True Cost: A testament to the importance of ethically-made fashion

When I mentioned SEWN to a friend, she immediately recommended a documentary she had recently watched on Netflix, The True Cost, and how impactful it was on her. She mentioned that this documentary transformed her views on how she purchases any product, but most especially her clothes.

I quickly decided that my next Netflix rainy afternoon would be dedicated to watching this documentary, which quite frankly left me ashamed of some of my own clothing purchase behavior patterns to date. It’s no secret that younger generations (yes, notably Millennials) love a wardrobe revamp, so long that it doesn’t do too much financial damage. They cannot be seen, especially on social media, repeating outfits within a few months (for some, this time period could even be years). Taking note of this, retailers, and even services like Rent the Runway, provide cost effective ways to constantly rotate out clothing without breaking the bank.

However, The True Cost sheds light on the danger this ever popular fast fashion trend has impacted the livelihood and places unbeknownst to most. As you watch this documentary, you are reminded that while this trend might be wallet friendly, it certainly isn’t friendly to humanity. The irony of it all is that all modern advertising promotes the notion that increasing consumption leads to happiness. However, most people in the Western World seem more depressed than ever.

In the 1960s, the U.S. produced roughly 95% of the clothes domestically. Today, this figure is closer to three percent. Most of the textile production is outsourced to developing countries where labor costs allow for clothes to be merchandised for low prices in stores. What isn’t know to most are the life-risking conditions people must work in to attain production goals set by fashion mega-companies, which are in turn set by increasing fashion consumption trends.

What I found particularly interesting about this documentary are the environmental impacts that clothing overproduction trends have. I had no idea that both crops and people are affected and the earth is being abused. It is estimated that only 10% of donated clothes get recycled or up-cycled, and thrift stores can’t sell a lot of the garments that come in, so they end up in a landfill. Because it takes takes 200 years to break down textile, the clothes just sit in the ground releasing harmful fumes in the atmosphere for centuries.

The lasting takeaway this documentary left on me was the careful choice on the clothes that you consume could essentially save a life. This notion pairs so perfectly with the SEWN mission of highlighting the importance of socially and environmentally responsible fashion. Our planet and our people have suffered enough and it is time for us all to change our behaviors in an effort to stand up to inhumane working environments and textile production practices.

We curate some of the most stylish and unique responsibly-made designers available, and are just loving our new arrivals from Suki + Solaine, Me to We, Good hYOUman, and Argaman & Defiance, . Here are a few essential pieces to help build your sustainable wardrobe:

Suki + Solaine Sheer Striped Caftan, loving this now and will pair with a moto leather jacket in the fall.



ME to WE Kipande necklace that we have been pairing with everything. ME to WE is handmade in Kenya by female artisans who are paid a fair wage for their stunning craftsmanship.


Good hYOUman Simone Keyhole-back Sweatshirt is a stylish, cozy essential piece for the fall. Good hYOUman’s entire production process: from knitting to cutting and sewing, is all done in California.


This long Grey Marbre silk Argaman & Defiance scarf is a perfect transitional piece from summer to fall. Wrap around your neck, or wear draped – this piece is versatile and handmade in Chicago. 


Contributor: Alex Hart

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