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#200 - What is the True Cost of the Fashion Industry? (Has it Changed?) with Andrew Morgan

December 14, 2021

#200 - What is the True Cost of the Fashion Industry? (Has it Changed?) with Andrew Morgan
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Andrew Morgan is an internationally recognized filmmaker, and the director of The True Cost, a documentary about the global impact of the fashion industry. In this conversation with Andrew, we discuss his love of filmmaking and storytelling, how he first decided to pursue this documentary without any prior interest in fashion, and how his understanding of the world has shifted in the years since it was first released.

Andrew Morgan is an internationally recognized filmmaker, and the director of The True Cost, a documentary about the global impact of the fashion industry.

First released in 2015, the film took Andrew and his team on a journey around the world, from documenting brand-name factories in Bangladesh, characterized by disgraceful working conditions and human rights violations, to the elite catwalks of Paris Fashion Week. 

This episode continues our series on The Impact of Fashion, where we explore the social, environmental, and economic challenges facing the fashion industry with our partners at Dhana

In this conversation with Andrew, we discuss his love of filmmaking and storytelling, how he first decided to pursue this documentary without any prior interest in fashion, and how his understanding of the world has shifted in the years since it was first released.

We delve into the systemic changes necessary to influence the future of fashion to be more equitable, sustainable, and humane, and unpack how to remain hopeful when change doesn’t happen fast enough.

Andrew also shares how he continues to stay informed of the fashion world, how his work has influenced the way he parents and why he wants to remind listeners of the unseen impact of their lives.

Tune in for an honest and thought-provoking conversation on the impact of the fashion industry and the challenge of optimism. 

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  • Welcome *back* to our Impact of Fashion series.
  • Introducing today’s guest, Andrew Morgan, the director of The True Cost.
  • Andrew shares what originally drew him to storytelling and filmmaking as a medium.
  • The documentary that Andrew made in response to the sudden loss of his father.
  • The healing power of film and how Andrew discovered his role in the filmmaking process.
  • How Andrew discovered his skill for bringing together an exceptional team of people.
  • How a newspaper article prompted Andrew’s research into the true cost of fashion.
  • Andrew’s experiences filming The True Cost and his continuing journey with its content.
  • The huge scope of the film and why editing was the most difficult part of completing it.
  • The ongoing changes that have happened in Andrew’s life since making the film.
  • How making The True Cost has impacted Andrew’s parenting and how he discusses difficult topics with his kids.
  • Andrew’s thoughts on the film after eight years since starting production.
  • How Andrew has continued to stay informed of the fashion industry and what has been taking place.
  • The mix of optimism and disappointment that Andrew feels about the fashion industry and its impact.
  • How awareness and consumer consciousness have shifted and what it means for the future of fashion and waste.
  • How Andrew is continuing to work in the fashion space, and the subject of his next film.
  • Andrew shares his book recommendations and his thoughts about his morning routine.
  • Andrew’s advice: why you cannot understand the unseen impacts of your life.

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The Impact of Fashion is our series with our partners at Dhana, a leader in circular fashion. 





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Andrew Morgan  0:00  

I felt like if you could watch the movie and never think about clothes the same way, even if you didn't run out and make a whole bunch of changes, like, for me what it did was it just made it like impossible for me to think about clothes, it's just clothes. And that opened the door to ongoing changes in my life. And I, I suppose I wanted that for people that watched it.

