The True Cost: An Examination of The Garment Industry

Fast fashion is brought into the spotlight by The True Cost, a 2015 documentary directed by Andrew Morgan.

Fast fashion is a term used to describe getting fashion items from the catwalk onto the rack as quickly as possible.

It is how designers satisfy consumer materialism and the need for immediate gratification when it comes to their latest collections and ranges. The clothing is priced lower to attract sales.

The quality is often inferior because of the rush to manufacture the garments. As a consequence, clothing items wear out quickly and are soon thrown away.

The True Cost examines the garment industry and how fast fashion affects people living in developed and developing nations. The comparison shows the stark differences between the two.

The Rana Plaza collapse

Morgan was first drawn to exploring the concept of fast fashion after the Rana Plaza Collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

In 2013, the building, which housed a garment factory, was the tragic scene in which more than 1,000 workers died, and many others were injured.

The building had shown signs of deterioration beforehand, but the factory owners ignored them and demanded that their employees continue to work in an unsafe environment.

The Rana Plaza collapse made clear what activists had been saying for years. Garment workers labor under unfair and dangerous conditions.

The True Cost examines the events surrounding the Rana Plaza collapse in detail, including its lasting impact in Bangladesh and beyond.

Many big label fashion designers were using factories like this one to manufacture their clothing and accessories. There seemed to be little concern about the plight of garment workers, provided they weren’t affecting the bottom line.

The Rana Plaza collapse changed that. Scandals followed as the lack of conscience among fashion retailers when it came to workers’ rights was revealed.

house made of fabric

Investigation by Morgan

Morgan decided to investigate the garment production industry and traveled to 13 countries to interview people and gain their perspectives.

He included people from developed and developing nations to show the schism between them. By 2010, it was estimated that up to 95% of America’s fashion industry products were made in developing nations.

Asia is the core of its manufacturing hub, with China, India, Cambodia, and Bangladesh accounting for the majority of production.

One of the biggest challenges for workers in these countries is having their rights recognized.

Human and workers’ rights records are not the same in developed and developing nations. People’s rights are readily trampled on in developing countries.

GM crops in India

In India, Morgan found out about the cotton industry and how fast fashion affects it. Demand is so high that farmers are using GM crops to meet it.

Genetically modified crops now dominate the landscape, and organic farmers are pushed out of the market. GM crops are grown from seeds sold to farmers at high prices.

They require additional toxic pesticides to grow. The chemicals enter the soil and the water supply, leading to health problems for residents in surrounding communities.

GM crops are thought to be the root of increased levels of congenital disabilities and cancer among Punjab people. Cotton farmers growing GM crops in Texas share similar experiences in the film.

The American connection

The film’s focus returns to America, one of the largest clothing consumers in the world. An examination of the media and how it manipulates people, especially teenagers, into consumer materialism follows.

There has been a 500% increase in global clothing consumption since the 1990s before the advent of fast fashion. The average Americans dispose of about 82lb/37kg of clothing a year.

A fraction of it goes to thrift shops. The rest lies in landfills, further damaging the environment because the fabric isn’t biodegradable.

The landfills aren’t in America. They are in developing countries such as Haiti.

Giving voice to people

The True Cost demonstrates a balanced view of fast fashion, giving a voice to people who support it and those who don’t.

Its defenders claim that the industry benefits developed and developing nations.

People in developed countries get the clothes they want, and people in developing countries get the jobs they need. Fast fashion is painted as a win-win situation.

In the film, vocal opponents of fast fashion speak out about the negative physical, health, and psychological effects on the workers who make the clothes.

The experts also weigh in about consumer materialism and the environmental impact of society’s growing demand for clothes.

The True Cost made its debut at a side screening at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It was nominated for the EMA Best Documentary award in 2015.

The True Cost has been translated into 19 languages and has received a positive response. The way the film exposes consumer materialism for what it is and the dangers of GM crops has been an eye-opener for many people.

There are those who have criticized the film as an assault on the free market economy and capitalism, dubbing Morgan a Marxist.

People who have taken its contents to the heart are looking at alternatives to fast fashion, preferring instead to spend their money on sustainable brands.

This has led to an increase in the number of sustainable fashion labels.

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