‘The true cost’ is a documentary that talks about the fashion industry and how the manufacturing of clothes have different impacts on the world; environmental, economical and social impacts. All these problems are caused because of Capitalism.
Most people like me know that in the past America was still making most of the clothes they wore. However, nowadays they only make roughly 3% of their clothing, the rest is made by developing countries such as India, Bangladesh, Vietnam etc. This is a fact that I accepted and thought it was normal because developing countries can do this job for a cheaper price but I didn’t think about all the impacts behind this concept. Deflation is happening to the prices of the clothes sell in stores as price is getting cheaper and cheaper. This is something good for people like me who are trying to keep up with latest trends for cheaper prices. However, prices did not decrease for the manufacturers of these clothes, in fact prices had increase for them, meaning that they are doing the same and more amount of work for lower wages. Like it is said in the documentary, clothes are so cheap that I can just throw any garment without even have to think about it. Everything is linked together, this globalised production is affecting many factories, companies competing for getting clothes done at lower prices and the ones that cannot do it will eventually run out of business. All this pressure had consequences and one of them was the factory collapse Rana Plaza. I feel very sad about an event like this happening, the most innocent people are paying for the consequences that this problem of social structure has brought to us. Now that I’m beginning my career in the fashion industry, I feel responsible for this community that is left with unimportance, this isn’t just about price pressure, this is also about human lives. Government of developing countries are desperate for the business that these fast fashion retailers bring, they are in constant thread that these brands will relocate making products to other low cost countries so the government have to hold down wages, avoiding enforcement of local labour laws.The documentary arises a question that gave me a deep impression ‘How come the industry earn 3 trillion annually and not be able to support millions of workers properly?’ I think this is all to blame to this capitalist society where the profits are not distributed properly.
There are three major environmental impacts that I learned from the documentary; land pollution, water pollution and the increase amount of landfill that fast fashion is creating. As I realised in the documentary, everything has a cause and a consequence. Firstly land pollution is happening due to the chemicals added to crops like cotton crops in order to make them grow faster. This is caused by the high demand of cotton to make clothes. The consequences then are that there are residues left at the micro bacteria level so land gets contaminated. More consequences come when farmers who got in debt buying these chemicals cannot pay money back and they lose their land which leads them to commit suicide. Other consequences involve human health. There is a dramatic rise in number of birth defects, cancer and mental illness in their region. Another thing mentioned in the documentary that I remember clearly is that, companies that make the chemicals that cause cancer are the same ones that make medicines for that cancer, so for them is all about profit. Secondly, India’s holy Ganges river is polluted by the leather factories, this is caused with the growing demand of cheap leather. Consequences involve that heavy chemicals used to treat the leather flow into local farming affecting soil which produces the food that people eat. Their only drinking water source is contaminated with chromium, this has caused that people have different kinds of dermal problems, skin rashes boils, pustules numbness in their limbs, stomach ailments, jaundice,likewise in the documentary people had their skin turning white.Lastly, garment landfill have increased steadily. An average american throws away 82 pounds of textile waste each year, up to 11 million tons of textile waste from the US alone and most of this waste is non-biodegradable meaning that it sits on landfill for 200 years or more while it releases harmful gases in the air.
Alternatives for fast fashion include avoiding that fast fashion companies change their season as often, in this way people will not be able to replace their clothing that fast, that they give importance to how they products are made and they make sure garment industries take care after garment industry workers. Another alternative is buying from ethical fashion brands like People Tree, Alternative Apparel and Everlane. Brands like this are slow, ethical and fair trade. They are aware of the impact of garments in society and the environment. One very surprising thing that I got to know is that, only 10 percent of the clothes people donate to charity get sold, the rest end up in developing countries. I think it is very unbelievable that clothes are gotten for lowest prices possible from developing countries, business make profit selling them, consumers profit them by using them and when there is no more profit to get out of it they are send back again to developing countries as though developing countries were trash cans. This is a problem of social values. I don’t think no one in this chain is to blame, no one is aware of the whole image. Garment workers they are just doing a job. Sewing clothes, the job itself is relatively safe, there is nothing dangerous with that and these people is poor countries need these jobs, they don’t have alternative. Fast fashion companies are also doing their job, they are just trying to satisfy consumers needs. And also consumers are neither to blame, we are taught though advertisements that materialism and the pursuit of possessions and owning stuff is what make us happy. There is nothing wrong with that because consuming and being materialistic is what moves and keeps this economy stable. But a lot of the resources that we use to make our clothing are not accounted in the cost of producing those clothes. These include land, water, chemicals these are all inputs and there are outputs as well. Good outputs are the jobs created and the clothing we wear. But this also has bad outputs which are social and environmental negative impacts. This proves that this economy we live in, Capitalism is not working well and we need to change it and we need to rise awareness. However, a system at this large scale level is very difficult to change straight away but it is not impossible. We have to start in small pieces to make this change noticeable in a bigger scale. This documentary has changed the way I look at the fashion industry as a whole and I am very grateful that Parsons is trying to making this field more sustainable by teaching students, the future generation, the consequences that we have to be aware of when working in this industry.