Released worldwide on May 29, The True Cost is a documentary film that explores the current state of the global fashion industry and its impact on workers, consumers and the environment. Focusing on the development of the fast fashion business model, the documentary features interviews with many industry experts and sustainable fashion activists, including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth, Lucy Siegle and Safia Minney.
In the clip below, director Andrew Morgan explains how he became involved in the project and his personal reasons for making the film. Approaching the subject as an outsider with no prior experience in the fashion industry, Morgan says he was inspired to create the film after he heard about the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh – and started to ask what seemed like straightforward questions about where the clothing he wears came from.
Morgan and his team travel to Dhaka, where they meet Shima, a garment factory worker who recounts her struggles to earn a living wage for herself and her family. Shima tells the filmmaker about her attempt to start a union among her fellow workers, which was physically and brutally stifled by factory management. This is just one story featured – which could have probably been a documentary on its own, in addition to other farming and garment workers from Cambodia, India, Haiti and the United States.
The True Cost is a very effective compilation of the major social and environmental issues facing the fashion industry, striking a balance between far-reaching and hard-hitting statistics (the average American throws away 82 pounds of clothing per year, the fashion industry is only second to oil as the most polluting industry in the world) and individual stories of garment workers, activists and designers who are committed to making change happen. Safia Minney’s fair trade clothing company People Tree and Livia Firth’s consultancy Eco-Age are just two examples of small but hopeful progress being made in the industry.
By the end of the film, it was hard not to feel something as a montage of fast fashion retail and YouTube shopping ‘haul’ videos are juxtaposed with garment workers in deplorable conditions. Even though I was fully aware of the impact of fast fashion on the human and natural economies, The True Cost is the catalyst that has finally made me rethink my shopping habits and begin moving towards a minimalist wardrobe – a topic which I will discuss in next week’s You Should Be Reading column.