A couple of days ago I downloaded and watched the documentary movie - "The True Cost" about the fast fashion industry and its global environmental, economic and social effects.
Watching this movie with kids
The movie is around one and a half hours long and is quite a 'serious' documentary not a lighthearted one at all and so I wondered how my girls would go watching it. They are 10 and 12 years old and when I told them about the movie they both wanted to see it.
They watched the whole movie, although they did drift over to the kitchen to make themselves something to eat, and then sat back at the table drawing and colouring in for the latter part of the movie. I wasn't sure if they were paying attention or how much of it was over their heads, but at the end, my youngest showed me what she had been drawing during the movie. Here is it..
I was so impressed at how much she'd got out of the movie and that it had made her think about the whole story and process behind buying a simple item of clothing in the shops.
A Brief Synopsis of the movie
The movie has a mixture of statistics, industry background and personal stories. They tell about all aspects of the fashion industry, from cotton farming (pesticides used and genetic engineering), to factories and manufacturing (locations, working conditions and personal stories), to sales and marketing (advertising, store sales and general consumerism).
I have heard, read and seen much of the information before in various stories and documentaries but to see it all drawn together as a whole was fascinating. The personal stories were upsetting and the stories behind the industry itself were shocking.
Consumerism has changed the way we live massively from the constant push to have and buy more 'stuff', things we want rather than things we need. The fashion industry has grown enormously over the past 20 years. Everybody wears clothes of course and there are a lot of people in the world, but it has gone far beyond the clothes we need. How many of us have wardrobes full of clothes we never wear, or only wore once? The resulting effect of this is more and more wastage and worsening conditions for those workers who are at the bottom end of the chain, trying to make these endless clothes cheaper and cheaper for the consumers so they can afford to buy the newest latest fashions practically every week.
The fashion industry has become so huge that they are now one of the largest industrial polluters of our environment.
What can we do? What is the solution?
People aren't going to simply stop buying clothes, and I know myself that if I need and item of clothing, for example a t-shirt, it's hard to not just buy the one that costs $1 brand new, made in a third world country, rather than a more costly one made in our own home country, or even one from a charity shop which often costs more than the brand new ones anyway.
I admire those who can take things and do them to the extreme - zero waste, no plastic in their lives, buy no new clothes etc; they are a shining example of what can be done. However the vast majority of the population isn't going to do this, it will not happen on a large scale simply by making people aware of how and where their clothes are made in the hope that they will sacrifice their own desires and wants for a greater good.
What we can do is be more mindful and aware in how we live our lives.
My own personal response
The problem area that I feel most strongly about is the waste of all the clothes that are made and discarded. My own solution to the problem is to
'Use what we've got'
If people learned (or rather re-learned) to use the things we already have rather than constantly buying new things, there would be far less wastage in the world.
I try to be mindful of this attitude in all areas of my life, and use what we've got, repairing, recycling, upcycling and creating when we have needs and wants.
Since one of my stronger skills is sewing, upcycling clothes is something I have become passionate about. I don't necessarily refashion clothing into more clothes, I do repair and mend clothes that have holes, tears, lost buttons etc, but I don't make many new clothing items myself.
Instead I upcycle old clothes and scrap or unwanted fabrics into different things that can find a new lease of life as things like pencil cases, bags, soft toys etc.
"Be the change you want to see in the World" - Ghandi
This is my contribution to the global problem of excessive waste, in particular in the fashion industry. It is a small contribution, when looked at from the point of view that I am just one person, upcycling a tiny proportion of clothes in the world. But I try to share my knowledge, passion and skills to help inspire others to do similar things by sharing my journey here on my blog. I share sewing tutorials and ideas freely, and there is nothing better than hearing from my readers that they have made things themselves using my tutorials - especially those who have been inspired to upcycle, rather than throw out their old clothes. My two current projects are fundraising through upcycling clothes - for which I am creating a stall for my daughters' school carnival entirely from upcycled clothes items. The other project is 'Christmas Shouldn't Cost the Earth' - where I am finding ways to have all the excitement, presents, decorations and trimmings that go with this festive time of year, but in a way that is both budget and eco-friendly.
If I can create a small ripple effect, then hopefully that ripple will spread and help to grow the upcycle movement, moving us gradually away from our throw-away society and back to a more balanced and respectful way of life that is sustainable in the long term.
How you can watch this movie
If you're interested to see this movie for yourself - and I would definitely recommend it, you can find the download links on their website.
It costs about $10 to buy, or you can rent it for cheaper.
I'd never bought and downloaded a movie before, so that was a learning curve for me too. I tried through Amazon, but (I think) I couldn't buy it from there it because I'm not in the US. So I ended up creating an iTunes account (on my PC as I don't have an Apple or iPad) and buying it through that.
Have you seen or heard of this movie before? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it too!
This post is entirely my own opinion. I was not paid or rewarded in any way for promoting this video - it is just one that I enjoyed watching and would like to recommend to others on a personal level.