The True Cost behind Fashion

In December, AfG's Associate Board hosted a successful event called Good Views: The True Cost. We showed the groundbreaking documentary film, The True Cost, that provides a look into the untold stories of the fashion industry and asks people to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing? 

We recently invited a few members of the Allowance for Good community to reflect back on the event and the lessons they took away from the documentary. We'd like to extend our thanks to Associate Board members, Erica and Megan, and AfG youth, Ross, for sharing their experiences and thoughts.

What were your initial reactions after seeing The True Cost?

Megan Bowen, AfG Associate Board member After seeing The True Cost, I think my initial reactions were similar to many of the other individuals in the room. The movie was devastating. It is difficult to understand how our habits in the US, something as small as going shopping for clothing, can have such a global impact. The movie definitely opened our eyes to the consequences of discount clothing shopping.

Ross, AfG youth It was incredibly thought provoking, making me put my own shopping habits into perspective and consider the rest of the world. However, I knew that I was still imprisoned in the grasp of consumerism. Another 20% off coupon or promotion for a $3 t-shirt and I’d be perpetuating the toxic cycle that is the garment industry. What would solve this? More accessible world-conscious clothing, less expensive world-conscious clothing, and a more constant stream of awareness regarding the wrong-doings of big fashion. In the internet world we live in, important things can easily be swept away in the deluge of cat videos and list articles. 

Erica, AfG Associate Board Co-Founder and memberThe True Cost was one of the most eye-opening documentaries I’ve seen in a long time because it forced me to confront the part I play in the fast fashion industry. Before the event, I was blissfully unaware of how my shopping habits were contributing to the devastation and exploitation of communities across the globe. The True Cost changed everything. First, I was shocked to learn of the damaging effects of donated clothing. I always feel proud when I take my clothes to Salvation Army or Goodwill, thinking that I am helping the environment by recycling, as well whoever shops at the discounted stores. I was appalled to learn that those clothes either end up in landfills or overseas where they cripple local economies. Second, I learned that companies claiming to be sustainable – companies that I regularly shop with – are fooling their consumers. It doesn’t matter how sincere they are with their efforts to go green; fast fashion companies’ mass production will never align with sustainable, eco-friendly practices.  These are lessons that good intentions are not enough. As global citizens, we are obligated to learn about and respect the interconnectedness of our world. Buying socially conscious clothing is a change we all can make that will exponentially improve the world we share.

How did the movie build your awareness moving forward?

Ross While it really did make me think, I was right in my presumption that a lasting effect wouldn’t come from one showing. But I’m going to do more research. Look for the more world-conscious retailers. Find out how I CAN help. Because it’s a cause that matters. I am in the direct path of a tidal wave of data every day, and it takes a lot to hold on to the bits that matter. This is why the world needs more organizations like AfG. To pull out the crucial stories and causes, showing them to people and making a difference. One person can never catch all the honest pleas for action that fly by in a day, and Allowance for Good makes more of those pleas heard.

Did your experiences affect your thoughts around shopping or your purchasing habits?

Megan I think I am trying my best to be more aware of the products I purchase and where they were manufactured. If every person that watched The True Cost avoids just one store that was mentioned in the movie, I think I would call our event a success. For me, I decided that I would not shop at Forever 21 anymore, and so far, that has been a success.  

Erica Since watching The True Cost, I have made changes to where I buy clothes, how often I shop, and how I donate and recycle old clothes. It was surprisingly difficult to find a program that handles donated clothes responsibly, though it seems that donating to local thrift shops or directly to women’s homes and churches are the best choices. My biggest take away from The True Cost is that I can afford to shop better, but the world cannot afford fast fashion. 

Did you share or talk about what you learned with anyone else (perhaps someone who hadn't attended the event)?

Megan I did talk about it with friends and urged them to watch The True Cost. Though I found it difficult to put the movie’s events and stories into words that did it justice. 

Erica I recently shared what I learned with my mother, and she was incredibly concerned about her own shopping and donating habits. She hadn’t even seen the documentary, but just listening to me compelled her to change her ways. The conversation was proof that basic awareness is an easy first step to curbing our overconsumption.