Cory Ames  0:20  

Hey, y'all, it's Cory here with the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcasts. So grateful to have you here. And back again, specifically for our series on the impacts of fashion, where with our partners at Donna, we're exploring the social, environmental and economic challenges facing the fashion industry. And in this episode, we're talking about the true cost of fashion. Specifically, we're speaking with Andrew Morgan, is an internationally recognized filmmaker who focuses on telling stories for a better tomorrow. One of his films, which is much of what we discussed today, is called the true cost, which he released in 2015. The true cost is a movie that challenges the business of fashion. It's a story that Andrew wanted to share, which is about clothing, the clothes that we wear, and the people who make them, and the impact that the fashion industry is having on our world. It's an exceptional film. And of course, we will have all things true cost, linked up in the show post at grow ensemble.com And in the episode description, so make sure to check that out and give it a watch. If you haven't yet. In our conversation, Andrew and I reflect on the production of the true cost, what that was like, for him how he reflects on it now. And as well we talk about perhaps what's changed in the fashion industry, it's changed with him. He's a father of four. He's continuing to of course, make other films. So we talk about how the experience producing the true cost is influenced his work now. And of course, we discuss what what perhaps we should be most hopeful, about, most optimistic about as it relates to making these significant systemic changes that are required to influence the future of fashion, one that's more equitable, sustainable, and humane, and likewise influence the future trajectory of the world. I know you're gonna enjoy this discussion here with Andrew Morgan, as I did myself, but before we dive in, if you haven't yet, I want to invite you to sign up for our Better World weekly newsletter, weekly newsletter that I write, curate and publish myself every single Monday. This is our conversation here at grow ensemble with our community of changemakers, and innovators from all sectors all over the globe, about all things building a better world. So go to grow ensembl.com backslash newsletter, to get the next one in your inbox. Alright, y'all without further ado, here's Andrew Morgan.

Andrew Morgan  3:21  

Yeah, my name is Andrew. I'm a filmmaker. And several years ago, I made a documentary that took me sort of into the heart of exploring human rights and environmental issues in the fashion industry, and I got really hooked on it. I think it's a really important part of our world. And I have just stayed really curious and stayed really engaged ever since. So it's, it's good to be here and good to be chatting with you. Yeah, but

Cory Ames  3:45  

very, very grateful for you to have taken the time here. And of course, we'll dive deep into your film The true cost, which if folks have not seen it, highly recommend checking it out. We'll have all those links to it in our show post stick roll. It's all about calm. But to get us started. Andrew, I I'd be curious to know, first, maybe more broadly, can you share with us a little bit about your experience or the appeal to you originally, of filmmaking and storytelling, like what what about you and maybe some some life experiences drew you to using that as as a vehicle for what it was that you wanted to share with the world?

Andrew Morgan  4:26  

I feel like in a lot of ways, it's it's really all I've I've known like I was one of those kids growing up where I took my parents VHS camera out into the backyard, started making skateboard videos when I was 10 or 11. And that was like early days like editing VCR to VCR and then early computers got really exciting. And we started making short films on the weekends. And I've just always been really, I think, I think it's always been the thing that's made sense to me. You know, I think everybody has them thing where it's like, it's something about your brain like I wasn't a great student in school. There's a lot of things that were really challenging, but it was kind of the one thing that like clicked. And I also, I think was just really fascinating, even as a kid by the power of being able to like stand in someone else's shoes. I remember being really young watching movies like ET, and crying. And sitting here on the end of my bed thinking like this is, this is a fictional animatronic robot, and it elicited actual, like, human responses for me. And it was almost like a magic trick. You know, like, as a kid, I remember just being like, what a, what a fascinating world and who is it that makes those stories and where do they live. And so I grew up in Atlanta, and I didn't know anyone who was a filmmaker. And so I set my sights on on Los Angeles and went out after high school and studied cinematography at a film school out here, and just fell in love with it. I mean, just absolutely fell in love with it and have kind of never looked back in a lot of ways it's, to this day, the thing that is most fascinating to me, in regards to just something about the nature of the stories that we're telling the stories that we're believing the stories that we're retelling, like it just to me, it strikes to the very heart of the human condition and, and sort of unlocks potential for all kinds of progress, and a whole lot of different ways. So I think to this day, I find myself just a, an avid student of it, you know, and it's, it's one of the things that still, absolutely rivets me like, I'll still watch something and just have my, my head blown off again, you know, just be like, I didn't know that was possible. Like, that's, that's the, you know, so yeah, on a on a journey with it. But I, I love it a lot.

Cory Ames  6:37  

You know, and was there a particular point in which you felt like, you, you were or you were going to be a filmmaker? Like, was there some sort of tipping point where you're like, Oh, I guess this is what I am doing, like, with my career, like with my life? Or did it kind of just happen one step after another, you just kind of fall the next thing?

