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The high cost of fast fashion

Andrew Morgan believes Americans should love their clothes — and also the impoverished women who make most of them.

The director of the new documentary “The True Cost” hopes it will make shoppers think about their fast fashion buying habits, all part of what Morgan says is a nearly $3 trillion industry.

“This topic lends itself to small choices people can make in their own life,” he said. “You’re more than a consumer. You’re a human being whose decisions are changing people’s lives.”

“The True Cost” premiered last month in New York and Los Angeles as well as on Amazon and iTunes. Monday, it expands to Netflix, earning a global audience that Morgan hopes will help shed light on the social injustices — unsafe factory conditions, low wages, environmental damage — connected to the inexpensive fashions at US retail chains and around the world.


The footage can be intense, and scenes range from distressing and stomach-churning to tragic and bloody. Morgan takes the audience to meet eco-fashion activist Livia Firth who, in an uncomfortable scene, holds an H&M executive’s feet to the fire during a panel discussion among the fashion elite in Copenhagen. He also introduces Shima, a garment worker in Bangladesh, who formed a union in her factory there, and struggles to raise her daughter on less than $3 a day.

“The idea is not guilting or shaming. It’s to tell the story of a human being,” he said. “(Fast fashion has) been predicated on an arrogant notion that you and I won’t care enough . . . I think people will care.”

Morgan, who “was shocked that this story hadn’t been told,” reported “The True Cost” from India, Texas, and Europe. But the heart of the story centers on Bangladesh and the devastating 2013 building collapse at Rana Plaza when more than 1,100 garment workers died.


Arif Jebtik, who owns a different factory there, tells the camera that big companies intent on keeping costs low lead a domino effect: “They’re hampering me and I’m hampering my workers.”

Then, he added: “Ignoring other people’s lives — it’s not right.”

Jill Radsken can be reached at jill.radsken@gmail.com.