I feel a bit as if I’ve just been punched really hard and forced to open my eyes to the true cost of fashion. And it’s hard. I love fashion and shopping for my favourite high street brands, but today I feel a bit saddened by the fashion industry.
I know I can change the way I shop, the way I do things, but the question is “Do I really want to and where will it lead?” How much of an impact does one person really have? And that’s the question we all ask ourselves and then continue on the same path, because we feel too small and insignificant and thus the changes come to slow. Why am I being all philosophical all of the sudden? I just finished watching The True Cost.
The documentary was recommended by a colleague and it has shaken me to the core. We know that our clothes are made in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia and India. We know that people there work for incredible low salaries and live in poverty. We all heard about Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, but we also quickly forget about all the disasters. And we don’t want to see the bigger picture. For me, it’s because I love pretty things. I feel happy when I buy an item and if I look good in it (and am told so by other Instagrammers) then I’m on top of the world.
It happens that on a bad day, I only need to pop into a shop on my way home and buy something and I feel better. I feel content, because I know I can afford to buy that item, which in itself is a confirmation that I work hard and do a good job and can therefore treat myself to a pick me up. And the result? A very full wardrobe. Items I only wear once or twice and then forget they exist. I am one of the many who love and are also victims of fast fashion and consumerism.
But what is the real cost of fashion? What impact does it have on the world and is it really only influencing people in developing countries? True Cost by Andrew Morgan explains it really well, but let me sum it up.
The true cost of fashion can be seen on a personal level in how much money we spend to look good instead of investing it wisely. How many people suffer from eating disorders while trying to look like the models we see all around us. How often we feel inadequate because we either don’t have the latest item or we just look terrible wearing it. But this is just the surface.
Watching the documentary it struck me that I have never thought about the bigger picture. I have never even considered the impact that fashion has on our environment. And on a more human level, I never really considered the life of a woman, who’s sewn my latest top. Andrew Morgan’s film has it all.
True Cost takes us on a journey from our comfortable living room, where we’re just unpacking the result of the latest shopping spree, to the cotton farmers in the USA, and then even further, to the tanneries in India, garment factories in Asia, while also showing us there is a different way. People like Safia Minney, the founder of People Tree, a sustainable and Fair Trade fashion label, Livia Firth, the founder of Eco-Age, a consultancy finding solutions, powered by ethical and sustainable values, are already trying to work towards a better future for everyone.
And we really shouldn’t forget about the impact our consumerism has on environment. The more clothes we buy, the more we throw away and they fill our landfills for hundreds of years. The more we buy, the more there needs to be produced causing an ever increasing amount of pesticides and fertilizers, etc. to be released into our environment. All these toxins don’t just disappear. They sink into the earth, they get into the water we’re drinking and have an impact on people’s health.
I’m not trying to convince anyone to stop shopping or say goodbye to your favourite brands, far from it. But I strongly believe that we need to be more aware of the impact of consumerism and make sure we’re all educated on the subject. Maybe this way, the next time I’m in my favourite shop, I’ll actually think about why I’m buying my twentieth off-the-shoulder top and if I really need it. I’ll try to be better at not buying items that will inevitably just end up in the back of my wardrobe for no one to see.
If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the film. It will open your eyes, but let me just warn you, it’s not an easy viewing. Let me know what you think of fast fashion. What’s the cost of fashion in your opinion?