When it comes to the clothing we wear it's not just fashion we are looking for, it's just fashion.
I watched the The True Cost for the second time this weekend and honestly feel like I should have it playing on repeat. In fact, we all should! Educating ourselves around the injustices in the fashion industry is great way to ignite action. It allows us to connect with issues that otherwise feel so distant. The sooner we learn the true cost of fashion, the better.
The more I learn the more I am reminded of my purpose in fashion, to question the way things are being done and create a better way forward. In watching this documentary for the first time, I was so angered that we allow injustices to erode our communities and environment. We need to stay connected to these raw emotions, stay energized, and call for justice because when it comes to the clothing we wear it's not just fashion we are looking for, it's just fashion.
Where is the accountability?
The fashion industry is wreaking havoc on our planet. The social and environmental devastation is the direct cause of cracks in the moral fibers of an industry. The lack of accountability in the supply chain has allowed these cracks to expand unnoticed for so long creating a rush of problems and injustices. It's gone on for so long that we are knees deep in a system that operates with complete disregard of the environmental and human rights. We are now faced with the task of swimming up stream in order to right the wrongs of fashion's bad practices that have been festering for years and it's not going to be easy.
The social and environmental devastation is the direct cause of cracks in the moral fiber of an industry.
The lack of accountability for brands is incredibly devastating. The standard is for major retailers is to claim to be unknowing of any issues. We actually see this play out in the documentary. They refer to the verbiage in their contracts and codes of conduct while in the shadows lobbying to prevent labor laws and chemical regulations from being passed. The truth is that implementing these laws would improve so many lives however it would also decrease the company's profit margin which is why we don't see change happening fast enough. Just look at the protests that took place in Cambodia. Their government is in cahoots with the fashion giants because their economy relies on the fashion industry. This documentary, The True Cost, goes into more details and it is worth watching to fully understand.
The harmful impact of toxic chemicals used at dye houses goes far beyond the people who are in direct contact with them. The excess dyes and chemicals are released into water ways used for drinking, bathing, and even agriculture. Toxic waste has caused an extreme health crisis among the people and environment. Looking at these places you find higher rates of disease including metal toxicity. This documentary looks at the communities that have been impacted by the desire for fast fashion. There are interviews with families who have young children that are suffering from preventable diseases. And for what? Cheap clothing in the west? So again this documentary raises the question, where is the accountability? And more importantly, why do we buy into this?
Let's face it, international fashion giants are not focused on ethics and basic human rights. We saw proof of this in the documentary, in the crumbling of Rana Plaza, and the protests in Cambodia. These companies are all about the bottom line. They squeeze their manufacturers to undercut the competition for higher profit margins. It's no wonder factories are crumbling, workers are exploited, and the planet is ignored. When the number one goal of a business is increasing profit there is no incentive to be ethical, no incentive to prioritize the environment, and no incentive to prioritize workers. And so we see, basic human rights ignored and an environmental crisis.
In The True Cost they followed a woman who lead a union to demand rights for workers. She explains how their opinions were suppressed and the consequences they faced of speaking up. These women were locked in their workplace and beaten for demanding basic human rights, living wage, safe working conditions. Again, this is the reason fast fashion can exist and it's not a story most of us want to be connected to. The question is, how long will we let it continue?
It's up to us to demand change
As the credits ran at the end of the film, I felt a strong sense of urgency, awareness and motivation to change the fashion industry.
As unfortunate as it is, being reminded of the issues, through news and documentaries helps us stay connected to the people experiencing injustices in their daily lives and to the environment in places around the world that are being poisoned by toxic waste and lack of accountability. Having a connection creates motivation to continue improving the way fashion is made, our business mindset, and consumption habits.
It is completely devastating to see the truths of how the fashion industry operates and the true cost of fast fashion. This should make us angry. It should bring us to action. These are human lives and our planet that are at stake. Let's not let these emotions and sense of urgency be fleeting. It's up to us to realize the power of our influence to create change.