The True Cost is a ground breaking documentary which pulls back the curtain on the untold story of the fashion industry, with a look at the human and environmental costs of fast fashion, from garment factory workers in Bangladesh to cotton farmers in Texas, by way of India, Cambodia and Fifth Avenue. Filmed in countries all over the world, the documentary takes you on an eye opening journey around the world and into the lives of many of the people and places behind our clothes.
Over the past two decades fashion has changed, thanks to a new phenomenon labelled fast fashion, and now we have a situation where, as consumers we are caught in an absurd cycle of micro trends. Think those big name labels H&M, Forever 21, Walmart and even Kmart (I did not know they sold clothes made in Bangladesh until I went into my local Kmart store during my lunch break, only to see cotton shirts fronting the clothing rack made in Bangladesh), where you see two mini seasons a week in stores, providing the latest disposable piece of clothing to last the average lifespan of five weeks in a wardrobe.
This is not to say that luxury fashion labels such as Levi’s, Louis Vuitton and Chanel are not a part of the business addiction that has become the democratisation of fashion. In reality, all fashion distributors are exploiting everyone and everything: the consumer, the planet’s resources and the people who produce them.
The garment and textile industry estimated to be worth some $3 trillion, with the bulk of that going into the pockets of the owners of fast fashion brands. Creative Director of Eco-Age and Executive Producer of The True Cost, Livia Firth says that each year 1.5 billion garments are sewn by an estimated 40 million people, working in over 250,000 factories worldwide.
When production is outsourced to poor countries, large corporations drive down costs of production with volume, giving local garment factories no other option but to bow down and agree to their production agreements. Large businesses need to take complete ownership of their supply chains, and not allow poor local government legislation (or lack of) to vindicate their production chain and methods, to support the cotton farmers and garment workers, and free them of slave like conditions.
Next time you go to purchase that excruciatingly cheap top at your visit to your local shopping centre, will you give a thought to the people who have provided you with the garment? Now I am not talking about the store, but those who work at the bottom of the supply chain, be that cotton farmers or garment workers? Will you change your consumerism habits, that society has gotten carried away with, where profits are above all else with no thought to consequences on human, social or environmental capital?
What will your next fashion move be? As Livia Firth said, “Become an active citizen through your wardrobe.”