I watched this documentary on the recommendation of a friend, and just as she said, it was truly eye opening. I have always loved the fashion industry and have always loved clothes. I am probably very guilty of consuming more than I should when it comes to these things. This film made me question why.
The past few years I have been buying fewer clothes, but that is due to the fact I have less money. If I had an infinite amount of money, I’d probably have an infinite wardrobe, and I doubt I’d be the only one. My current economic state also raises the issue that I can’t afford things that are made under better conditions. For me, and many other millenials, even a pair of £40 jeans is something we have to save for. As the movie suggests, we are also seduced by the glamour that the fashion industry brings. Many of my own peers claim they can’t wear something, because they’ve already been photographed in it. Seriously, what has this world become?
Clothes are being neglected and so too are the people who actually make them. I’ve known for a long time that garments are made in developing countries. Andrew Morgan’s film shows you just how bad these 40 million people have it. Their working conditions are poor, the wage they are asking for is 1/5 of the UK’s part time living wage and yet, they are told even that is too much. These people probably work harder, longer and put up with more crap than many in the UK. What’s troubling is that companies say to factory owners that they can get product made cheaper elsewhere. This makes owners panic and put their prices down; they don’t want to lose business. Brands then benefit from a huge profit, while those overlooked have to suffer. An awful, ugly cycle ensues.
The film also explores the impact the fashion industry has on the environment. We are said to now consume around 80 billion pieces of clothing a year and we throw away just as much. Historically people have kept clothes for a long time, but now with fast fashion trending, people don’t want to be seen in something that isn’t ‘in’ anymore.
As well, more than 90% of cotton farms are now genetically modified in order to keep up with the ever-increasing demand. This uses vast amounts of water and chemicals that have a devastating impact on both the land and human health. The True Cost also reminds us that the skin is a vital organ, and these chemicals can be passed into our bloodstream when we wear such clothes.
Leather production is also hazardous in that raising the livestock is environmentally unsound, whilst the tanning process is amongst the most toxic in the fashion supply chain. Workers are exposed to harmful chemicals and the waste produced pollutes natural water, leading to increased disease.
The hardest part of watching this film is realising that there is no straightforward answer. If we stop buying clothes, people that depend on the work it provides, would be out of a job. But if we keep buying and throwing away we further damage our planet, which is already going through so much. Maybe we should just be more mindful of how we consume, save up for something of better quality that we won’t have to throw away so soon. As Stella McCartney quite rightly says, “The customer has to know that they’re in charge. Without them we don’t have jobs, and that is really important. So you don’t have to buy into it if you don’t want.” Hopefully one day consumers will band together, making it clear that we want the environment and all the people in it to be treated with more respect, making the fashion industry great again.
This whole blog has made me think more about slow fashion. People have been buying from charity shops for decades but as the years go on, more and more visits, from young people in particular, are occurring. Whether this is because people are more aware of fast fashion troubles, the current economic climate is hitting them hard, or the fact that individuality through vintage and the upcycling of clothes is trending. I love vintage and have spent many an afternoon scrolling through the likes of Depop and eBay. Could that be a way forward? Maybe, but I’ll save that concept for another post.