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Andrew Morgan On The True Cost Of Fast Fashion: The Ethical & Environmental Price of Clothing

By July 3, 2016January 26th, 2024No Comments

“We have the ability to be a part of the kind of world we want to have or to be part of the destruction that we say we’re against.”

Andrew Morgan

When I was a kid, shopping for new clothes was a treat. A special, infrequent occasion. Why? because even inexpensive garments challenged our middle-class family budget. By comparison, the mega-conglomerate retailers of today — Target, H&M, Gap, fill in the blank — allow the average, penny-pinching consumer to fill a closet for a $100 or less.

How and when did clothing become an essentially disposable product? What exactly is going on?

The answers to these questions will shock you.

Andrew Morgan is the young, talented filmmaker behind the beautiful and heartbreaking documentary The True Cost. Premiering at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, it’s a movie about the untold story of fashion. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the garment industry is having on the world we share.

The film centers around the human rights and environmental implications of fast fashion — a term used to describe the increasingly rapid pace at which fashion houses push new trends at deflated prices made possible by global market ascendency and the comprehensive export of almost all manufacturing to the developing world. As a result, designer lines and trends once seasonal now move from factory to store shelves in a matter of mere weeks at a fraction of historical prices.

It goes like this: prime the latent pump of consumer desire with hypnotic marketing campaigns featuring lithe models draped in the latest and greatist. Throw kerosene on the addictive must-have impulse with impossibly low prices. Obscure production transparency by shipping manufacturing to a far corner of the world. Then, before anyone discovers the product’s troubling genesis and poor quality, light a match, sit back and watch the shopping frenzy ensue. Repeat to the tune of $3 trillion annually.

There’s only one problem — cheap is actually expensive. Because we’re ignoring the true cost.

Any accurate accounting of fast fashion must include the priceless expense of systemic and severe worker exploitation rife across the developing world. It must take into consideration the incalculable environmental damage caused by its very processes of manufacturing. And it must contemplate the mistreatment and slaughter of billions of animals.

Without a doubt, fast fashion is an extremely expensive, unmitigated free market failure. But Andrew isn’t interested in the good-guy-bad-guy narrative. He sees no purpose in shaming anyone nor pointing fingers.

Andrew’s wish for us is simple: Ask better questions. Demand better solutions.

Do I really need this? Who made this and how? What exactly went into this getting from wherever to here?

In other words, what is the true cost of our daily and often subconsciously or unconsciously motivated consumer choices?

I was quite impacted by Andrew’s stirring film; moved by this wise and thoughtful young man’s commitment to positively impacting the world. As such, it is my honor to share his important message with you today.

This is a conversation about the inextricable connectivity that unites us all. It’s about our collective responsibility to be informed and to act. It’s about conscious capitalism over mindless consumption. And it’s about how every single day, every single one of us can make a tangible, positive difference in the world.

Because in the words of Andrew, the greatest lie of all is that you can’t contribute.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,


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Background, Context & Reference:

Notable People Discussed:

  • Vandana Shiva: Indian scholar, environmental activist and anti-globalization author
  • Stella McCartney: English fashion designer and supporter of PETA
  • Livia Firth: Producer, activist, and founder of Eco Age Ltd.
  • Anna Wintour: Bristish editor-in-chief of American Vogue
  • Tom Ford: American fashion designer and film director, known for being creative director at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent
  • John Hilary: Executive Director of a non-profit focused on fighting global poverty called War On Want

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:

Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, interstitial music and audio engineering; Chris Swan for production assistance & show notes; Shawn Patterson for graphics; and Ana Leimma for the theme music.

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