production
ever happened there

and this is not the first time Walmart
has been caught unaware.

No, it's not. And they are losing
the right to act surprised.

They're like the characters
in the "Hangover" movies.

It's not an accident
the third time, boys.

It's a pattern of reckless behavior
which has to be addressed.

One of you is going to wind up dead,
the one who's never on the poster.

Since the '90s, we've sporadically
cared about this.

Including two years ago this week,
after the Rana Plaza building collapse.

5 days after that deadly building
collapse in Bangladesh,

rescuers continue to pull survivors
from the rubble.

New pictures overnight
show dramatic rescues,

some using their bare hands
to free those who are still trapped.

At least 360 people have been killed,
hundreds more still missing.

That building collapse ended up
killing more than 1,100 people.

Everyone was justifiably horrified.
That report aired on the Today Show,

so you know
that everyone there heard it.

We then found that brands like
Joe Fresh and the Children's Place

had been made in Rana Plaza,
and we were horrified again.

We get so blinded by low prices
that just a few months later,

the Today Show was doing this.

This adorable sequined bag
is from the Children's Place.

I found it for under $10.

You don't want to spend a ton of money,
you're gonna spill something on it.

I found this one which is a silk-poly
blend from Joe Fresh.

Still feels really soft. 19 bucks.

19 bucks ! Get out !
Get the fuck out of the studio !

Think about what you're doing.

Because one of the ladies cooing
over that $19 Joe Fresh blouse

is Kathie Lee Gifford.

And if she can forget the human
cost of shockingly cheap clothing,

then that is - not in that case
actually that surprising.

Her brain is basically pickled
in Chardonnay at this point.

But it doesn't give you much
hope for everyone else.

This is going to keep happening
as long as we let it.

So we need to show clothing
brands not just that we care,

but why they should.

We have a little surprise for the
leaders of some of these companies.

I'm talking
about the heads of H&M,

of Walmart, of Gap, of Joe Fresh,
and of the Children's Place.

I have bought you all of you lunch.

Which will be turning up
to your office tomorrow.

I do not know exactly
how this food was made.

I told someone,
who may have told someone else

to get the most food they could,
for the cheapest price.

And they did that.
I do have strict policies in place.

I told them not to spit on that food,
or to rub their balls on that food.

I've trusted them to abide by that.

I want you to look
at the suspiciously cheap food

that lands on your desk tomorrow,
and I want you to fucking eat it.

If you're thinking, "I can't do that,
I don't know where it came from,

what if someone
rubbed their balls on it ?"

Then I don't know
what to tell you, other than,

"Do you understand the importance
of supply chain management ?"

But why am I telling you about
your lunch when I can show you ?

Introducing the spring collection
of your lunch tomorrow.

First, please welcome Dave.

Dave is wearing an Old Navy
shirt and shorts.

His total outfit costs just $23.78.

He's carrying the frighteningly
cheap sushi platter

that will be arriving
at your office tomorrow.

Thank you Dave.
Let's move on: to Walmart !

Christian is modeling both a summer
maxi dress, available for under $15,

and a tray of flautas
that we got for just $1.75 each !

Which is so close to being free,
it's literally nauseating !

Moving on to Joe Fresh !

And Austin is pairing
a sweatshirt and casual pant

that cost under $40.

How is it so cheap ? It's a mystery !

Much like the contents
of that gigantic pile

of cheap dumplings
that you will be eating tomorrow.

Thank you Austin.

Let's move
on to our H&M collection.

We've paired Haley's
sub-20-dollar jeans and blouse

with shrimp
and salmon pastry for five,

which will genuinely be arriving
at your Stockholm offices tomorrow.

I'm guessing that you will smell it
before it gets into the room.

And finally, thank you,
please welcome:

the Children's Place !

And say hello to Elliot.

She's wearing
an adorable white summer dress,

which costs less than $15 !

And what's that she's pulling ?
That would be your lunch !

A selection of dirt-cheap
rotisserie chickens !

I have no idea where they came from,
or what might've happened to them.

But Elliot sure wants you to eat them,
isn't that right, Elliot ?

Exactly. So eat them ! Eat them.
Eat this wagon of mystery chickens !

That's our show !
Thank you to all our models.

We'll see you next week !
Good night !