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  • Rachel

INDUSTRY INSPO “The True Cost” This 2015 Sustainable Fashion Documentary Is More Relevant Than Ever

At the beginning of my deep dive into the fashion industry, I have to admit that I didn’t know much more beyond the modelling side of fashion. I knew what it was to work in a studio, walk in fashion shows, and work with designers, but I didn’t truly understand all the moving parts to the enormous empire that is fashion.

My interest was piqued during the COVID-19 lockdowns when Vogue launched their series of Vogue Conversations. Industry icons such as Anna Wintour, Olivier Rousteing, Virgil Abloh, and a whole host of others initiated live conversations over Zoom about the topic of sustainability in fashion. At first, I watched out of wanting to hear such influential people speak candidly about their opinions, but the experience ended up becoming much more eye-opening than I’d anticipated. I’d never thought before just how big the fashion industry is, how much of an impact it has on the world from an environmental standpoint, and its effects on the entire human chain that keeps the glittering wheels turning.

That’s when I started to do my own research and came across the documentary, The True Cost. Released in 2015, it documents the harrowing environmental impacts of fashion and the horrific experiences of those working in its supply chain. At the end, I was in utter disbelief. I cried because the underbelly of such an amazing industry that brings me so much joy was, and still is, riddled with despair and suffering.

I learnt that the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, second to the oil industry; that at the time of the documentary’s release, now 5 years ago, the world consumes 80 billion pieces of clothing per year, and you can just imagine what that figure is now; and that, most devastatingly, people were dying to make our clothes.

In 2013, the Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh, killing countless factory workers; children in India are permanently malformed from pesticide sprays; and 250,000 Indian cotton farmers had killed themselves in the 15 years prior to the release of the film, after going into debt to purchase genetically modified cotton. It’s a far and desperate cry from what we‘re presented in fashion campaigns, an expansive humanitarian issue criminally glossed over by companies that want us to buy at whatever cost.

These might just sound like facts and figures with the aim of making us feel guilty for our first-world over-consumption, a slap on the wrist that we can blithely ignore the next time we walk past a store with a bargain. But our penchant for the excess has real-world impact, and after watching this documentary, it’s something that you can’t unsee.

Five years after the release of this documentary, which is a whole half decade later, the fashion industry seems to be finally realising, acknowledging, and accepting the true cost of fashion. Thankfully, the industry seems to be moving towards initiating steps to actually do something about becoming more sustainable, and consumers are beginning to question who makes their clothes, what they’re made of, and where they come from. Brands both big and small are noticing this shift, reacting by releasing statements and initiatives with the aim of assuaging consumer concerns.

However, we (and our wallets) do play a major role in holding the industry accountable. The way we can ensure that a sustainable fashion industry isn’t just purely performative or “trendy” is to educate ourselves and make informed, sometimes radical, decisions.

You can watch The True Cost here:

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