Andrew Morgan  6:59  
Yeah, that's a fascinating question. Because I, yeah, the word career still feels a little large. suit to my work. But um, no, it's really that's a fascinating question. Because it is, it is interesting when you hit a point where you're like, Oh, this is this is my life. This is what I'm doing. You know, you get several films in you're like, This is how I'm spending my time. And you know, what's interesting was, I always want to be a cinematographer. Growing up, I was very sort of like hands on, I think, in a lot of ways. Because when you're making short films, in a place where you're getting all your friends to help you sort of have to be very hands on you have to bring together you have to know how to set it up. But when I was in school, I remember just kind of reached this moment where other cinematographers were I just, I just realized their brain went to a different level from a technical perspective than mine did. And I was sort of searching around for like, okay, so like, where, you know, where's my place here? And what do I and I had a really wild life experience, to be honest, I had, I lost my dad, and a really unexpected sudden accident, and I was sort of swallowed up by the grief and trauma of that. And I ended up taking a couple friends and making a documentary where we traveled around the country and spent time with different people who had lost someone really dear to them and had found a way to keep keep living in spite of it. And it saves my life, I think, in very real ways. It it did something really therapeutic and healing for me, and then we got to make a film out of it. And we released it. And I would get notes and calls from people saying how it it really helped them. And that was almost the invisible switch from, you know, some tougher to a director because I sort of, I sort of realized that I wasn't the smartest person in the mix. But I could put together a team of really great people and I could I could kind of facilitate a process that felt safe and exciting. And that team has kind of stayed with me, you know, we're 1011 years later, now we're still we're still making things together. And I kind of never looked back because I think that film sort of documentary wasn't on my radar at all. You know, growing up, I was watching scripted films. And we're making both now but that that sound set off a run I did, I did three documentaries in a row. And I just, I just really fell in love with the power of real human beings. I fell in love with the power of like, what happens when a camera's on to witness something that's real and honest and true, and how you can weave people's stories together into a bit of a thesis, but like you're speaking with 1000 voices, not just your own, I got really, really hooked on that. Making that film. So yeah, it's it's kind of funny. It's funny to look back, you know, like you, you're living your life and you feel like you're just like falling down the stairs. But then you look over your shoulder and you're like, wow, I each of those pieces did kind of add up to the next one, you know, I mean, yeah,

Cory Ames  9:55  

I definitely resonate with that that feeling of tripping and Falling down some stairs. But yeah, I guess that does it does it surprise you? Now looking back that you made a film like the true costs, because that is a bit part of what was coming up for me after that there.

Andrew Morgan  10:16  

Yeah, it was interesting I, when we made that your cost I had never, I'd never thought about clothes, I'd never thought about where my clothes came from. It was never on my radar, it was never something I was interested in before. And actually the day after we we returned, that film I just mentioned was called after the end, we turned that into our distributor. And I remember getting coffee at a shop near my house and I was standing in line. And it looked down at the the New York Times and it had this photo on the front page. And it was these two boys standing in front of this huge wall of missing person signs. And it kind of caught my eye because the two boys were similar in age to my own two boys. And I picked up the paper and I read about this, you know, horrific factory clothing factory that collapsed just outside of Dhaka and Bangladesh. And I, I went on to retail at the time of the collapse. It had been making clothes for, you know, major Western brands. And some of the brands caught my eye because they were they were brands that were in my Mall. And they were brands that I had bought clothes from. And I just I like I had this moment where I just thought like how was it possible that I've never thought about this before? How is it possible that I've like been a part of this system, and really never even second guessed, like where it came from. And I I took that newspaper back to my producing partner that morning and I started doing some research and pick up the phone and started calling some folks who were working in different parts of the world in this industry. And I just kind of said, you know, help me understand like exactly what's taking place. And by the end of that week, I was convinced that it was a film that I wanted to make. And and it wasn't so much in the beginning about like this deep technical aspect of like clothing, manufacturing or anything like that it was more like I think I saw a portal into some of the most important issues in the world that could come through a choice, like what we wear every day. And I think it was that link to me, it was that that chill that I got when I picked up the paper and I saw the names of those brands, it was that feeling of of curiosity, honestly, like genuine, suddenly, I had to know the answers to some of the things that were being asked and that you know, it just set off a very long life changing journey. And as we made it.

Cory Ames  12:37  

So from what I understand it was roughly 2013, maybe mid layer 2013 When you started production for the film, released in 2015 to two years there. What did you start to go in with? I mean, you mentioned, you know, searching out some sort of answers or questions that you had like, what where was your your mindset? Like? What was your approach, especially being from the space of not having any familiarity with the fashion industry kind of before that critical moment, that event?

