As a lover of fashion and personal style, I am devastated and horrified to learn of the cruel and inhumane realities along the production chain of “fast fashion,” as illustrated in the 2015 documentary The True Cost.
Fast fashion, according to the producers of The True Cost, is a modern fashion industry production and sales strategy to manufacture and sell cheap clothing meant to be worn briefly in fad fashion trends and then quickly tossed, making room for the next purchase and creating a steady and perpetual market for cheap and disposable clothing.
The livelihoods of millions around the world depend on the fashion industry – many make a respectable living, enjoy creative freedom, and reap the benefits of professional achievement and satisfaction. Meanwhile, the working conditions and unfair economy of common clothing manufacturing practices oppress entire communities, especially women and children, rape the earth, and misplace priority on profit for few over the collective health and integrity of people and planet.
The True Cost documents discussions with industry leaders, brings the camera into sweatshops, and highlights conversations with workers who stitch for unlivable wages. Ugly truths about worker exploitation, massive – lethal – factory accidents, and unchecked use of dangerous chemicals are brought into the light, with a plea for our attention and action.
Watch the trailer here.
Convoluted priorities are the rule rather the exception in large industries these days, but for today this industry is deserving of my attention because I recognize I make a generous contribution to the hardships and injustices with my preferences and buying dollars.
There are many reasons to celebrate fashion, and honor those who design from their hearts, create with passion, and toil over details to provide us with fit, function, and unique style to color our days and appeal to our senses. Well-designed and constructed clothing provides the wearer with protection from the elements, comfort, confidence, and an exciting and infinitely creative palette for self expression.
Aesthetics deliver powerful nonverbal messages and affect us deeply. Some shapes, fabrics and colors can make us feel protected, maybe even invisible. Others express or befit a mood, and can attract (or distract) the eye. Clothing can reinforce our desire to “blend in” or “stand out.” We dress for joy and success, to work, to celebrate, and to play.
Like the art of Feng Shui can be used to intentionally appoint a living space, fabrics, textures, shapes, colors and combinations can be selected and arranged around a human body to promote feelings of ease, balance, and safety. Our skin breathes with and through what lies next to it; our tactile sense is stimulated pleasurably, or suffers irritation or reaction to ill-suited materials.
Functionally, aesthetically and sensually, clothing contributes to creating myriad human experiences. What essential and amazing gifts this industry provides! Yet, there are dark and unconscionable aspects of the fashion industry that until recently have been neatly tucked away, hidden from our view.
We can do better. The powerful and profitable fashion industry can and should empower and protect ALL people, ALL communities far and near, our precious resources, and our planet. Our choices matter. In this industry and others, every purchase we make constitutes a vote for justice or injustice; life or death; earth or hollow economy. Knowledge is power and buying – or not buying – is a powerful way to cast a vote.
Moving forward, my buying habits are going to change. As with food and cosmetics, I won’t be shy about asking questions and doing the research about clothing companies. Instinct and intuition inform wise decisions in a pinch – clouds of chemical “new” smell and bins of too-good-to-be-true bargains are hints to me that someone along the supply chain has probably suffered. Fair trade, eco-friendly, organic, vintage, mending, refurbishing, and re-purposing are the frontiers of fashion-forward with conscience.
Visit The True Cost website and watch the documentary to learn more about human rights, environmental impacts, and the economy of fast fashion, and to buy better.
Once you’ve watched the film, please share you thoughts and insights. What are your favorite sustainable brands? Second hand stores? Self-made and minimalist fashion techniques? How about shoes and handbags?
Author: Jennifer M