If we’ve met or if you’ve ever seen a list of links on this blog then you might realize that I like clothing and I really like shopping. It’s therapeutic and fun and I honestly don’t need to buy something to feel the thrill of shopping around. I suppose it’s the gatherer in me, this desire to see what’s out there and available.
The other day I watched the latest exposé documentary about the fashion industry and it’s well-publicized cruelty to sweatshop workers and their families. It was heartbreaking and upsetting to say the least, and much like Food Inc and Blackfish, it’s made me re-examine my own thoughts and practices.
The True Cost, like it’s predecessors and contemporaries, relies on a shock-and-awe approach that can be heavy-handed. Indeed, in this film the scenes and first-hand accounts of horrors come one after another with barely a breather in between. It’s a lot to digest. And this can be a bit of a turn-off, but overall I thought director and narrator Andrew Morgan did a thorough job of suggesting the true cost of buying into fast fashion trends and companies is so large and vast that we cannot fully comprehend the damage we are doing to one another, the environment, the economy and so on. There’s a montage toward the end on the juxtaposition between Black Friday insanity and over-stuffed, over-crowded sweatshops that is truly chilling. I’d recommend watching the documentary and making your own conclusions.
I’m not suggesting that I stop shopping or suddenly purge my wardrobe of fast fashion offenders such as Zara and H&M, but I do think it’s always a good idea to re-evaluate habits and impulses. Do I really need something or do I have a case of The Wants? How many times will I wear or use an item? How does it fit in with the rest of my clothing? Where was it made? How was it made? Will it fall apart, or become a special piece?
The film also explores what happens to clothing that we donate or give away, citing that only 10% of those items are actually sold in charity shops and the rest are shipped overseas to third world or impoverished nations like Haiti. These countries, overwhelmed with Western-style clothing, have since lost some of their own traditionally sewing and weaving skills since they are no longer needed as much. Does my well-intentioned donation thus lead to the decline of a culture?
I can see how this logic can spiral out of hand and lead to a paralysis that resists change or introspection. It’s all very daunting. This desire to create and effect change feels akin to New Year’s resolutions: ideas that are so big that they are quickly abandoned in favor of old habits and relative ease. But, for now, it feels compulsory to at least examine my own impulses and see how I can make better decisions for myself, and hopefully, indirectly, others.
Here’s the trailer for The True Cost if you’re interested. I watched it on Netflix but you can find it through a lot of other venues as well.
(striped t-shirt image via)