Have you ever wondered how stores like Primark and H&M can sell a t-shirt for only £4? It’s probably crossed your mind, but if you’re anything like me you push it to the back of your mind as you know the truth isn’t going to be pretty. The True Cost documentary examines exactly how stores manage to sell t-shirts for so little and still make huge profits. The film is a story about our clothes, the people you make them and the impact the industry is having on our world. It’s a hard watch, but its also a must watch for anyone interested in learning more about where their clothes come from.
I’m not going to go into too much detail on the topics covered by the film as I think its the visual impact of the film which makes it so effective. The striking contrast of the excessive consumption of YouTube hauls and black Friday shopping compared to the slums and garment factories in Bangladesh and Cambodia really makes you think. We choose not to think about the garment workers who make our clothing, working long hours for less then $3 (£2ish) a day. Many of them have to send their children to live with family in the country as they don’t earn enough to pay for schooling or childcare. The film introduces us to Shima a garment worker in Bangladesh who had to do just that. She tried to form a union at her factory to ask for a wage increase and was beaten for disrespecting to her manager. The film shows some upsetting scenes of protests in Cambodia were garment workers were asking for the minimum wage to be increased to $160 (around £104). The government needs to keep wages as low as possible so that the big companies continue to produce their clothes there. Now I don’t know about you but I’d happily pay a bit more for my t-shirt so that the person who made it could be paid a decent living wage and afford to live with their children and send them to school.
As well as the impact on people fast fashion has a huge impact on our environment. Apparently fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil and gas. In India the leather tanneries pump around 50 million litres of toxic water into the rivers, which then contaminates the local drinking water supply and the farmers fields. People are forced to drink this water and grow their food in toxic ground. Local people suffer from skin conditions, illness, digestion problems and cancer as a result of consuming the toxic chemicals from the tanneries. Life isn’t any easier for those producing the cotton to make our clothes. Many of the worlds cotton plants have been genetically modified so the we can produce more and more. The use of pesticides on the land has increased with acres of land being sprayed using planes. These pesticides are having a huge impact on the people who live on the farmland. In India there are huge numbers of children being born with birth defects which families cannot afford to treat so children are suffering slow and painful deaths. There has been a rise in cancer in these areas. In Texas the amount of farmers developing brain tumours has led to specialist units opening. The film introduced us to a Texan cotton farmer who made the move to organic cotton after losing her husband to cancer, which she believed was a direct result of exposure to pesticides.This film has really inspired me to find out more about where and how my clothes are made and to make more ethical and sustainable choices when shopping. I love fashion and shopping for clothes and I don’t think that will ever change, however I don’t think anyone should suffer so that I can have a new t-shirt.
The True Cost is available on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and iTunes. There are also lots of screening taking place across the country.Visit www.truecostmovie.com to find out more.