Why everyone should watch “The True Cost”

Anagnorisis is the moment when a character in a play or artistic work makes a critical discovery. This would be the equivalent of a turning point or more colloquially, an “ah-ha moment”. I experienced one such moment at the end of the last term as I sat in room A61 of the Clive Granger Building. It occurred whilst tears streamed down my face as I watched a movie, The True Cost that was being screened by the on-campus Human Rights Film Series.

The True Cost is a film about fashion, but unlike films that chronicle the glamorous world of high fashion and its stars, this documentary’s camera lens focuses on the darker side of fashion. It tells the stories of the literal “victims of fashion” – sweatshop workers, cotton farmers, tannery workers, villagers in developing countries, consumers and mother earth. Some themes the film addresses include: human rights, consumerism, capitalism and the environment. Having always been fascinated by the human psychology behind fashion, I was familiar with much of the content that was shared by the film in relation to the first three themes above. What I did not expect was to hold such mistaken views about the last theme – the environment.

In my case, these erroneous perceptions stemmed from my flawed understanding of the relationship between fashion and the environment. I am a lover of fashion. Amongst other things, I love the way clothes empower me, I love the way I can create art with my clothes and I love the way others become storytellers with their clothes. I am also a lover of the natural world. My first TV idol was the magnificent Sir David Attenborough and while I can list the names of different species of primates, I do not know even one of the Teletubbies’ names.

Holding these two interests is seemingly contradictory. Yet in the past, I had never struggled with reconciling these two passions, as in my mind, they were completely independent of each other. When I researched the effects of fracking or offshore oil drilling, I drew no connections between these forms of energy production to the massive amounts of energy consumption required in textile production. In Sixth Form, I learnt about Monsanto’s seed monopoly and how their policies drove farmers in India into bankruptcy and even suicide. Throughout the entire class, cotton farmers did not even cross my mind as a class of potential victims.

“The True Cost challenges behaviour, provokes reflection and hopefully, materialises change”

Upon watching The True Cost, I realised how mistaken I was in believing these two ideas generally co-exist in our modern world. The movie exposed some of the severe misfortunes of those having to bear the immediate brunt of the fashion industry that (at least in my mind) passed unrealised. What I was most struck by was the amount of influence the fashion industry has in the world. Resultantly, even those who hold considerable influence within the fashion industry itself, find it quite impossible to identify all the areas of the environment that are somehow negatively affected by this colossal industry. Subsequently, this leads to the unsurprising inability to prevent or reduce the unaccounted environmental costs the industry incurs. But there is light at the end of the tunnel: this inability has begun and can continue to be minimised if greater awareness of the existence of such problems is spread and flawed perceptions, such as mine, are rectified.

Therefore, I cannot stress how highly I recommend watching this film. The True Cost challenges behaviour, provokes reflection and hopefully, materialises change. I believe everyone who watches it, will leave the screening with some of his or her previously held beliefs uprooted. Simply increasing one’s awareness may seem an infinitesimal step in improving the workings of the fashion industry. Yet, each step cumulates towards the ultimate goal of a more conscious, sustainable and accountable industry, by sparking positive change.

The True Cost is being screened on 4th February at Broadway Cinema, Nottingham. More details can be found here.

Alternatively, the film can be purchased or rented on various online platforms. More details can be found on their website.

Claire Elizabeth Seah

Image Credits: youtube/TheTrueCost, Untold Creative


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