The True Cost is a documentary directed by Andrew Morgan that works to demystify consumers about the situations in which the clothes they wear are being produced. It focuses on the “fast fashion” industry and how it exists because of the rise of consumerism in our capitalist society. Capitalism functions in a way that we as individuals do not even realize it is happening. Such allows the market to make consumers not think about where its clothes come from, how they are made, and or whose lives are affected by the fashion industry. Here is a breakdown of what the documentary teaches us.
Fast Fashion and its Many Facets
Instead of having four collections per year, big clothing companies such as H&M, Topshop, and Primark, now release a new collection almost weekly because they are continually coming out with new styles to keep their customers coming back. To do so, their products must be manufactured quickly and at a low cost. Fast Fashion has taken over in the last 20 years, making it difficult for any other company to compete. The True Cost links fast fashion to consumerism in the developed world and poor working conditions and exploitation for factory workers in the developing world.
The Rise of Consumerism
It is the high demand for continuous new products in the developed world that has caused the fast fashion industry to flourish. Living under consumerism, we have begun to fetishize objects. Big companies make you assume their brand name has some intrinsic value. With the use of advertisement, the big companies convince you their products are life changing, and you thus need them. The rise of consumerism has left us blind to how the products we purchase are produced. The True Cost serves to break down the mystification caused by capitalism by showing where the majority of our clothes come from and who gets affected by the fast fashion industry.
Who Gets Affected?
The documentary shows shots of the developed world, mostly in America, where consumerism is in full effect to videos of the developing world, including countries like Bangladesh, China, and Cambodia, where we are shown the veins of how the products made for the developed world is consuming are made. About 97% of the clothing sold in America is made in developing countries. The workers making these clothes get paid meager wages and work in terrible conditions. The paradox is that the factories and their workers agree to such situations because it has become one of its only means of making a profit. The documentary shows that the big companies from the developed world are aware that they are exploiting workers in these countries, but upholding human rights seems to get lost when everything is about making money.
The Solution: Buying Fair Trade Clothing
The polar opposite of the fast fashion industry is the conscious fashion movement. The documentary shows that we need to change the ways big companies work. Rather than looking solely at making a potential profit, human and environmental aspects must begin to be considered within the fashion industry. Companies must bring together the business mindset and ecological perspectives to create the best possible outcome for the earth and all of its people. Such is done within the fair-trade clothing industry, where there is an institutional arrangement between companies to ensure developing countries are receiving proper trading conditions and have human rights at the forefront of its platforms. If we make the fair-trade industry more popular by only purchasing clothes that we know come from an ethical background, then we can make real change in the world.