Andrew Morgan  13:08  

Yeah, I think in a lot of ways, looking back on it. Now, I didn't know all this then. But I think looking back on it now I was really eager to understand how the world around me had been organized. You know, I think we have that that moment in our life where you're you're, you know, growing up, you're sort of told like, this is the way it is progress has ended at the doorstep of your life. Like we've tried all the other options, this is the best, don't really question it. There's that scene in The Truman Show that I always love where Truman raises his hand. And he's like, I want to be an explorer and the teachers like look at the map, like it's all been explored. So I think what I felt when I picked up that article was it was like, there was a tear in the curtain. And I like saw something behind it. And I was like, why? Like, Why have I never heard that part of the story before? Why am I why is the microphone ever been passed to those folks like that's, I suddenly realized that I was on one side of a very particular veneer in terms of how I was seeing the world. And I was eager to see the other part of it. It started really small. I mean, I you know, we made the whole thing me and two friends that I'd grown up with we did a Kickstarter, we got enough money for the first couple trips, we went to Bangladesh and we worked with local union activists and journalists and folks who got us undercover into factories and I started meeting with workers and it just started really small and and to be honest, like the the experience I think when you watch the film, like we ended up, we ended up criss crossing the world many times over, we ended up having this larger than life experience that to this day, frankly, I'm still trying to put the pieces together on honestly like it's almost like your body experiences something that your heart has to like catch up to it the contrast in a week when you're in like Paris for Fashion Week, and then you're walking through the slums of a community that's an enabling that, that miracle or when you're, you know, at companies in very near boardrooms with folks who are making huge difference ones that are going to generate billions of dollars in profit. And then you're with people who are getting killed literally for asking for a living wage, like, it's not just that it exists in the same world, but that I was experiencing it in the same space of time. Like it was this kind of like Jagged Edge, the disparity between not just resources but opportunity. And the systemic nature of it was haunting. And what what I think you experienced in the film, is I just kept unraveling the story, like it was like, it started out with something as simple as these garment workers in Dhaka, are being grotesquely underpaid, they're not unionized. And so their voices are not heard when they say things like this building's falling apart. And, and but it's like, it couldn't stop there. And so it ended up taking me all the way to some of the roots of capitalism and advertising and mass consumer culture. But it was like an experience I was having. So I think the really rich thing about the film and the filmmaking was it was very pure, like it was, as I say, it was coming from a very sincere place of curiosity. So So I think that's what makes it so gratifying to me looking back is like, I got to have this, you know, incredible experience. And then I was able to kind of encapsulate that to say, I really, I want you to experience what I experienced.

Cory Ames  16:22  

It seems like that the building collapse that in Dhaka was, like you, you were exposed, it was for a moment. And of course, there had been other tragedies, you see, as you really kind of start to dig deeper into it out and was quite significant. But it's like you were exposed to this symptom of this very deep and woven Cyst On is like, for for a blip in time, as it can often feel with international crises. We're exposed to something that's like, Oh, that's a symptom that we're being shown of something much greater. That's an iceberg underneath, essentially. And it's like you put a bandaid on it, you know, what do the fashion industry can rush do that many of the major brands can rush to do that, and explain it away for a brief period of time that it passes. But it it's a, it's an interesting experience, I do feel I understand a little bit of like, in following that to the trajectory of the film, too. It's like, yeah, you're pulling it out. And it's so and that's an interesting thing about the fashion industry that it is so impactful. It touches on so many different components of social and environmental health, and well being, I can understand the sense of how intense of an experience that must be, I think I read it was something like 25 cities, 13 countries, and just from, you know, following the film, y'all do go to quite a few locations. And it seems like you had to go to many contrast, he likes end of the spectrum, locations that are different from one another. What was the most difficult thing you felt to get that film to completion?

