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The True Cost of Cheap Fashion Is Not Pretty

Posted on 29 May 2015


Haul videos have mostly gone by the wayside, thank goodness. But fashion bloggers are still associated with a certain amount of over-indulgence in the form of clothing and shoes—a fact that has bothered me since day one of my own blog five years ago.

People love a bargain. No one wants to feel they’ve spent too much on an item of clothing, especially when wearing clothing is your business. But the desire to save a buck has gone too far. Especially in the United States, we’ve become comfortable with the idea that a t-shirt should cost $5. That’s not enough to actually pay for what goes into making a shirt, and a new documentary released today called The True Cost makes that fact painfully clear by exposing the damage done to human beings and their environments when the fashion is not properly valued.


The True Cost was first screened at at the Cannes Film Festival, and again last night at the IFC Center in New York, complete with a red carpet walked by Livia Firth, the film’s executive producer, and her famous husband Colin. Public showings begin today, and it will open later in London, Los Angeles and Tokyo, and will also be available on iTunes and Netflix.


CNN writes:

The movie is filled with disturbing facts. Here’s a few:

— 250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years, partly as a result of going into debt to buy genetically modified cotton seeds.

— There are 80 billion pieces of clothing purchased worldwide each year, up 400% from two decades ago.

— Americans throw out 82 pounds of textiles annually.

— Only 10% of the clothes people donate to thrift stores get sold — the rest end up in landfills orflood markets in developing countries.


Any one of those facts should be enough to make anyone swear of fast fashion. The True Cost director Andrew Morgan says he “never never thought twice about a piece of clothing I wore” until he saw a photo of children his own kids’ age searching for family through the rubble of the Rena Plaza disaster in Bangladesh.

A weakness of the film, writes Vanessa Friedman in the New York Times, is that the film seems to equate fast fashion with high-end designer fashion by flashing generic images of glamorous runway shows. I agree with Friedman that that’s unfortunate—not all fashion is created equally (or in sweatshop conditions).

Regardless, I look forward to seeing the movie. Check this page to see if it’s showing in your area.



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