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‘The True Cost’ Investigates High Price of Fashion Bargains

New York Times |  By Jeanette Catsoulis | May, 27 2015 |  Share  | Source Article

A distressing overview of the consequences of our addiction to fast fashion, “The True Cost” might suggest another exposé of corporate greed versus environmental well-being. That is certainly in evidence, but under the gentle, humane investigations of its director, Andrew Morgan, what emerges most strongly is a portrait of exploitation that ought to make us more nauseated than elated over those $20 jeans.

  To learn who is paying for our bargains, Mr. Morgan dives to the bottom of the supply chain, to the garment factories of Cambodia and Bangladesh and the cotton fields of India, where he links ecological and health calamities to zealous pesticide use. Garment workers subsisting on less than $3 a day recount beatings by bosses who resent unionization and requests for higher wages. At the same time, a factory owner in Bangladesh — where the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building caused more than 1,000 deaths — tells us candidly that when retailers squeeze him, he must squeeze his employees.

“There are a lot of worse things they could be doing,” a former sourcing manager for the fashion brand Joe Fresh says about these unfortunates, echoing an all-too-familiar justification. A visit to Haiti, however, where millions of tons of our castoff clothing have clogged landfills and destroyed the local clothing industry, makes us wonder how much worse these people’s lives could become.

Offering few solutions beyond a single fair-trade fashion company — whose serene interludes compete with sickening recordings of Black Friday shopping riots and so-called clothing haul videos — “The True Cost” stirs and saddens. Not least because it’s unlikely to reach the young consumers most in need of its revelations.