The True Cost: An important film everyone must watch

The feature film-length documentary about how fashion has turned on our planet and on our people for the worse

Dhaka Savar Building Collapse

On Wednesday, 24 April 2013 in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka, Bangladesh where an eight-story commercial building named Rana Plaza, collapsed. The search for the dead ended on 13 May 2013 with a death toll of over 1,100 employees. Photo: Rijans

Have you ever thought about who is making the clothes you buy? That someone is sitting at a sewing machine and stitching together every seam that lines your shirt; that the cotton it is made from was harvested by someone and spun to make fabric by another? It’s actually really easy not to consider.

The True Cost is a feature film-length documentary about the people that make the majority of the world’s clothes, what is involved and what they’re lives are like as a result. It is a confronting and necessary eye-opener, and I’ve been telling everyone I know to see it.

Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign and released in May 2015, The True Cost documents a variety of people from a variety of places who are impacted by the many facets of the fashion industry—and in some ways, the vast majority of people might not have ever come into contact with before now. It is honest and thought-provoking and is supported by interviews with some of the world’s leading influencers including Livia Firth, Stella McCartney, Safia Minney and Vandana Shiva.

Director Andrew Morgan didn’t come from a design or fashion background but was taken aback when he saw an image on the cover of the New York Times the day after the collapse of Rana Plaza that occurred in India in 2013, killing over 1,130 people. This wasn’t the only devastating and life-threatening incident to have occurred in recent times, and Andrew set out to explore why this was happening; uncertain why he hadn’t considered how his clothes were made prior. It urged him to seek answers.

Director Andrew Morgan talks about why he made this film, puzzled as to why he hadn’t yet considered something as basic as where his clothes came from.

Reference: The True Cost

Some hard hitting facts:

We are increasingly disconnected from the people who make our clothing as 97% of items are now made overseas. There are roughly 40 million garment workers in the world today; many of whom do not share the same rights or protections that many people in the West do. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world and roughly 85% of all garment workers are women. The human factor of the garment industry is too big to ignore; as we consistently see the exploitation of cheap labour and the violation of workers’, women’s [rights], and human rights in many developing countries across the world.

Reference: The True Cost

The fashion industry represents one of the biggest connection points for millions of people across the world, spanning from agriculture and manufacturing to retail. It has been one of the leading industries to capitalise on the new globalised world of the 21st century. It is harder and harder to believe the free market story that a rising tide will lift all boats. Today we have some of the highest levels of inequality and environmental destruction the world has ever seen. We must find a way to continue to operate in a globalised world that also values the people and planet that are essential to this growth.

Livia Firth, Executive Producer for The True Cost, and Creative Director of Eco Age, talks about her experience visiting a factory in Dhaka, India, which really fueled her motivation to make a change.

By taking us on a journey around the world to witness the people, places and processes behind our clothes, we’re shown the reality of the fashion industry in a myriad of ways. From the exploitation of underpaid workers and the impacts to their day to day life; to the pesticides involved in cotton production, affecting the environment and the health of those communities around them. Not only are the poor working conditions confronting and unjust, so too are the environmental impacts caused by the industry. Chemicals that are used in harvesting and dyeing are making their way into the water streams of local communities and impacting their health in ways that are preventable with better infrastructure, AZO-free dyes, and recycling mechanisms.

Morgan believes that ordinary people can help to revert this damage and slow our consumption down. “It’s important to bring it down to people’s level, and that’s what clothing does,” he told Benjamin Lee in an article for The Guardian. “What if we started by slowing down and not consuming so much stuff, just because it’s there and cheap and available. It’s amazing how that process makes sense financially, it makes sense ethically, it makes sense environmentally.”

When we buy something it is a moral act, and there are a chain reaction of consequences. So let’s begin to be more mindful and choose things that actually support life and not take it away.
Andrew Morgan, Director, The True Cost

Morgan stresses that the film was not made to be a guilt trip but as a statement to communicate that as wearers and buyers of clothing, the lives that make these garments matter and need a voice. The True Cost is a film every single person, particularly in the Western world, needs to watch. It is powerful, emotional, and will have you asking plenty of questions.

The True Cost is available to watch on Netflix, VHX, iTunes, Amazon, DVD and Blu-Ray. See for more information.

Profile picture of Samee Lapham, founder of The Kind Guide

Samee Lapham

Share this post