Andrew Morgan  18:09  

That's a great question. I mean, I think the most challenging thing was the scope of it was so large, like I was essentially trying to take someone from where I was, I was trying to get myself someone from I've never thought about these things before. And I was sort of trying to intentionally overwhelm them with the scale of the how high the stakes were, and the scope of like, the reach to you to what you said about, you know, all the things that this industry touches. But I was trying to do it in a way that still felt inspiring and helpful, because I believed then and I still believe now that even industries that you know, add up to trillions are made by choices and choices are made by people. And when I experienced what I experienced at the industry, I saw, I saw a series of very bad choices. And I saw a series of choices who were benefiting a few at the expense of many. I think it's just the emotional journey you go through of trying to communicate all of that, but in a way that's interesting and engaging, and not so not so bleak. You know, so I think it's just some it's more about just the craft of like, how you weave the story and like how you bring it elements from from the rich world and and touchstones of advertising and like some imagery that's like, and then how you you contrast that with like very honest depictions of poor parts of the world and blend it all together to make something so yeah, it was challenging. I mean, it was a really, that that edit was a challenging process. And there was a lot of different versions of the movie and there was much longer versions of the movie and the end of the day. I just wanted it to be something that was accessible. I wanted it to be something that someone could click on and not be an expert, not be an academic not be a humanitarian warrior. and just come away altered. I felt like if you could watch the movie and never think about clothes the same way, like, even if you didn't run out and make a whole bunch of changes, like, for me what it did was it just made it like impossible for me to think about clothes, it's just clothes. And that opened the door to ongoing changes in my life. And I, I suppose I wanted that for people that watched

Cory Ames  20:23  
it. And so an ongoing changes like what, what, what took place? Well, what what's progressed for you since then?

Andrew Morgan  20:32  

I mean, on a personal level, first of all, I'm so far from perfect. And, um, you know, my wife and I are raising four kids, and our life is busy. And you know, we there's trade offs in our life all the time, I think the last thing I ever want to project is the sense that we just, yeah, it's not that but I think we started to think about all the things that came into our home and our life very differently. We went from a place of not thinking twice about it to to really thinking about it, I spent a year to I remember, I just didn't buy anything, and then I a lot of what I would pick up would be secondhand. And I think now it's it's mostly to me about like, how how am I going to use this, like buying less buying better holding on to things that have quality, they holding on to things that like mean something to me, sort of like getting off the conveyor belt of that kind of feels cheap at the crash register, designed to fall apart season one, you buy it again, season two, I just shifted our resources to Let's get off of that conveyor belt, like let's Let's ditch the fast fashion thing. And that just opened up more resources and more energy, frankly, to be like, Okay, I want to get a jacket. Like, that's a real decision. Like, what, what goes who's making jackets, like, you know, all the options, like, that became a really fun thing. And it's, you know, it's carried over into everything from the food that we eat to everything, you know, it's this beautiful thread that like once you start unraveling it. And I think once you stop seeing it as like guilt, and once you stop seeing it as shame, and once you stop seeing it as offsetting bad but but really embracing it as like an opportunity. Like I, I have an ongoing opportunity just like you do to make my life line up more and more with the things that I believe. And so, you know, clothing is a really incredible way to, to acknowledge for me, it's almost a little bit of a ritual. In the morning, if I'm putting clothes on to say, I am deeply connected to this world, and I am deeply connected to hearts and hands and, and human souls that I might never meet. They had a they, they they have a piece and what I'm putting on my body today, like I mean, it's just so elemental. And it's a it's an opportunity for empathy. It's an opportunity for curiosity, it's an opportunity. And I think when that becomes fun, like when that becomes like a fun challenge, rather than some race for perfection. Like when we beat ourselves up when we're not for it's rather than just being like man, I I am making better choices. I'm caring more, I am using the muscle of empathy more today in my life than I was a year ago. And I hope that that continues next year. I hope that next year, there's all these areas I look back to this year. I'm like I didn't have but like I hope I'm on a monitor directory. And that's that's the part that feels fun. For me. I think that's the part that frankly, the film will kick started.

Cory Ames  23:38  

I'm with you now I want to be on at least a trajectory at a minimum. And so how you mentioned you have four children? How is this this experience and making this film the impact on you? How's that adjusting and changing how you feel your parenting and communicating with your children about some of the topics that were covered?

