The True Cost Documentary Review

The True Cost |
Documentary Film by Andrew Morgan

The True Cost Documentary Synopsis

Filmmaker Andrew Morgan travels around the globe to see the people who make clothes for the world’s fashion. This is a story about every side of clothing and the fashion industry. The film highlights the impact the fashion industry has on everyday lives, and the world in itself. While clothing prices drop, the environmental and humanitarian effects increase. This film brings you to look at fashion in a new light, and has you question what goes on behind the scenes. 

The film includes interviews with Stella McCartney, Livia Firth, Safia Minney and Vandana Shiva, and features scenes varying from the village slums, to the bright runaways, to the factories where the clothes are made. See the different perspectives stemming from the clothing industry and the lives of those behind your clothes. 


Andrew Morgan began his journey after the 2013 collapse of the Dhaka garment factory in Bangladesh. After the death of 1,134 people, it was brought to attention that prior to the collapse of the building, the workers had filed complaints about the unstable building. It was clear that the building was full of cracks and was overall an unsafe environment. This led Morgan to investigate further and ask questions about why the workers were forced to work in such unreliable conditions. 

The documentary began by showing a timeline of fashion in the past. We learn that in the 1960’s, American made 95% of their clothing, while today we make less than 3%. Rather than having only 4 clothing seasons, it gradually became 52. New styles were being released every week. The constant production of new clothing encourages customers to throw out “unseasonal” clothing and constantly purchase more. The clothing becomes increasingly cheaper and cheaper, despite the fact that costs do not. Therefore, labor is also impacted by this cycle. 

Companies such as H&M and Forever 21 are at the forefront of cheap labor. They are not liable for the conditions in the factory, and they tend to go to countries who do not hold on to regulations. They participate in globalized production. Globalized production means that all of the making of goods has been outsourced to low-cost economies, particularly where wages are very low and kept low. This means that those companies at the top of the value chain get to choose where the products are being made. So if one factory says “We can’t make it that cheap anymore” then the brand will say “then we will not come to you anymore, we’re gonna switch to another place which is cheaper.” This how they pit manufacturers against one another and get the best prices. 

The film even zooms in on the living conditions of those who work in the factory, alone with working conditions. Long hours, no protection from toxic chemicals, and abuse are common in these areas. 

Even before clothing enters the factory, there is foul play at the start of production- in the cotton. Monsanto, the producer of pesticides and and genetically modified crops interrupt the natural procedures. Constant production rates in the factories require large amounts of cotton. Farmers must keep up with demand, and therefore they turn to the use of the genetically engineered seeds. These seeds need an exorbitant amount of pesticides, therefore causing the Earth to depend on the chemicals over time. Farmers go into so much debt due to the amount of pesticides needed to keep up with demand, that they are pushed to suicide. Over 250,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide due to the debt from the purchase of the seeds and agrochemicals. Additionally, the pesticides have proved to increase cancer/death rates and birth defects. 

The number of humanitarian issues caused by the fast fashion industry is enormous, and while it is an extremely important issue to discuss; the environmental impacts are also astonishing. 

The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. This is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago. As new clothing comes into our lives, we also discard it at a shocking pace. The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. That adds up to more than 11 million tons of textile waste from the U.S. alone. Historically, clothing has been something we have held onto for a long time, but with cheap clothing now abundantly available we are beginning to see the things we wear as disposable. (TRUE COST MOVIE.COM).

Going back to the use of cotton, nowadays, more than 90% of cotton used in the garment industry is genetically modified, using large amounts of chemicals and wasting water. Cotton production is now responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use. The usage of pesticides has terrible long term effects on the land it is used in and the surrounding flora and fauna. 

Finally, leather production. “Leather production is increasingly linked to a variety of environmental and human health hazards. The amount of feed, land, water and fossil fuels used to raise livestock for leather production come at a huge cost to the health of our world. In addition to raising the livestock needed, the leather tanning process is among the most toxic in all of the fashion supply chain. Workers are exposed to harmful chemicals on the job, while the waste generated pollutes natural water sources leading to increased disease for surrounding areas. Studies have found that leather tannery workers are at a far greater risk of cancer, by between 20% – 50%.” (TRUE COST MOVIE.COM). 

It is important to open our eyes and see the bigger picture. The fashion industry is full of many unexpressed layers, and this documentary highlighted each part of it with immense detail. 

Disposable Clothing: Interview With Livia Firth

Livia Firth is the Creative Director of Eco-Age and founder of the Green Carpet Challenge. Livia is also an Executive Producer on The True Cost.

Cotton: Interview With Larhea Pepper

LaRhea Pepper is a cotton farmer from Lubbock, Texas. She grew up farming and is a key advocate for the importance of organic farming, working to inspire and equip people to accelerate sustainable practices in textile supply chains. Her personal story is a profoundly powerful one and has impacted her passionate involvement in the field, including participating in a lawsuit against Monsanto, the agrochemical corporation.

Marci Zaroff (Eco-Fashion Pioneer) talks about cotton

Leather: Interview With Stella McCartney

Fashion designer who does not use leather. 

Visit The True Cost for more information.

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