The True Cost

What are your plans for this weekend?…May I make a suggestion?…If you haven’t already, you should sit down and watch The True Cost. Directed by Andrew Morgan, this 2015 documentary takes a look behind the curtain at the dirty and unethical practices of the fast fashion industry. It’s fascinating to say the least—it’s life-changing to say the most.

“This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make these clothes, and the impact that it’s having on our world. It’s a story about greed and fear, poverty and power.”

When Morgan began the documentary, he knew next to nothing about the fashion industry. After months of filming he discovered the extensive human and environmental impact of one of the largest industries in the world. The True Cost begins with a look at what has happened to the fashion industry over the past few decades and how it has gone from 2 distinct seasons (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter) to essentially 52 seasons (once a week) a year. Additionally, in the 1960s 95% of clothing in the United States was made in the US. Now, less than 3% is made here and the rest is outsourced.

Why have those numbers changed so drastically? The answer is globalized production. According to The True Cost, globalized production simply means outsourcing to the cheapest country. It also leads to incidents such as Rhana Plaza—the garment production building that collapsed outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2010, killing over 1,000 workers. Although Rhana Plaza brought the fast fashion industry’s dangerous and unethical practices to the front page, most consumers turned a blind eye. How do I know this? Because the year after Rhana Plaza collapsed the fashion industry had its most profitable year in history. Obviously, the tragedy and others like it didn’t change consumers’ habits.

Why not? Because the fashion industry has effectively convinced us that we need to consume, consume, consume. Like I said, there aren’t just 2 seasons in the fashion industry anymore, there’s basically a new season each week. Trends come and go faster and faster each year. In order to keep up with those trends consumers shop more and more, faster and faster. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on the industry’s manufacturers, as well as our environment.

The True Cost shows viewers their own consumption impact by interviewing garment laborers, organic cotton farmers, sustainable fashion designers, government workers, manufacturer managers, and many more. By doing so, the documentary personally connects each viewer with the people behind the curtain. It puts a face to the horrific impact of the fast fashion industry. Thankfully, the documentary also highlights brands and people are trying to turn this all around. Throughout the movie viewers meet inspiring designers, farmers, and activists working to change how we consume fashion. And trust me, you’ll finish this movie wanting to make a difference too.

So as not to spoil too much, I’ll simply leave you with this quote from The True Cost:

“Will we continue to search for happiness in the consumption of things? Will we be satisfied with a system that makes us feel rich while leaving our world so desperately poor? Will we continue to turn a blind eye to the lives of those behind our clothes? Or will this be a turning point, a new chapter in our story that when together, we begin to make a real change?”

-Kate Hornberger




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