Clothes are our chosen skin and fashion is a kind of language – both tell the world what we want it to know about us. Considering the destruction the fashion industry is causing, we have to be mindful of every single piece of clothing we buy and wear because it has a human cost to it.
A building in Dhaka, Bangladesh known as Rana Plaza, housing five garment factories, collapses due to structural failure. The disaster kills 1,135 people. The world wakes up to the disturbing reality of the fast fashion industry- unsafe working conditions, low wages, inhumane treatment. People realise the clothes they are wearing have a human cost.
An individual disturbed by the Rana Plaza tragedy, yet with no knowledge of the fashion industry, decides to travel the world with his team and document what the true cost of fast fashion is. Andrew Morgan and team travelled to 25 cities in 13 countries to provide the world a perspective it may not have had before. “The True Cost”, which premiered at Cannes in 2015, started as an idea on Kickstarter and turned into a revolution.
The documentary takes the viewer on an eye-opening journey, showing a reality nobody thought existed. Through interviews with garment factory workers, farmers, garment factory owners, subject experts and activists, Morgan unapologetically exposes just what is wrong with the billion dollar fashion industry.
One gets to hear stories of collateral damage and victims of the fashion industry, like the one of Shima Akhter from Bangladesh, who works in a garment factory in Dhaka and was present during the Rana Plaza tragedy. His unabashed determination to uncover and show the world what the industry is hiding is unmistakable as he is rejected for interviews by every major clothing brand he contacted. Right from the lethal environmental impact of the second largest polluting industry in the world to the monumental role of the media in perpetuating the need for new clothes- what you see makes you think and rethink your own wardrobe.
Apart from the economic and socio-cultural effects, you will also learn about the medical and health damage that the fashion industry brings about. It also shows us a mirror to our consumerist habits, to which we rarely give a second thought. Spoiler alert – look out for the clips of the massive Black Friday sales across the world – they are just as shocking as they are hilarious!
For me, the most appealing trait of this documentary was the somewhat rogue approach to the art of documentary making. Although it is evident that there was a tremendous amount of research involved, WHAT people had to say and what he wanted to show clearly got more importance than HOW it was put across. Along with the interviews with people and the footage depicting the extent of destruction, he also uses footage from protests, news, conferences, fashion shows, advertisements and other documentaries to support his research. With Andrew himself narrating the entire film, it is refreshing to get an insight into what goes through the mind of this filmmaker whilst undertaking this brave adventure.
You may think this documentary is all about problems, and it may get quite disturbing in some parts, but it really isn’t- it also shows how some people are doing things right. The interviews with the sustainable fashion advocates will turn your views on fashion upside down. However, it doesn’t quite explain very clearly what someone can do on an individual level to bring about change in this situation, apart from buying from sustainable fashion brands. In reality, the solution isn’t so straightforward.
“The True Cost” is a testament to the fact that sometimes all one needs to bring about change in the world is to ask questions and document the answers.
Fun fact – Andrew refused funding from any corporation, non-governmental organisations and foundations so that the project would remain autonomous. This may not be the most aesthetically and visually pleasing documentary you’ll see, but it is definitely powerful enough to make you rethink your everyday choices.