Andrew Morgan  24:03  

Yeah, I think you know, what, to the point I said earlier about sort of the illusion I think you and I are probably similar in age, I think there was a there was a very specific time that we grew up in in terms of like, we had reached the culmination of human progress in the western world in a very false fleeting way that then fell apart quickly. But I think I'm trying to do the opposite in the sense that I'm trying to raise people who see themselves as alive at a really critical moment in the human story and a moment where there's a profound amount of work to be done and and a profound amount of opportunity. And again, framing that as a positive thing, you know, framing that as even in really troubling times. That the the wonderful news is that the opportunity for purpose has never been higher, and the opportunity to like see yourself as a part of something larger It's something I'm really wrestling with and trying to learn more every day and figuring out how I can plug my own little skill set into that story. And they're a part of that, you know, our kids are a part of that they were really fortunate they get to travel with us, and they get to, they get to go on set with us. And, you know, the films that we make sort of like mark our life together there there the seasons, you know, like that year, we made that that year, we made that we're opening a new film next week, and they're all going to be at the premiere with me, because they were on set with me. And they, they care a lot about it. So yeah, I think it's just a, it's an ongoing process that I'm learning about figuring out and I'm trying to just be as honest and as inviting to them. And that as I can.

Cory Ames  25:41  

I love that. And how do you feel about the film, the true costs now? Coming up on about eight years since kicking off production originally? How do you feel about it? The finished product,

Andrew Morgan  25:55  

your questions are so fascinating. I have to be honest, I have I have talked more than any person should talk about a film about this film over the years. And yet, it's been a little while actually. Like, it's it's not something I'm talking about recently. And you're asking questions that are really fascinating, because they're, they're making me think about it differently. To be totally honest. When you ask that question, I feel the first the honestly, the first emotion I feel is sadness in the sense that I can dig deeper, and I can be really proud and I can be really proud of our team and I can be really proud of I can be grateful, I can be a lot of things. But I feel sad in the sense that I don't know if it's arrogance, or its use, or it's some combination of both. But I think I grew up in a time where I felt from a documentary perspective, like I there was this really amazing time where it felt like awareness would solve the world's problems. And if we just if we just made people aware than we would make better choices, we would fix these things. And the fashion industry in some of the just hellscape of human rights and environmental destruction that we witnessed and documented, felt so egregious to me, it felt so beneath us from the sense of modern companies and modern societies even that I I wanted and still want a far more urgent, far more extensive response. And I think, in some ways, like, the response has been substantial, not to the film, but just this larger movement. I think it has been substantial and maybe just look different than I expected, I think in a lot of ways. And, you know, I'd be curious for your thoughts on this, because I, this is the world you're in, I feel like there is a profound amount of startups and new companies and entrepreneurs and folks coming to the table with a different mindset from day one. And that's brilliant. That's so helpful. And really, if I look back in history, that's mostly how change always happens. But I think the, the kind of callousness or disregard from some entities involved was was a little chilling to me, and, and a little a little shocking to me. So in a sense that I feel sad, I just feel sad that more hasn't been done that we haven't gotten further that we're this many years later. And we're still talking about the most elemental things like a living wage, or like, not having a cradle to grave use of resource like, you know, all these like, all these ideas that just felt like their time had, well come still feel like they're fighting in from the margins. And I don't know, I'm impatient, I'm impatient to see this stuff unfold faster than it is,

Cory Ames  28:39  

I'm with you on that, it's definitely a challenge to understand perhaps, like where we are in the whole spectrum of change, especially considering things that just happened that haven't happened yet. And so I do likewise, feel very hopeful and optimistic and encouraging of a lot of these much, much smaller brands and individuals in movements and organizations that have been taking action, but also what you said there does make me feel a bit of relief in some way to where I'm, like, not completely insane. Because you think constantly of like, Is it as bad as I seem? Like are the power structures that be as you know, almost as as evil as I think that they might be, to be perpetuating in be accountable for some of these absolute atrocities, many of the things that you documented in in the true cost. And so part of it feels nice to where you're like, yeah, that is true. And then you're like the reality of like, well, that's a very negative thing. You kind of return to some sense of despair, but it's difficult to understand, you know, where we are on the trajectory. And perhaps it's something that's that's chipping away at a very established very powerful and influential power structure. Andrew, I'm curious you Do you feel like you've kept reasonable tabs on the the fashion industry? And any ways in which it's changed? If

