If you love to shop, or really, if you’ve ever bought clothing for yourself (I’m guessing you have), WATCH THIS DOCUMENTARY. True Cost Movie is currently available on Netflix.
As someone who has spent over 50% of their career in stores this documentary really struck a chord. It made me think about the woman who I saw buy 52 pairs of flip-flops at Old Navy the other day because they were on sale for $1. FIFTY TWO PAIRS OF FLIP-FLOPS. I’m not pointing my finger, this is just an example of how easy and cheap it is to buy massive quantities of something we may never use. I get it, we all want more money in our pocket. We want 3 items for the price of 1 because that’s a great deal. We’re winning with more stuff and more money. Unfortunately, just like everything else in this world, when it’s too good to be true, then it’s actually too good to be true. Someone is suffering and it isn’t your credit card.
Trust me, I’m not perfect either. I often fall victim to whatever cute/on trend/affordable whateverness I see while I’m at Zara for work and make impulse purchases that I always later regret generally after the first wash when the item falls apart. I didn’t need it, and now it’s waste. I donate my clothes, but now I know from this documentary that there’s a small chance that someone else ends up wearing any of it. Instead, it ends up in a landfill next to my plastic water bottle. I’m not on a soapbox here. I understand the irony of the person who shops for their career and makes a good living at it, telling people who shop less and make less money to save their hard-earned cash to only buy things made locally from their crafty neighbors. It’s the same as people who can afford to live in San Francisco telling all of us to only eat organic. It’s a luxury to buy hand-crafted goods. They’re expensive and for good reason. A lot of heart and soul went into these products. They’re expensive because they took time and a lot of skill. But here’s the thing, so did the items that are on the sale rack at Zara and H&M. These companies don’t have machines that print out clothing. They’re made by real people who are extremely skilled, but will never be compensated for it.
Just like the green movement, consumers aren’t single-handedly going to change the clothing industry by boycotting these stores and only buying locally. It’s not realistic. This problem isn’t completely our fault. It’s confusing to be a consumer in today’s world. It’s too much work to know where every item we buy is coming from and at what cost. With that said, I think we all can reevaluate what we’re really buying when we’re standing in line at the checkout. When new clothes become cheaper than clothes at a thrift store, there’s a problem and it’s costing all of us more than we realize.
I wish there was a clear answer, but there’s not. If I were to take a stab at it, I would say that it is pretty clear that the system is corrupt and there needs to be more regulation overseas and we need to crack down on the companies in the U.S. who are supporting these factories by ordering from them. The government needs to crack down on this industry, and the executives of these brands needs to be held accountable. Everyone is passing the blame saying it’s not me, I didn’t know my garments were being made in such a horrible working environment, yet that doesn’t create change. There needs to be some accountability from everyone, including the consumer. I don’t want the factories to go away. These people need jobs, but they also need to be treated as humans, not slaves. The downfall of regulation is that our clothing will become more expensive if the workers start to make more money. But think of it this way, the clothes we put on our body are no different then the food we put in our body, we’re trading cost for our health and humanity. If we saw our neighbor burn to death in a factory fire, we’d want change. If we saw our farmer neighbor have a brain tumor from pesticides, we’d want change. I want change, I want to figure out how I can help, I want to make more conscious purchases, and I want to see change happen overseas. It’s overwhelming. Where do I even begin?!