Ever wonder where your clothes come from? Buckle up for the answer, and bring the tissues. Then prepare to make some major changes in how you consume your clothes.
I came to this movie through a strange and wonderful series of random events. On an impromptu trip to my old adopted hometown of Austin, I had a meandering conversation with two friends, wherein the topic of author Rob Bell’s podcast came up out of absolute nowhere. I’ve read a few of his books, but have been pretty out of touch with Rob Bell for a while, and so I thought, “Hm. I should listen to that sometime.”
Two weeks later, that’s just what I did. And the very first episode I downloaded happened to be an interview between Bell and documentarian Andrew Morgan.
All this preface is mainly to convey to you, dear reader, the truth that, outside of Education, I am emphatically not a social cause pusher (well, unless you count the cause of avoiding – at just about all known costs – a Donald Trump presidency).
But The True Cost got a tight grip on my heart, and I’ve found myself mulling the film over for many days. I’ve also heard myself recommending (demanding?) that any and all friends and family watch said documentary immediately.
Here’s the gist: our clothing industry is exploiting foreign workers in cruel, damn near unimaginable ways. It’s also polluting the environment grotesquely, but the human cost is what I can’t stop thinking about.
The film begins by presenting several recent factory disasters. The most horrific, the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed 1,130 people. Most of them were women.
Cracks in the infrastructure had been noticed, pointed out to management, and routinely ignored. So the tragedy carried with it the furor of injustice, on top of heartbreak.
Life went on, and in the years since you and I have probably bought several cheap apparel items, made available at dirt low prices, precisely because of factories like the one in Dhaka.
I wish I could detail here, all the human pain and suffering that is inextricably linked with the modern clothing industry. But my words wouldn’t do it any kind of truth, and The True Cost is out there already, and you should just watch it. (Available now on Netflix).
What I want to focus on is the ability we have to make a difference, however small we may feel. So if you haven’t seen the film, watch it now. I promise that afterwards, you’ll be with me.
Okay, so a primary way to stop being a part of this massive, deranged human exploitation is to stop purchasing clothes in a “consumer” way. Clothing is not meant to be used up and thrown out. It is meant to be used, and taken care of, then used again. And again. And again. For me, I’m now thinking of my clothes more along the lines of my car (or bike, if you’re beating me on the progressive front).
This shirt is something that is going to be with me a long time. I’m only going to buy it if I really love it, and really need it, and then I’m going to keep it. And keep it. And wear it. And keep it. And fix it. And keep wearing it. Etc.
You can see how just that paradigm shift would change the way you shop.
But also, buy well! Buy from companies that don’t participate in human exploitation. Buy from companies that use organic materials. Buy from companies that have a social conscience.
Where, you ask? Where can I find those companies?
Andrew Morgan’s got your back. Check out the documentary’s website here, and a list of clothing companies that come Morgan-approved, plus other ways to break out from the moral bankruptcy of the fast fashion industry.
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images