The True Cost



 “Clothes are your chosen skin and what we want to communicate about ourselves.” Orsola de Castro, Founder and Creative Director of Fashion Revolution - aka Queen of Upcycling.

The True Cost was one of the first documentaries I saw as I began my transition into a more sustainable lifestyle. I had never really given much thought to workers’ conditions, cotton farmers and the dumping of Western second hand clothes into Africa. But all of these eye-opening images have now been firmly planted in my head.

The True Cost describes the hasty way in which we buy and throw away clothing. Parts of the fashion industry has transformed from two to four collections, a year to fast fashion that now is having a new ‘collection’ every week in some shop chains. We also get a look into how fast fashion has increased demand on clothing materials. Indian farmers are shown spraying their cotton fields with pesticides while walking underneath this layer - literally showering themselves with poison. You also see the conditions of the garment workers as they  work almost 24/7, all the while earning low wages and sometimes under extremely risky working conditions. Meanwhile, floods of people in the western world fight over products on Black Friday sales.

Film stills from  The True Cost

Film stills from The True Cost


Another shocking reality revealed in this documentary is that a huge amount of the clothing we donate to charity ends up in developing countries - disrupting g the country’s own local clothing industry Because of such a large amount of cheap, used clothing from western countries get dumped into these developing countries, their prices crash too. Only around 10 % of the clothing that we donate to charity ends up being sold in a charity or second hand shop. The film ends with contrasting pictures of all those involved in the fashion production, from the sewers in India to the catwalk of New York . It asks us the question - are we ready to change this system?


By now I have seen the film at least 3 times. First by myself, a second time with my parents because I wanted them to see what I saw and the third time I watched it with a friend, who after seeing it more or less gave up shopping for a year. The film has not only impacted my way of thinking but has also influenced my shopping habits.I still donate my used clothes, but I have also become a member of a shared wardrobe called The Organic Club, where I have a membership and I can swap clothing with the other members.

Film still from  The True Cost

Film still from The True Cost

After seeing The True Cost I decided not to buy any newly made clothing. I would only buy secondhand and preloved clothing -  (except for underwear and socks!) If I really do need entirely new clothing, with the thoughts I’ve learned in the back of my mind, I now try to make shopping choices with minimal negative impacts on the environment and society. I have made up a rule for myself that I try only to buy new clothing made of recycled or organic materials or those that have been ethically made.


The film has open my eyes to something as simple as deciding what to wear and the consequences of my shopping habits. We can make a difference by being our own fashion crusaders! By learning of the true cost of our actions, we can be a little more mindful of our everyday choices. What are some things you can change ?



The movie can be viewed on Netflix or through the documentary’s website You can also learn more about the topic on their Facebook page or their Instagram profile


edit by Welney Huang