The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire claimed 146 lives more than a century ago, but the horrors of the clothing and fashion industry are much more contemporary than we may think. Investigating “the impact of the global clothing industry on people and the planet” is the new documentary The True Cost, a Kickstarter funded project that has been heralded by CNN Money as “a sweeping, heartbreaking and damning survey of the clothing economy.”
Over 900 backers contributed $76,546 to help Director Andrew Morgan bring the film to life. With interviews and footage from around the world, The True Cost brings to light the overwhelming global impact of cheap labor and unsafe working conditions that have been hallmarks of the clothing industry for centuries.
In a director’s statement on the film’s website, Morgan explains the motivation behind his production: “I was getting my coffee one morning when I saw a photograph on the cover of a newspaper that instantly broke my heart. The image was of two boys walking past a giant wall of missing-persons signs. Picking it up, I read the story of the clothing factory collapse outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, taking the lives of more than 1,000 people and severely injuring thousands more. At the time of the collapse, the factory was making clothes for major western brands. I soon learned that this was not an isolated tragedy.”
Morgan notes that the vast majority of the millions of workers who slave away for less than a living wage are women, withstanding dangerous working conditions (as evidenced by the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh), long hours, and a multitude of health risks that come along with unclean environments. And while Americans (and consumers around the world) buy more and more clothes for less and less money, the ones paying the ultimate price are the oft-forgotten factory workers.
“One interviewee, a Bangladeshi factory worker named Shima Akhter, notes in the film, “I believe these clothes are produced by our blood. I want the [factory owners] to be aware and look out for us, so that no more mothers lose their kids like that.”
“The eyes of the world are opening, and I believe history is giving us this moment to choose a better path,” Morgan said. “I hope with all my heart that this film serves as a needed step in that progress.”
You can catch a screening of The True Cost at any of the locations and times listed here.