What I’m Watching: The True Cost

“This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?

Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost is an unprecedented project that invites us on an eye opening journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind our clothes.” 

The True Cost

While scrolling through Netflix hoping to stumble upon a sappy romantic comedy, I instead found The True Cost. The documentary follows the lifecycle of clothing; from its earliest stages in cotton farming to the sweatshops in Bangladesh to fashion designers who create for the runway. So I do not spoil the film, I won’t divulge all the details, but I did find a few statistics quite eye-opening. For example, 1 in 6 people work in the fashion industry in some form, making it the most labor dependent industry in the world. Additionally, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, second only to the oil industry. Furthermore, the average American throws away 82 pounds of textile waste each year, producing over 11 million tons of textile waste from the US alone.

Clearly, The True Cost presents several statistics on the detrimental side of the fashion industry. Overall, the documentary is a call to action for all components of the fashion industry. Individuals in the agricultural sector have a responsibility to produce fibers that are non-GMO and use limited pesticides. Factory owners must find a way to employ their workers with fair working conditions and a living  wage. Fashion designers have a responsibility to only outsource production to places where the workers are treated well. Americans, as consumers, must learn to only consume products that we truly need, to reduce excess. All actors in the fashion industry have a responsibility to fix the true cost of the industry that encompasses much of our global society.


Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.


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