Andrew Morgan  30:07  

it has? Yeah, I do feel still kind of plugged into it. We actually, even during the pandemic, I have been directing a couple of short doc projects that we've been doing remotely. And it's it's been really fun and fascinating to touch back. I also stay in touch with a lot of the people that we filmed with subjects from the film, especially some of the union activists and leaders. Yeah, I mean, you know, again, I feel like in some ways, yes, definitely changed. I mean, like, when you talk to people who are running like some of the major fashion schools, we talk to people who are working at at larger brands, bring in new talent, new designers, there is a absolute sea change of perspectives and priorities. And there is just this, like, baked in assumption that we're at a live in a moment where the world's on fire, we're overusing resources, and we're devaluing human beings in the process. So it's almost like the battle for that to be in the consciousness has been won and won by a lot of people who've been campaigning on this stuff for years. I mean, some of the folks that I even built the film with Sophia, mini Lucy Seagull, I mean, serious people have been writing about this stuff and saying this stuff for literally decades. So I think in a way, the fight to put fashion at the table with some of the most important issues in the world has happened. And I think that's really gratifying. And you see that around some of the UN summits now and cop 21. And, you know, it's in the climate conversation where it should have been for three decades and all those things. So I think the new generation of talent and folks coming in who will lead this industry tomorrow are coming to the table with a whole different perspective, that's unbelievably positive. Like I can't even quantify how, in the next 20 3040 years, how positive that is. And in a lot of ways, that's always been the goal, those have always been the targets, it's like, there's a generation that's going to max this thing out until the train literally falls off the tracks like they're going to keep, they're going to squeeze this model till the day it breaks down. But there is a more receptive group of folks coming in. So yeah, I think that's really positive. I think the the, the environmental side of it is horrific. I mean, I think the waste numbers are just staggering, there's still skyrocketing. And I think the most dangerous, difficult thing now that wasn't even as true when when I started this work was I think that brands have realized that they can't ignore conversations around human rights and sustainability. So they've internalized that to CSR, which has come from branding and marketing departments rather than at like a C suite level. And that has created a lot of confusion and a lot of misinformation. I mean, you've got brands who are offloading just, I mean, a scale of waste when it comes to materials and resources that is like, it's it's mind numbing, but they'll have a program or a commercial about like a recycling bin at a store. And it'll it'll give the impression that they're, you know, on the Vanguard, so that kind of more messy territory we're entering now, which is around, everyone now sees the right side of history from at least a public image standpoint, and there's a fight to get on that side in the in the, in the minds of their consumers. It's up to a lot of us now, I think to sort of piece apart like what is actually systemically changing versus what is kind of being dressed up.

Cory Ames  33:29  

It connects me back to what you said, particularly about the way in which you're attempting to raise the kids that you are i It's something of a sense of being in a very important part in history, like there is, for better or for worse, maybe it has to get worse before it gets better. something of an awakening that's had to have taken place with the the list of crises that we've faced in the last few years and kind of come to not come to terms with exactly but but can't help but ignore. And it's much more difficult. It seems like for some groups to change the way in which it's always been done. But like you said, it is something that is very, I guess, inspiring and hopeful that younger generations are starting with something of a clean slate, you know, and so the standard is like oh no, we can't possibly disrespect and egregiously exploit and abuse our planet, and the people who live on it, no matter where they live, no matter who they are. It seems like there is some kind of tweak in that level of consciousness in which you can't, you know, put it back in the box, so to speak.

Andrew Morgan  34:43  

I think that's really true. And I agree with you, I think ideas create worlds and you can't unsee things that you've seen and once the story has been challenged by a bigger, better story, it's really hard to go back. And I think you know, everyone you You know, everyone listening has a different part to play in this story. Like I certainly, my hat's off just constantly to the folks who are actually running businesses, they're challenging these models who are doing things more difficult because they know it's right people who are ahead of history in so many ways and have been, and are dedicated to it, even when they could be making more money doing it another way. My particular place in the story is around the formation of these stories and ideas. And I think having a sense that you're not alone, having a sense that you're like a part of a really growing number of people, offsets for me the feelings of hopelessness, or the fatigue or the sense that like, you know, what, what can I do to change it, because I can't do anything, but together, we actually can and, and it's the only thing that has ever changed anything. So I think, to me, that's the that's the most important thing in this new new moment that we're stepping into is, as you say, we're sort of stepping beyond, thankfully, and finally, some of the is the planet warming. Our human beings valued no matter where they were born, like, you know, some of these things, I think, these fairytales these myths that we that we use to excuse the consolidation of wealth and resources at the expense of a planet in peril. I feel like those fairy tales have, they've warned them. And I think, to your point, there is a new story emerging. Now, I think it's just crucial that that we start to see ourselves as a part of something together. Because it's hard. I mean, this is a hard season that we're living through, this is a difficult time. And I, I don't know about you, but like, even I'm a very hopeful person. And it's, it's been tested, you know, there's been several years where you're like, we're not only not making progress, we're like having the side conversation and all these other things are still happening, like how can we get back to the real business of the world. But I think there are a lot of people in that boat, and I think beginning to see yourself as a part of that, for me, man, it just, it just makes a lot of difference.

