A few weeks ago I finally got around to watching The True Cost when I was sick in bed with a bad cold. I had been meaning to watch it since it came out and a sick day seemed like the perfect opportunity. It’s impossible to not feel compelled to rethink your wardrobe after watching the movie so I wanted to share some thoughts on it with you all today!
When I first heard this movie was coming out, my interest was instantly piqued. These past few months, I’ve really been making an effort to educate myself on more topics such as ethical fashion and transparency. Fashion Revolution Day is what initially sparked my curiosity in retail transparency because the movement centered on asking ourselves, “Who Made Your Clothes?” Since then, I had done a bit of digging in order to find out more about the production practices of mainstream retailers like Forever 21, H&M, Urban Outfitters, and Brandy Melville. However, I could not find any recent or trustworthy information! I couldn’t believe that out of all of the information on the internet there was little to no information on where these retailers produced their clothes and what the factory conditions were like. Of course that made me wonder, what do they have to hide? Brands like Threads For Thought are extremely open about their labor practices and even have short films showing the inside of the factory and how they help better the lives of their workers. I felt like we should have access to that information for every brand, as buyers we have the right to know.
Enter The True Cost… I was eager to learn more about where fast fashion retailers source their labor and how they keep their prices so low. During the film, I learned that the leading country for manufacturing for fast fashion is Bangladesh where cheap labor is abundant and good working conditions are scarce. In Bangladesh, the average factory worker earns less than $3 per day producing garments in a run-down factory. I couldn’t fathom that amount of money per one day, yet somehow the workers manage to live off of that. The factory wages and conditions stay the same because if the factory tries to increase their prices, then the US retailers will take their business elsewhere to a factory that will provide cheaper labor. It’s a vicious cycle that results in the despair of many who are involved in the production of our garments. It’s a harsh truth to face and by the end of the film all that’s left to wonder is what can I do?
That’s where I ran into a problem with The True Cost. I think they did an amazing job of exposing the hidden secrets behind fast fashion but offered little solution on how to remedy this massive problem with the fashion industry. The main suggestion was that we need to confront the system because it’s our consumeristic society and government to fault. The problem is that your average viewer won’t have the means to do that. I was left to my own devices to come up with ways to help you guys make the most of this very informative documentary.
Here are a few easy and simple suggestions on how you can make a difference with your wardrobe! I’ve also included a list of ethical brands that offer many if not all cruelty-free products.
1. Vote With Your Dollar: This was one major point I feel like The True Cost missed. I am a firm believer in voting with your dollar. Your money can make an impact so choose to spend it on fair trade, ethical brands who are transparent and upfront about their business practices. Do a little research before buying and be certain that your are purchasing from a retailer whose business practices you can support.
2. Balance Your Wardrobe: You don’t have to get rid of all your clothing overnight to become an ethical shopper. The best way to get started with ethical and/or sustainable shopping is to take it step by step. Start off by finding an ethical piece you love, then maybe next month buy another. Keep slowly incorporating more and more into your wardrobe. I implemented this same practice when trying to make my vegan wardrobe eco-friendly and one year later over half of my wardrobe is now eco!
3. Be Realistic: Realize that it may simply not be practical for your lifestyle to shop ethically, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free 100% of the time. I know it’s not for mine and I have no shame in admitting that. I simply can’t afford to buy according to all three of those principles all of the time. Instead, I buy an eco-friendly piece here, and an ethical piece there. Sometimes you might luck out and find an entirely eco, ethical and vegan brand that is affordable (ex. Threads For Thought) and in that case rejoice! But be real with yourself and know it doesn’t make you an ignorant person for not being able to commit 100% to that kind of lifestyle. If you’re lucky enough to have a big shopping budget, then go for it! Don’t forget that the most affordable way to shop ethically is buying secondhand. You’re giving new life to a product and thus reducing consumption.
I’ve also put together a list of known ethical brands (that are vegan-friendly) so I hope this is helpful!
Threads For Thought (Men’s and Women’s Clothing)
Mata Traders (Women’s Clothing)
People Tree (Men’s and Women’s Clothing)
Stella McCartney (Women’s Clothing and Accessories)
Angela and Roi (Women’s Handbags)
Matt & Nat (Men’s and Women’s Accessories)
You can watch The True Cost on Netflix, Amazon or iTunes.
Did you see The True Cost? If so, what were your thoughts?