The fashion industry is no stranger to controversy. Slogans, models, photographs and images are not all that is scrutinized in the media and our society. The True Cost (2015) brings us to rethink how we consume fashion via clothing. Clothes are in a sense statements of who we are as well as who we want to be.They are a part of self-expression and how we present ourselves to the world around us. I sometimes feel the compulsion to buy clothes when there are sales and clearances. At times, it may seem harder to resist, when we are bombarded by countless newsletters and ads daily. The desire to buy becomes increasingly tempting, when the retail prices are ridiculously cheap. However, a few months later, I might find that I never wear those items that I hastily purchased. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not quick to make purchases; I always try to carefully foresee the most usage for everything I buy. I am of the school of research before you purch’ and need before want. Never do I make a purchase without giving it a thought beforehand, but sometimes the prices may become blinding. Online shopping is a breeze and frequently has sales.This is where I occasionally falter. More than ever ‘cheap fashion’ or ‘fast fashion’ as named in this documentary has become the norm. It is easily accessible while creating struggle and high-stake rivalry for clothing manufacturing companies which are widely relocated to developing countries. There are most often relegated to Bangladesh and India. The True Cost essentially takes us behind the scenes of the fashion industry, guided by the voices of many key players speaking about its obstacles. These concerns are explored in depth by a discussion with some of the fashion industry’s lead actors. They range from designers, journalists, activists, company CEOs and factory workers. Together they give an insight into the struggles and actions to be taken to better conditions and healthier relations in the fashion industry. We are literally thrust into the making-of of cheap fashion. Director Andrew Morgan answers this rather straight-forward and simple question: Who is behind the clothes we wear?
The fashion world is illusive although it might have seemed like it was reserved to an elite, the people who work in the industry, it is no longer the case. Today, it has become more accessible and affordable, all in a very short period of time. Online shopping is at its peak which means that in a matter of seconds we can be connected to discounted merchandise half way around the world. Morgan investigates how prices are drastically reduced and the man power required to meet tight deadlines and the consequences of this highly competitive market.This documentary also sheds light on the issues and conditions workers face on a daily basis.
The True Cost puts a face to manufacturing employees who work to the bone in order to merely provide for their families. It does not shy away from showing darker truths and heart-wrenching realities, notably in regards to the lack of action that occurred after the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh which claimed over a thousand lives. There are touching testimonies, notably by the mother of a young girl who sacrifices time spent with her in the hopes of giving her daughter a better life.
This documentary is not a simple call for empathy and compassion for the way companies treat their workers. It opens the door to action and rethinking our relation to clothing. On a broader scale, it invites us to eliminate superfluous purchases and be more mindful about what we wear. Quality over quantity is an important lesson to learn. Consciousness and awareness is what The True Cost brings as well as a strong basis that enables the viewer to become a more savvy consumer. For this reason alone, it is a must-see. It will with no doubt make you question your spending and how it affects the people who made them without preaching values or forcing facts down your throat. In the end, this documentary is a reminder of the power of the consumer and how we can make sizable changes with simple reflection. It is a thought-provoking piece that gives valuable knowledge.
I give The True Cost 4/5; it is streaming on Netflix.