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An LA Filmmaker's New Doc Unveils The True Cost of Buying Fast Fashion

The True Cost/Facebook
The True Cost/Facebook

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About two years back, we introduced LA filmmaker Andrew Morgan and his Kickstarter campaign to reveal the real price tag of super-cheap style. His then-in-the-works documentary, The True Cost, aimed to uncover the damage of fast fashion and offer "a hope-filled prospect of choosing a different future."

As expected, it's all pretty heavy: the film takes viewers from the runways to the tragic Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, and socially-conscious designers like Stella McCartney and Eileen Fisher weigh in on the subject. Available for pre-order right now, the doc officially lands online and in theaters tomorrow.

We sat down with Morgan (who's already made a fan out of Tom Ford) to find the moment that inspired him to take action, which brands are doing it right, and more. Check out the two-and-a-half-minute trailer and read on below, and catch the film at the Laemmle in Beverly Hills, where it'll be screening tomorrow through Thursday, June 14th.

A NYT photo began your internal conversation about the true cost of fast fashion. Was there another specific moment that really got the ball rolling on making the film?

There was just something about that photo that moved me in a way I have never experienced before. It made me curious to understand the story behind my clothes and by the time I had finished the article that morning, that curiosity is what made this a film that I felt like I had to make.

What was the most powerful moment that you experienced when making the documentary?

The second trip to Bangladesh when we followed Shima (a garment factory worker) home where she was leaving her daughter to be raised by friends and relatives. It completely broke my heart. Exploitation and extreme poverty are ideas that I understood in theory, but in reality they are painfully personal to the people involved.

<a href="" target="_blank">The True Cost</a>/Facebook

The True Cost/Facebook

From what you've learned through making the documentary, which fashion brands are the biggest offenders?

Beyond just one brand, it became increasingly clear to me that the model of fast fashion itself is doing serious damage. The low quality is leading to huge waste, the low price point leads to pushing down labor costs and the volume is leading to use of natural resources that is fundamentally unsustainable. Making and marketing clothing as a disposable good comes at a profound cost.

What fast fashion fact do you think viewers will be most surprised to know?

We now consume 400% more clothing than we did just two decades ago, leading this to now be the number two most polluting industry on earth. Second only to oil.

Which companies/designers do you think are really doing it right?

I have been so inspired by companies who are really approaching this in a thoughtfully way. It's great to see more companies move in a very intentional direction to make improvements and admit where they have missed the mark. Some of those brands include Patagonia, People Tree, Eileen Fisher, Krochet Kids, Stella McCartney, Nisolo, and Everlane. I also really like some of the new curated platforms like Zady.


Everlane's spring collection as seen at the brand's Transparent LA event earlier this year.

Before making the film, where did you used to shop?

Almost anywhere, mostly from the large fast fashion brands. I never thought twice about anything other than the style or a good deal.

Now, where are a few of your favorite places to shop in LA (or online) for ethically-made goods?

Over the past two years I have been buying only second hand. I wanted to slow down and it was a way for me to become more intentional with what I bought. Buffalo Exchange has been a great place here in LA. I've also really been inspired by the work at Apolis and hope to invest in a piece from their team soon.

What are the simplest things people can do to ensure they're buying ethically-made/sustainable clothing?

I think a great place to start is by slowing down the consumption of cheap stuff and choosing instead to invest in pieces that you love and will wear for a long time. Once that shift begins you will naturally find yourself asking more questions and that curiosity will lead you to good place.