This week we teamed up with hub members Wholegrain Digital to put on a community screening of The True Cost. Over 70 members and friends joined us to learn more about the human and environmental impact of the fashion industry, to explore the future of sustainable fashion and to network over some delicious vegan treats, supplied by Elysia.

The True Cost is an eye-opening account of the fashion industry, asking us to consider who really pays the price for our clothing? Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers like Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost invites us on a journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind our clothes.

The documentary begins by exploring our global obsession with ‘fast fashion’. The trillion dollar industry sees consumers purchase over 80 billion new pieces of clothing a year, 400% more than the amount consumed just two decades ago. Brands are continuing to profit from cheap labour and consumers are disconnected from the people who make their clothing. Ninety seven percent of items are now made overseas, by over 40 million garment workers – many of whom do not share the same rights or protections of those in the West. Most of these workers are women (over 85%) and some of the lowest paid workers in the world. The human cost of the garment industry is staggering, as worker’s, women’s and human rights are violated in developing countries across the world.

The increased production and consumption of fashion also means we discard it at a rapid pace, as the documentary explains. Cheap, abundant clothing means we now see the things we wear as disposable. On average, just one person in the UK will produce 70 Kg of textiles waste per year! The environmental impact of the fashion industry cannot be ignored. Cotton is nearly half of the total fibre used to make clothing and more than 90% of this is genetically modified, using large amounts of water and chemicals. Leather production is also increasingly connected to human and environmental health problems. The feed, water, land and fossil fuels required to raise livestock for its production come at a huge cost. The leather tanning process is also extremely toxic, leaving workers exposed to harmful chemicals, and natural water sources polluted. Studies have also now found that leather tannery workers are at a far greater risk of developing cancer, by between 20% – 50%.

The problem and challenges of the fashion industry can seem overwhelming, but what can we do as consumers to make a difference? The True Cost recommends five tips for making better buying choices.

  • Think: Will I wear it 30 times?

Just asking yourself this question is a great place to start. The rapid turnover of trends has put the supply chain under unsustainable pressure, leading to disasters like Rana Plaza and Tazreen (the 2012 Dhaka fashion factory fire that killed over 100).

  • Break the cycle

Slow down your fashion cycle. The spring/summer, autumn/winter shows of international fashions need not dictate your wardrobe.

  • Spread your fashion

Choose where you spend your money, rather than always choosing the larger brands. Companies like People Tree and Patagonia enforce with strict Fair trade and organic standards.

  • Detox your wardrobe

Fashion is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil. However, 10% of the world’s biggest fashion brands have committed to phasing out toxic substances through Greenpeace’s Detox programme. You can see the list here.

  • Join the fashion revolution

Be part of the growing movement that represents millions of consumers demanding change. Find out more about making fashion sustainable here.

At Impact Hub Westminster, we’re committed to exploring and making our collective impact on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. In November, we’re learning about tackling the global water crisis from Duncan Goose, founder of One Brand. Register for your free ticket here.