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    The True Cost of Your Clothes

    “The True Cost” – a film released in May – will change how you feel about your clothes. Now available to Netflix subscribers, as well as on Amazon and iTunes, “The True Cost” documents the shocking human and environmental impact of the fashion industry. These are the true costs that are not accounted for in the price of a $7.99 fast fashion skirt or a $19.99 blazer. Watch a trailer and learn more on the movie’s website.

    Shannon Whitehead, co-founder of a sustainable fashion company and founder of accelerator program Factory 45 for sustainable apparel companies, hosted a screening of the “The True Cost” in Boston over the summer. Writing about the screening and the discussion afterward, Shannon said, “The reality is that the fashion industry is a 3 trillion dollar a year business and only two percent of apparel companies source from suppliers that pay their workers a fair and living wage”.

    The post-screening discussion – filled with students, designers, entrepreneurs, and consumers – touched on the core issue for many consumers: “But I still want something cheap.”

    With so many competing priorities for causes to support, how do we balance our personal budgets against our consciences? “Maybe the answer lies in remembering, as True Cost director Andrew Morgan says, that there are people behind the clothes we wear,” said Shannon.

    Or “maybe if we saw that with a different stroke of luck in the gene pool, it could be us in front of that sewing machine – we wouldn’t be so apathetic.” Thinking about earlier generations of our own families, or about people we know personally, how many degrees of separation does each of us really have from harsh and unfair working conditions? Most of us who have won the gene pool lottery are really not that far removed from conditions like those in the garment factories of South and Southeast Asia. Perhaps with this perspective, compassion and a sense of responsibility will come a lot more naturally.

    “The best you can do is to start asking questions, educating yourself” and having conversations and doing whatever you can do to make a difference, says Shannon. Ultimately, we can decide how we want our clothes made through our purchases. Buying a few high-quality pieces that could last years might actually cost you less in the long run.

    What can you do? Tips from the makers of “The True Cost” include:

    1. When considering a specific purchase, ask if you’ll wear it at least 30 times.
    2. Break the cycle of fast-fashion retailers, who release new “seasons” weekly now to stimulate impulse buying, rather than intentional purchases.
    3. Spread your fashion dollars to brands that operate ethically and sustainably.
    4. Detox your wardrobe and follow the Greenpeace Detox list.
    5. Join the fashion revolution.

    Interested in building a sustainable fashion company, or know someone who is? Check out Shannon’s Factory45 program.

    – Colleen Ward

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