The price of fashion

Andrew Morgan discusses The True Cost and the stars come out.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Executive producer of The True Cost Livia Firth with producer Michael Ross and director Andrew Morgan
Executive producer of The True Cost Livia Firth with producer Michael Ross and director Andrew Morgan Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

At the Film Society of Lincoln Center last night, Georgina Chapman, Harvey Weinstein, William Ivey Long, Cindy Sherman and Stella McCartney held a star-studded private screening of Andrew Morgan's The True Cost, with executive producer Livia Firth (credited as Livia Giuggioli).

Anna Wintour in support of Livia Firth
Anna Wintour in support of Livia Firth Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anna Wintour, Isabella Rossellini, Yigal Azrouel, Giovanna Battaglia, Keren Craig, Stephanie LaCava, Anne Hathaway with Adam Shulman, Tonne Goodman, Timo Weiland, Laura Piety, Steven Kolb, Julia Garner, Julia Loomis, Amy Fine Collins, Derek Blasberg, Gigi Mortimer, Ingrid Sischy, Michael Avedon, Sandra Brant, Diana Picasso, Christine Baranski, Fatima Siad, Luma Grothe, Alexandra Agoston, Joy Ciocci, Aimee Ruby, Alise Shoemaker, Joy and Regis Philbin, were among those attending the screening at the Francesca Beale Theater, which was followed by a cocktail reception at the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery inside the Walter Reade Theater.

Six days earlier in New York, Marion Cotillard and Ice And The Sky director Luc Jacquet presented Ice & Sky, an educational digital cross-disciplinary approach to bring awareness of climate issues. The Wild-Touch event held at the French Institute Alliance Française was attended by Connect4Climate's Francis James Dobbs, Max Edkins, and Carol Kaufmann who discussed with me Film4Climate.

Anne Hathaway with Adam Shulman at The True Cost
Anne Hathaway with Adam Shulman at The True Cost Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

And in this morning's New York Times, you can read Coral Davenport's article on the Vatican's upcoming statement acknowledging the warming of the planet - Pope’s Views on Climate Change Add Pressure to Catholic Candidates.

The True Cost uncloaks what makes fast fashion so cheap and questions where all these disposable clothes come from. Cheap labour from the poorest workers in unsafe conditions, massive pollution, violations of basic human rights - Andrew Morgen touches on many of the catastrophic issues consumers tend to turn a blind eye to.

Some of the statistics stated in the film:

  • There are roughly 40 million garment factory workers and about 85% of these workers are women.
  • The three worst disasters in the history of the global fashion industry all happened within the same year killing in total over 1,500 people.
  • The global fashion industry is over 2.5 trillion dollars and growing rapidly.
  • In1960, the US was producing 95% of its clothes. Today it is 3%, with 97% outsourced to developing countries.
  • We [worldwide] consume 500% more clothing today than we did 20 years ago.
  • Fashion is the second largest polluting industry in the world after the oil industry.

Following an early morning press screening last month, at the Reuters Theater on Times Square, Andrew Morgan joined by producer Michael Ross spoke about what motivated him to make The True Cost.

Isabella Rossellini sizing up Livia Firth
Isabella Rossellini sizing up Livia Firth Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Andrew Morgan: I was getting coffee one morning and saw this photograph on the cover of the New York Times the day after the clothing factory collapse [on April 24, 2013] outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh [more than 1,000 people were killed and thousands were injured]. It was these two boys walking in front of this huge wall of missing person signs. And the two boys were similar in age to my two boys at home. Whatever it was, it just grabbed my heart.

It was one of those moments that I never had before. I started reading the article and I just couldn't understand how I never had heard this story and how I had lived my life without ever questioning where my clothes came from.

There are some serious truly systemic changes that need to take place. That involves trade unions, that involves governments, that can involve a whole lot of things. I don't want people to walk away from this film and think less of fashion. I don't want people to feel guilty if they feel "I love the things that I wear." What I'm trying to get across to people is, let's all take a step back from this incessant process of consuming mediocre stuff.

Michael Ross with The True Cost director Andrew Morgan: "The brands have tremendous leverage with the host governments."
Michael Ross with The True Cost director Andrew Morgan: "The brands have tremendous leverage with the host governments." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Let's go back to a place where we invest in a piece of clothing that we love, that we're going to wear and hold on to. For the customer a place to start is to say, from a quantity of consumption, a carelessness of purchase, let's take clothing back out of this being like a hobby or a pastime and let's make this something that we're mindful of. My experience over the past few years has been going from somebody who never thought of this before to someone who can't get it off his mind now.

The brands have tremendous leverage with the host governments. A lot of the conversations we are having now is to motivate those brands to actually use the influence that they have… We focused this film primarily on mass market and fast fashion. I think it represents the most egregious examples of some of the things we are talking about.

As for the American designers, we did reach out and there was a huge reluctance to speak with us. I think at the moment, this is a tricky transition period. Even though I know some of those designers believe some of those ideas, I think in ways it was in contrast to their business model. And that was very difficult.

Dhaka, Bangladesh - The True Cost: "It was these two boys walking in front of this huge wall of missing person signs."
Dhaka, Bangladesh - The True Cost: "It was these two boys walking in front of this huge wall of missing person signs."

Without an international governing body that is effective in our world right now, trade agreements are probably the closest way that we come to protecting some of these things that we know are going to be overrun otherwise. I'm disappointed by what's not in that agreement. I'm disappointed in the lack of conversation about that agreement.

Coming up, Livia Firth, founder of the Green Carpet Challenge, Creative Director of Eco-Age, Oxfam Global Ambassador, and founding member of Annie Lennox’s The Circle; more from Andrew Morgan on The True Cost and Vogue Fashion Director Tonne Goodman.

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