The True Cost


The True Cost is a harrowing documentary focused on the fashion industry’s social and environmental impacts. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. It features footage from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and includes interviews with the world’s leading influencers such as Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva. The True Cost invites us on an eye opening journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind our clothes.

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Approximately 80 billion new pieces of clothing are purchased around the world every year, 400% more than what we consumed 20 years ago. And we are discarding clothing at a just as shocking pace. The average UK household owns approximately £1,200 of clothing that has not been worn for at least a year, totally £30 billion in the UK alone. An estimated £100 million worth of used clothing also goes to landfill in the UK every year (WRAP). This is not good enough. It is not sustainable. It’s a waste of so many resources: materials, water, energy, human labour and money. Who needs so many clothes?

And what about the people that make your clothes? Yes, there are few alternatives for workers in developing countries like Bangladesh. But why do we in developed countries feel we can exploit them when we don’t need to? The True Cost reveals devastating impacts of the fast fashion industry from the poor working conditions resulting in factory collapse and fires, to the health impact of using chemicals in cotton farming. The fashion industry is worth $3 trillion. Global brands can afford to support their workers with a safe workplace and a fair wage. They can afford to provide them with basic human rights.


So what can we do about it?

Lucy Siegle, the Executive Producer of The True Cost, gives her top 5 tips for shopping smarter:


1. How often will you wear it?

The rapid turnover of trends characterizing Fast Fashion means clothes are disposable. Along with the deflation of clothing prices, this has put the supply chain under unprecedented pressure leading directly to outrages like Rana Plaza (where over 1000 died).  Just asking yourself if you will wear a prospective item 30 times is a great place to start shopping smarter and more intentional.

2. Break the cycle

The traditional spring/summer autumn/winter of international fashion weeks is just for show. Many fast fashion brands have introduced 50-100 new micro seasons a year to shift more product. You do not need something new every week. Studies actually show an increase in materialistic value causes an increase in depression and anxiety. So slow down. Shop carefully and consciously opting for timeless, classic, high-quality pieces you will wear over and over again.

3. Spread your fashion spend

The global fashion industry is worth $3 trillion. Shouldn’t this be shared? Why should those at the top end of the company be able to acquire such enormous profits while allowing their workers to suffer and carelessly harming the environment. Look for producer centric brands like People Tree run to rigorous Fair Trade standards with longstanding producer groups who get a fair share of the profits.

4. Detox your wardrobe

Fashion is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil. Notably, Azodyes are still the most used synthetic dyes despite being toxic. 10% of the world’s biggest fashion brands have committed to phasing out toxic substances through Greenpeace’s Detox programme. Check the list here.

5. Join the Fashion Revolution

Be the change you want to see in your wardrobe (to paraphrase Gandhi). Fashion Revolution ( represents millions of consumers who want change and also commemorates Rana Plaza by putting pressure on the brands to increase transparency and empowers consumers to be inquisitive about #whomadetheirclothes.

So before you head to the post-Christmas sales this year, watch The True Cost.

2 replies on “The True Cost”

Hi Anna,

Of course! Read my post 2016: The Year of Conscious Consumption.

-Hugh’s war on waste
-The Devil Wears Primark
-Cowspiracy (animal agriculture but similar)

-To Die For by Lucy Siegle
-A practical guide to sustainable fashion (great if you want to know how brands can actually improve their environmental and social impact- like a student handbook)
-A Responsible Company (about Patagonia)
-Wear No Evil & Stitched Up (I haven’t started reading these yet but have been recommended it)

Hope that helps!!

Zara x


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