The True Cost

The True Cost movie

Last evening I finally sat down to watch The True Cost (truecostmovie.com) the documentary film about the impact of fast fashion (think Zara, Uniqlo, H&M, Forever 21 to name a few), on people and the planet.

(Spoiler alert) As a person who enjoys clothing, fabric, shopping and fashion, it was disturbing to say the least. A few years ago I read “Over Dressed, The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” (Elizabeth L. Cline). I found the book to be unnerving and fascinating.   However, there’s nothing quite like the visual image of kids with birth defects caused by insecticide used on cotton to the collapse of buildings where hundreds are trapped in a sweat shop to get you thinking about where you buy your next t shirt.

I forced myself to see this movie precisely because I knew it would be graphic. I think if you are going to be in this industry you should know what really goes into how your clothes are sourced, made and discarded.   And speaking of being discarded, here’s a surprising statistic: did you know that only 10% of the clothes you donate are actually resold and worn by others?  Everything else ends up in landfill. Yes, I know this is a staggering number.

While this documentary is full of information, the one thing not mentioned is a formal call to action.  What should we all do next?

In light of that gap, here are some of my thoughts:

  • Buy only what you love. Stop buying 5 t shirts because they are cheap when you know that they will fall apart in the wash and you’ll throw them out. Buy one nice one instead.
  • Make sure that you are setting a good example for your kids by making wise choices in your wardrobe and theirs.
  • Set some guidelines for yourself without being pious. To say you aren’t buying anything from overseas could be tricky as only 3% of our clothing today is made in the U.S. Make it reasonable and resolve to make small changes.

Like everything else in life I like to think I’ll do the best I can now and then I’ll try to do even better the next time. Sometimes that’s the best call to action we can have.

Fashion—what we wear every single day, has huge relevance and huge consequence on human, social and environmental capital.

Livia Firth, Creative Director of Eco Age and cofounder of The Green Carpet