A bit late, but I finally saw the documentary film "The True Cost" this past weekend. It is a thought-provoking film with a powerful message -- fast fashion and the insatiable need for consumption are generating huge adverse effects to humanity and the environment.
As shoppers and consumers, we don't think about where clothes are made or how the prices can be so low. Perhaps we'll notice that, compared to 10 or 20 years ago, styles are simpler; materials have become flimsier; and the fit of a garment is slightly "off". But we'll shrug our shoulders and, because the garment was so inexpensive anyway, we'll wear it a couple of times and then just toss it into the donation bin.
It's the perfect storm -- consumers demanding cheap clothes faster; fashion companies seeking ever larger profit margins by cutting labor and materials costs; and manufacturers cutting corners -- worker health, safety and environmental pollution -- in fear of losing valuable contracts with fashion companies. Tragic events such as the building collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1000 sewing workers is just one example of what can happen.
The film presents the issues but stops short of offering solutions. What can ordinary consumers do? First, watch this film to start understanding the issues -- the $10 t-shirt is not really the true cost when you factor in the costs to human rights and the environment. Second, be a conscious consumer by shopping smarter and being aware of what you are buying -- some great tips here. And finally, support brands that are committed to sustainability, social responsibility and transparency, as well as local brands and artisans who craft handmade items or keep manufacturing small and in well-regulated US factories.
For more information, here are some great resources.
- The True Cost Movie: Resource Page
- NPR Story: Slow Fashion Shows Consumers What It's Made Of
- Sustainable Fashion - What's Next?: In-depth book on all aspects of sustainability in the fashion industry.