The True Cost of Fashion

By Kathryn Clark, Contributor

How many times in the past year have you bought a new jacket, t-shirt, pair of pants or even a scarf? Many of us take advantage of back-to-school sales so we can look good for the first days of classes. But we tend to overlook where these clothes came from.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, EAG, senior sustainability science major Jordan Wolfe and biology professor Dr. John Quinn hosted a screening of “The True Cost” with a Skype call to the director of the film, Andrew Morgan. The documentary explores the total impact of the current fashion industry on a local and global scale.

The fashion industry was not even near the forefront of  Morgan’s thoughts before this documentary was filmed. In fact, it was not until the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building that he thought about where his clothes came from. Individuals such as an organic cotton farmer in Texas,  factory production managers,  economists,  and factory workers were interviewed to discuss the impacts of the current trends in the production of fashion.

“Fast fashion” is the term used to describe the existence of a fashion “season” for every occasion, compared to the traditional four seasons of a fashion year. This phenomenon has increased the pressure for large companies such as H&M, Forever 21 and many more to make more clothing for lower costs. Overseas factories are then pressured to produce at this rate, which leads to longer work hours and poorer working conditions.

In the cotton industry, the increase of production has made way for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that can repel insects. These GMO seeds and their supplemental pesticides, owned and sold by chemical research companies, have led to thousands of suicides by cotton farmers in India, as well as rendering thousands of people chronically sick and mentally handicapped, especially children.  

In an effort to decrease the environmental and health impact of cotton growing, Larhea Pepper, a farmer interviewed in the film, has been advocating the practice of organic cotton farming. This process not only helps farmers decrease their destruction of soil, but also limits the environmental impacts of pesticides and fertilizers.

While there are individuals and organizations that advocate for the betterment of the fashion industry, it is up to us, the fashion consumers, to really influence a positive change in the fashion industry. In his Skype interview, Morgan explained that he has put more effort into keeping his clothes for longer periods of time and repairing damaged clothes rather than throwing them out. He also noted that he only buys used clothes now, and when he does, he considers how much he really wants the article of clothing. Mr. Morgan encourages us to think about where our clothes really come from and to take a stand for a better fashion industry.

“The True Cost” is on Netflix and Amazon Prime to stream. To learn more, visit the documentary’s website at http://www.truecostmovie.com.

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