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The True Cost of the Fashion Industry

Posted by Alex Sollman on



Have you ever wondered where your clothing comes from? Well recently I watched the documentary The True Cost and it has opened my eyes to whom actually makes our clothing. Most of the time when we are in stores and malls we do not think about the people who actually are making our clothing and this documentary gives insight on just that.

As a culture we are very materialistic, we want the latest and greatest but for a reasonable price. While I am guilty of this too in The True Cost it was stated that many studies have been run and have proven that the more things we have the more depressed and anxious we are as people. We have all heard that money can’t buy you happiness, but in our society today, and through fast fashion that is what the fashion industry is trying to convince you of, the more you buy the happier you will be. WRONG. The fashion industry has recently made clothing so disposable, they want you to feel as though you are out of style, so you will come in and buy new clothes. Did you know that only 10% of the clothing donated to charity shops actually end up in the store? I thought that was a shocking statistic from the documentary. We think we are recycling clothing and giving it a second chance for life but in reality we are wasting these materials.

Would you have guessed that the fashion industry is the #2 most polluting industry in the world, only behind the oil industry? I guess I have never really thought about it but it makes sense. In The True Cost it interviews some of the individuals living near the factories in India about pollution, they statethat the water has been polluted by chromium from the fashion industry, and that it is causing liver failure and jaundice to those who are drinking, and bathing in this water source. Something else I haven’t really given much thought to is where cotton comes from. Farmers are trying to produce large amounts of cotton in the quickest, easiest way and in most cases this means through pesticides, and fertilizers. These are having adverse effects on those working for the farmers. In Punjab, India the chemicals put on the cotton is causing birth defects, cancer, and even mental health issues. While I have seen the words “organic cotton” on clothing tags I have not ever really given it much thought what that means. I honestlyjust thought it was some new, hip trend, but now it is starting to make sense. Many of us enjoy purchasing organic and natural foods to keep our bodies healthy, but have you thought that your skin is the largest human organ, and maybe putting hundreds of thousands of chemicals on your body would have an unfavorable effect on you? The True Cost has opened my eyes to this dilemma.


My last takeaway from the documentary, and maybe the most tragic is the treatment of the workers who are making clothing for the fast fashion industry. The film mainly focused on Shima a 23-year-old single mother from Bangladesh. She is trying to support her family by making $3.00 a day working in a factory. Shima mentions that she has no other place to take her child when she is at work so she must bring him with her. This means that her child is being exposed to many chemicals that are not safe. The most shocking part of the whole film I would have to say would be when Shima talks about forming a union. She mentions that from that she founded a union for the factory workers, and in one instance they demanded changes the managers of the factory locked the doors, attacked the workers, and bashed their heads into the walls. This sounds like a horror movie, but can you believe that most of us, including myself, are actually supporting this because we buy the clothing from the stores who are causing this behavior. If we stand up to the fashion industry they will have to change, because without us, the consumers, the fashion industry is non-existent.


I highly recommend you take the time to watch The True Cost and maybe it will open your eyes, and broaden your perspectives on the fashion industry. This is why at Liz Alig we strive to make a change. Will you?