The True Cost: a fashion documentary to make you think

— by Alyson Walsh

Olivia and Colin Firth, true cost47500

Livia Firth and guest

I was deeply moved by the London premiere of The True Cost, this week. And not just because Colin Firth was on the red carpet. This documentary about fast fashion and the appalling impact it has on both garment factory workers and the environment, is upsetting and, at times, difficult to watch. Directed by Andrew Morgan and with executive producers Livia Firth, creative director of Eco-Age, and the Observer’s ethical columnist Lucy Siegle. The film focuses on the people behind fashion. One amazing woman called Shima, a 23-year-old single mother from Bangladesh, explains how she can’t live with her daughter because she has to work, and she has to work to give her daughter a better future. Shima started a union for the workers but when the owners of the factory found out, they were all beaten and punished. In spite of this, she remains incredibly upbeat, though when Shima breaks down discussing the working conditions, and the Rana Plaza disaster, it’s unbearable to watch.

shima-the true cost

Shima: The True Cost

There’s a wonderful cotton farmer from Texas called LaRhea Pepper, an advocate for organic farming who talks of the affect of GM crops and pesticides on the environment, as well as her own personal story. LaRhea’s husband grew up on a ‘chemically intensive farm in south Texas’ and died of a brain tumour aged 50. There’s an interview with her on The True Cost website here.


LaRhea Pepper

I was also really impressed by Dr Vandana Shiva; a trained physicist, environmental activist and author, opposed to globalization and Genetically Modified crops, who spoke eloquently on ecological and social issues. There’s a feature about her in the New Yorker.

Dr Vandana Shiva delivering a talk at the Neka Museum in Ubud, Bali in August 2014

Dr Vandana Shiva

At the start of the film, there’s a revolting scene where some young haul vloggers show off all the cheap tat they’ve just bought. It’s grotesque when you think about it, this model based on conspicuous consumption. I’m very conscious of how much blogging has changed since I started That’s Not My Age, seven years ago. How it’s turned into a business and is all about monetising and selling product, now. Which is fine because blogging takes a lot of time and effort, so why shouldn’t people make some money/ a career out of it? Though personally, all I ever really wanted to do was to write about style.

When I was a kid, fashion was more hand-me-down than throw-away. We didn’t have the money or the inclination to shop incessantly. I know that sounds a bit rich coming from a fashion journalist whose job may seem to promote the constant purchase of new stuff, but I would always encourage shopping responsibly, and as I say in Style Forever, ‘Don’t buy shit clothes.’

We all know that fast fashion pushes prices down and that if you pay a couple of quid for a t-shirt, someone further down the supply chain is being exploited. So, in that respect, The True Cost may be preaching to the converted, but it’s a film worth seeing and hopefully one that will make us all think before we buy.


Thank you to Eileen Fisher for inviting me to the premiere. Read more about the movie and watch a trailer HERE.

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I was deeply moved by the London premiere of The True Cost, this week. And not just because Colin Firth was on the red carpet.