The True Cost of ‘Fast Fashion’ Exposed in New Film

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The world now consumes a staggering 80 billion pieces of clothing each year — creating a multi-trillion dollar annual industry known as “fast fashion.”

The ever-evolving cycle of sparkly skirts and skinny jeans that we consume in the United States hails from all over the developing world — where workers often labor in deplorable conditions for unlivable wages.

Today, a mere 2 percent of clothing sold in the U.S. was made here — down sharply from 50 percent in 1990 and 90 percent in 1960.

These heartbreaking realities are a few of many highlighted in the teaser for The True Cost, a forthcoming documentary film about the environmental and human welfare costs of cheap fashion.

Director Andrew Morgan surpassed his $75,000 goal on Kickstarter earlier this month to make the full-length film, which he said will draw attention to the important issue of where that $10 pair of pants really comes from.

“Growing up, I was told this very simple story about where our clothes come from,” Morgan says in the film’s teaser. “I was told that they were made in faraway places by these ‘other’ people. And these people needed the work, and somewhere, someone was taking care of these people, so the best thing we could do was just keep buying more.

“There’s just one problem with this story,” he continues. “It’s not true.”

Following the collapse at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh earlier this year, which claimed the lives of 1,129 garment workers, the issue of fast fashion has seen some much-needed time in the spotlight. In fact, three of the four worst tragedies in apparel history took place in the past year, according to the film, proving that our efforts to ignore the true costs of cheap clothing doesn’t mean these costs will go away.

“We are looking at a slave trade — what is going to be regarded as a slave trade in the future,” author Lucy Siegle says in the teaser. “So, if we’re buying into it consistently — without any acknowledgement, without any trouble — I really think we have to ask ourselves what we’re doing.”

Through its recently launched Detox Campaign, Greenpeace is also seeking to expose the unsavory underbelly of the garment industry, focusing on its toxic impacts to the world’s waterways. In China alone, 320 million people are without access to clean drinking water, and Greenpeace research in Indonesia revealed that a textile facility was releasing a cocktail of hazardous chemicals straight into the local water supply.

Despite these alarming facts, the makers of The True Cost say that increased awareness and harnessing global purchasing power can spur change.

“Whether you are a consumer or a designer … you’re still a citizen,” Livia Firth, creative director for sustainable brand consultancy firm Eco-Age, says in the teaser. “So, each one of us has the power to do something.”

Watch the full teaser below, and keep an eye out for the film next year.

Feature image courtesy of Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

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Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.
Mary Mazzoni