The True Cost Movie: Why This Film Will Change How You Feel About Your Clothes

 Image taken from 2015 documentary film The True Cost

Image taken from 2015 documentary film The True Cost

The first time I watched The True Cost was just over a year ago. It had the same effect on me then, as it does now. One of utter disbelief. Directed by Andrew Morgan, this gritty documentary film takes you behind the scenes of the global fashion supply chain exploring how the insatiable appetite for cheap clothing has resulted in the exploitation of millions of workers around the world. 

This film really touched me, which is why I've decided to share the trailer with you. Some of you may know it well, others not. For me, it was both powerful and disturbing and doesn't shy away from shocking images of violence towards factory workers or heartbreaking images of exploitation. Neither does it refrain from showing the blatant disregard of an unsustainable money making machine known as the fashion industry. It was the factory collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in 2013, that prompted filmmaker Andrew Morgan to create the movie. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign and backed by Livia Firth, Creative Director of sustainable brand, Eco- Age, Morgan travelled across thirteen countries to capture the story.  Reading about the tragedy in the New York Times, Morgan said in an interview that he was horrified he had lived so long in his life without even considering something as basic as where his clothes came from.

The promise of globalisation was that it was going to be a win win. Consumers in the rich world would get cheaper goods and people in the poorer parts of the world would get jobs and that those jobs would give them a way to work their way out of poverty
— John Hilary - Executive Director, War On Want
 Image taken from 2015 documentary film The True Cost

Image taken from 2015 documentary film The True Cost

The film follows the story of Shima, a 23-year-old factory worker in Bangladesh. Beaten because she started a union to improve her working conditions, the story follows her journey to her parents' village where she leaves her child for months on end so she doesn't have to bring her to work. You'll see violent images of the Cambodian government cracking down on workers who were demonstrating for higher minimum wages. But the power of big brands over manufacturers means corners are cut, prices are squeezed and workers suffer. The film also highlights the impact the fashion industry has on the environment. Leather workers being exposed to harmful toxins, cotton growers suffering serious health issues and huge amounts of textile waste created by throw-away fashion trends. 

This enormous rapacious industry that is generating so much profit. Why is it that it is unable to support millions of its workers properly?
— Lucy Siegle - Executive Producer

We all buy clothes and therefore are all directly or indirectly part of the story, whether we want to be or not. Not only are we increasingly disconnected from those who make our clothes but we distance ourselves from their suffering. If the £3 t-shirts we wear were made by someone whose human rights were violated, then we need to ask ourselves - is it really worth it?

 Image from the True Cost

Image from the True Cost

The fashion Industry is huge and highly profitable with annual turnovers in the billions. So why do they continue to use cheap labour in foreign countries?  Surely they can afford to pay workers a decent living wage. Clothes have become so cheap now, our whole perception of their use has changed. We don't place any value on them anymore, choosing to dispose of them just because we can and because we can afford to. 

I never started out buying ethical clothing. I did what everyone else did. I never questioned it. It's taken me time to put together a wardrobe of ethical clothing and I think that's the point. Time. What's the rush anyway?  I think it's great having a wardrobe of classic timeless clothes that I've carefully curated with thought.  It was only through my experiences whilst travelling around Asia that I became more aware of what I didn't have and that was lots of stuff! I realised I could survive without it.

 Image of Textile Waste taken from film still of The True Cost 

Image of Textile Waste taken from film still of The True Cost 

Whatever your thoughts on ethical clothing, I can guarantee that this movie will change how you feel about your clothes. Maybe you'll change how often you go shopping. Perhaps you'll decide that you're not going to ditch the skirt or top you bought three months ago and learn to love it a little while longer. Maybe you'll check out some fair trade brands and treat yourself to one thing. The point is that the decisions you make when buying ethical or fair trade are vastly different to the decisions you make when you buy fast fashion. There's more of a long-term goal in mind with more thought about the story or person who actually made the item. I think that's a positive way to shop. You don't have to be a vintage-wearing vegan hippie to buy ethical clothes. You just have to ask the right questions. If you can watch the whole movie please do so. It's about ninety-five minutes long but it's ninety-five minutes well spent. You can download the full version here or just watch the short trailer below.