Review: The True Cost, the documentary that unmasks the fashion industry

23 year old Bangali Girl  copy

Three words aptly describe this contribution to understanding the world of fashion: powerful, heartbreaking and educational.

The latest documentary on the fashion industry, presented by Good on You and The Salvation Army at Sydney’s Chauvel Cinema in July, shocked the audience with behind the scenes views of “fast-fashion”.

Directed by Andrew Morgan and produced by Michael Ross, The True Cost reveals how our clothes are made around the world. It explains the economic impacts on the countries where they are made and the appalling mental and physical cost it involves.

It’s no surprise that learning the untold story behind the latest trends makes us wonder who really pays the price for our clothing. The True Cost shows processes in China, Bangladesh and Cambodia with field interviews from top to bottom of the production chain that explore how “fast-fashion” has changed the clothing industry in recent years.

The True Cost DocumentaryThe documentary is beautifully filmed and features many interesting stories, some heartbreaking like the tale of a 23-year-old woman in Bangladesh who works in a garment factory. The woman fought for better working conditions to secure a better future for her daughter, who she rarely sees, but not only did her conditions not improve, she was beaten for daring to ask. There is also the shocking story of Cambodian garment workers who campaigned for a minimum wage of $160 a month but were killed by local police during the protest.

But all is not dark in the fashion industry. Safia Minney, CEO of fair trade brand People Tree, shows that brands can combine fair work and fashion. She wants to give women in Bangladesh the opportunity to earn a decent wage for doing decent work. These countries can use the opportunity to grow from the fashion industry but only if their work is rewarded with a fair wage.

Overall, the documentary provides a chance to learn about this industry and encourages developed countries to be more conscious about the ethics of clothing. For example, it reveals how cotton is made with GMOs, which insures greater production but at a sad cost to farmer’s health. Many die as a result, not only farmers in the USA but also handicapped children in India. We come to understand that organic cotton should be the norm, for the sake of both  humans and the environment.

With so many ideas and questions raised, it was great to welcome a panel of experts on the subject after the screening. The documentary was overwhelming but the discussion helped the audience to digest the information. The first question asked was, “what price do we have to pay to make sure we are buying ethical clothes?”

Catherine Van Der Meulen, director of THiNK Business Services and a conscious shopper, urged a slow down of fast-fashion and a change of consumerism.

Van Der Meulen also gave some tips on how to shop more responsibly – supported by Bethany Noble, communications and marketing Director at Good On You. “Do your research before shopping. Try to shop Australian made and buy organic cotton; set your criteria and never do impulsive shopping.”

Following these tips makes for a good start to shaping a better, more ethical, fashion world.


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