What the Fashion Industry Doesn't Want You to Know: An Interview with the Director of True Cost

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In our latest Voices section we had the opportunity to speak to Andrew Morgan, an acclaimed film director and owner of digital creative agency UnTold LA. Due to his film True Cost, Andrew is fast becoming a leading voice in the sustainable fashion movement, and we are excited to get his take on filmmaking, his experience making True Cost and his magnificent hair. 

 
Andrew Morgan interviewing Livia Firth and Jonas Elder-Hanson. Source: Instagram

Andrew Morgan interviewing Livia Firth and Jonas Elder-Hanson. Source: Instagram

 

Row+Rue (R+R): We can't wait to jump into the incredible movie you just made, but first, we've got to talk about your hair! It's magnificent. How long have you grown it out for? How do you maintain it? Are you going to cut it or has it become part of your persona?

ANDREW MORGAN (AM): That is a first! Let’s see, I think if i’m honest my hair is the result of an overgrown teenage identity crisis mixed with a general case of personal neglect. The maintenance involves a lot of neglect and as of now I don’t have a desire to cut it. I will say the thought does cross my mind every time one of my (young) kids decides to pull it.

 

R+R: You just wrapped up what was a groundbreaking movie about the "True Cost" of fashion. What sparked your interest in the fashion world?

AM: I had just finished up my last film when I was getting coffee one morning and looked down at the cover story on the NYT. It was all about the clothing factory collapse at Rana Plaza. As I read that article I was absolutely stunned and also shocked to realize I had never really thought about where my clothes came from. I started reading, watching and talking to everyone I could to find out more about the industry and by the end of that week I was convinced this was a film I wanted to make.

 

R+R: Was there a moment of hope during filming where you said holy shit, this makes it all worth it. Or conversely, where the sadness overwhelmed you and made you cry?

AM: For some reason I remember this moment sitting on a ferry crossing a river in Uganda and just pausing to look around and see how special this all really was. The two guys I traveled with are two of my best friends and just the experience of going through all of the ups and downs together was something I will never forget.

The film was also heartbreaking to make. I remember traveling to the village with Shima, a garment factory worker that we follow in the film. She was taking her 5 year old daughter Nadia back to be raised by her parents and it just broke my heart. I will never forget that day.

 
Lost lives and limbs are only part of the true cost of the industry. Source New York Times + True Cost Film

Lost lives and limbs are only part of the true cost of the industry. Source New York Times + True Cost Film

 

R+R: Before the Rana Plaza disaster and embarking on the True Cost had you ever thought of where your clothes came from? As someone who is well educated and knowledgeable about the many injustices in the world, did you feel that you knew deep down about the problems of the industry or was the experience eye opening in ways you've never imagined?

AM: I had never thought about where my clothes came from. The film opened my eyes and my heart and completely transformed the way I see the world and my role in it. Truly. I had grown up in a very western narrative, seeing myself in the role of a consumer. To step outside of that and begin to understand the price of what it takes to enable that kind of consumption was staggering.

 

R+R: Your movie tackles many complex problems facing the fashion industry from the failure of the modern complex supply chain and the failure of governments in these developing countries to the failure of educating consumers here at home as to understanding more about where their clothes are made. To you, if you had one area to focus on improving what would it be and why?

AM: As a storyteller, I am most interested in inspiring hope filled action. I believe as we reclaim our role in the story as human beings rather than merely consumers, we will begin to step into the challenges facing us all across this industry as well as others. As for a place to start? We must begin reassigning or internalizing the true cost of what it takes to make our clothes. A system that only measures profit is not only deceptively broken, it is taking us further and further down a road that does not lead to where we want to go.

 
Morgan with conscious fashion designers and activists (L-R) Stella McCartney, Soraya Darabi, Eileen Fisher, Sass Brown, Maxine Bedat, Colin Firth, Livia Firth. Source: Instagram

Morgan with conscious fashion designers and activists (L-R) Stella McCartney, Soraya Darabi, Eileen Fisher, Sass Brown, Maxine Bedat, Colin Firth, Livia Firth. Source: Instagram

 

R+R: Filmmaking has very personal roots for you...Inspired by or because of your father's tragic cycling accident, you made a deeply moving movie called After the End about families across America who are coping with a death in the family. You call it a journey through loss to hope. What was this experience like for you? How did it shape you? And did it help you find a deep inner voice for later movies?

AM: The loss of my dad was the most shaping single event in my life. Making that film was really a desire to understand the ocean of pain I was swimming. It was deeply personal for me and very healing to be able to learn from people who had been there before. It opened me up and left me in a more sensitive place to the pain of others which in so many ways prepared me to make The True Cost.

 

R+R: Now that you know so much about the fashion industry has it affected how you shop? Do you only buy sustainably? Or do you still sometimes buy on style and price?

AM: Over the last two years I have been buying second hand, just to slow down while I was trying to better understand what I had been buying into. Now I am excited about investing in pieces I really love made by companies who’s values align with my own. I’m not perfect, but the process has made my life a lot more meaningful already.

 
Garment workers and their families worldwide make remarkable and heartbreaking sacrifices to survive.  Source: Instagram

Garment workers and their families worldwide make remarkable and heartbreaking sacrifices to survive.  Source: Instagram

 

R+R: You're packing for your next shoot and you want to buy sustainably so you head over to Modavanti. What are you picking out?

AM: You have a great selection of products on the site. I also love that you have a variety of price points. After an event with your team someone gifted me a pair of socks. Those are the most comfortable socks I have ever worn and have become my go-to for long travel days.

 

R+R: As you know, sustainability is a complex issue, particularly in fashion. To codify it, we at Modavanti have come up with a badge system. What issue matters most to you? (Organic, Vegan, Fair Trade, Artisan, Eco Friendly, Made in USA, Zero Waste, Recycled)

AM: I’m still learning a lot about the many issues involved but the more I learn the more interrelated I see them all becoming. They are all different ways of approaching one very real idea: there are human hearts and hands behind everything we wear. Our choices matter and they make up the kind of world we all share. That inspires me to keep learning and exploring all of these areas further in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks for the work you’re doing to make that learning and approaching thing for people everywhere!

 
Morgan at the film premiere in May 2015 in conversation with Linda Greener, Safia Minney and Eileen Fisher. 

Morgan at the film premiere in May 2015 in conversation with Linda Greener, Safia Minney and Eileen Fisher. 

 

R+R: Are you hopeful for the future and what comes next for you?

AM: I am coming off two and a half years on what has been a hugely heartbreaking story and yet I find myself more hopeful today than I ever have been before. I believe we are alive at one of the most critical times in human history. What we choose to do next matters and will echo for generations. That inspires me and I see it beginning to wake up and inspire a lot of people all over the world. For me I am a filmmaker so I am going to keep making films designed to move us forward. The important thing for anyone is to understand they are alive for a reason and that we need everyone working together to create the kind of future we all want to share.


To keep up to date with True Cost and Andrew Morgan, follow him on Twitter @Andrew_Morgan

 

Jesse Ayala

New York, New York, USA

Developing social good and value-adding products, Ayala seeks to enhance culture and behavior through experiences that address both macro- and micro-level problems. This mantra has led Ayala down an non-traditional career path, linking fashion, technology, performance art, media, education, community building, and design. Ayala has been honored by the Huffington Post and InStyle magazine for innovation and style in the digital new economy. Ayala is the co-founder and Creative Director of Modavanti.com.