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The True Cost: Garment Factory Conditions Lead To New Film

Currently screening around the globe, The True Cost movie is a documentary about clothes, the people who make them, and the destructive impact the fashion industry is having on the world.

Produced locally in California, The True Cost film goes beyond the comforts of the American Dream, capturing the darkest textile-producing slums; hoping to pull back the curtain on inhumane work practices and the environmental atrocities linked to fashion manufacturing.

From the brightest runways to the darkest slums, the movie invites people to go on an eye opening journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind their clothes.

The True Cost is a first-of-its-kind documentary. It films the many untold stories that still play out in textile factories today, even after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, which killed over 1300 Bangladeshi workers.

Directed by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Andrew Morgan, the idea for the documentary came about when Morgan was going through his standard morning routine.

“I was getting my coffee when I saw a photograph on the cover of a newspaper that instantly broke my heart,” starts a recent blog post written by Morgan on his The True Cost website.

“The image was of two boys walking past a giant wall of missing-persons signs. Picking it up, I read the story of the clothing factory collapse outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh.”

Morgan goes on to say that growing up he, like most Americans, never gave much thought to where their clothes came from.

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“At the time of the collapse, the factory was making clothes for major western brands. I soon learned that this was not an isolated tragedy.”

As laid out in the film, fashion is the biggest labor-draining industry in the world. It employs millions of workers (mostly women) from the world’s poorest nations (Bangladesh and Cambodia) and despite the billion-dollar industry that fashion is, many workers are paid unliveable wages and continue to work in unsafe conditions.

A second incongruence portrayed in the documentary is fashion manufacturing’s destructive influence on the environment.

“Fashion is now the number two most polluting industry on earth – second only to oil,” explains Morgan on his blog.

Unlike most industries where increased outsourcing and product demand sees prices lift, the outrageous consumption of clothing – propeled by fast-fashion retailers – has contrastingly deflated garment costs, because the labor is even cheaper.

So, who pays the real price for cheap clothing? It’s a question that Morgan and his team have recorded devastatingly on camera. The most heart-wrenching aspect of the film is the stark comparison between the glitz of the high-fashion runways and the muddy, cramped surrounds of the Bangladeshi factories. One scene features a female seamstress working a machine while a malnourished baby lies exhausted on the ground next to his mother.

Wanting a big impact, Morgan has tapped a strong line-up to be involved in his movie. The film features interviews with eco-fashion influencers Stella McCartney, Livia Firth (the film’s executive producer) and Vandana Shiva. Meanwhile, the film’s May premiere in London attracted the likes of Amber Valletta, Tom Ford and Colin Firth.

Just as these celebrities and designers are today’s prominent voices for the fashion and entertainment arenas, Morgan hopes his film will serve as a change-agent mouthpiece, speaking loud on behalf of the mistreated factory workers. More than simply educate people, he want labels and consumers to respond.

“What kind of world will we create now that we are beginning to see the cost of our actions? In a time where our impact on people and the world is measured in real time, will we choose to create new systems to alleviate this pressure?” writes Morgan.

“For too long now, conversation around this topic has suffered from over-simplified blame games. Political and economic complexities have allowed us to miss what is unavoidably clear – that this is first and foremost a moral issue,” continues the director.

“There is consistent irresponsible care of the environment, and clear violations of the most basic human rights. But this is something we can and must change.”

The True Cost is screening globally at selected theaters now.

By Benjamin Fitzgerald

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