Cory Ames  37:05  

Mm hmm. It definitely creates something to hold on to, you know, and grasp onto. And when we feel like we're crises after crises, I, I definitely have become a bit more attuned to where and this was something that I did appreciate about the the true costs to where I can perhaps be reading something in the New York Times, or whatever it is, and realize that nothing about it presented any solutions. And that's not always the purpose of, you know, what, what different journalists are doing, or maybe I wasn't the target audience for that, you know, whatever it might be, and that's okay. But I noticed my inclination to want to seek out, you know, solutions and kind of realize, like, okay, maybe this isn't the exact media that I personally should be consuming, because I'm on board, I don't need to know, you know, that the planet is in a state of despair. And there, there are workers globally, who who are being grossly mistreated, and exploited. And so then I kind of like to I remind myself, like, Okay, turn to, you know, many of the communities in which cultivating the work that I do here, you know, in in touch on like, Okay, where are the solutions that I can grasp on to where are the communities in which I can be a part of, to, like you say, you know, fuel, much greater sense of connectedness that I'm in this, at least with other people at a baseline, a group of us can acknowledge that things are very bad. And then we can work towards like, alright, what are people doing about it? And how can we get involved?

Andrew Morgan  38:28  

Yeah, no, I think that that's an, I think that that's incredibly true. And I think just beginning to like, see yourself as not the center of the story, but a part of the story. And there are seasons where your job might be to help someone else it might be to lift a voice up, that's not being heard it might be to, the weight isn't on our shoulders as much as we think it is, you know, and I think that that's really, really, really, really good news. And also that, like, the most important thing you can do for us as a human being is to make sure your heart is alive. And whatever it takes to do that, whether it's a break, whether it's watching a comedy, whether it's having a hobby, like I just haven't, I've been around people in the space who are in it for a little moment, they burn out. And I've been around people who have spent their lifetime devoted to this stuff. And, yeah, I think it's okay to take to take it really seriously. And to take it not quite as seriously all at the same time, you know, especially during these times, where as you said, you got to be really careful. Like I'm the same way like I'm on an avid, I avidly seek out information. And, yeah, sometimes you just have to you have to step back and say, I'm a human being with a heart and I'm not a robot and I can't infinitely dispense compassion without getting to a place where I'm stuck or I feel stalled out or I feel numb. You know, that's the worst thing is to feel numb. So like anything that that you can do to keep yourself open as a person. I think that's that's a big deal.

Cory Ames  40:00  

So you mentioned that you are continuing some work in the fashion space. Where is the focus narrowing for you?

Andrew Morgan  40:08  

Yeah, I mean, we I'm working on a documentary series, the first few episodes are out called Fashion scapes. I'm working with my friend Livia Firth on it, who's just an extraordinary person. And we are looking towards solutions in that series. So we are looking towards what are specific issue areas where we could see tangible progress. We just released an episode recently, around this this concept of a living wage, and there's some real pressure in the UK legally to start to enforce on the point of import companies paying a living wage where they're producing in countries that the living wage is not the minimum wage, which is almost never, there's some real traction. So like we made a film about, you know, the lawyer who's leading that and some human rights campaigners who are fighting for that, and union activists that are supporting that. There's another one that we're going to release soon around the idea of circular economy, both the myth and the actual potential for what could be really transformative. So I'm really interested in people who are pioneering Solutions, and I'm interested in in finding those voices and those stories and, and trying to find a way to elevate those and to amplify those and to give people to your last point, a sense of digestible hope, or, or even a sense of action that someone could take if the true cost is about like intentionally overwhelming people. I'm trying to make things now in this space that are more actionable, more helpful, maybe more incremental, still set against the backdrop of the stakes and the scale.

Cory Ames  41:40  

Awesome. And I did come across those and I tabbed those for a watch here soon. So I'll look forward to jumping into those. Well, Andrew, I want to be respectful your time here. So so thank you so much. First and foremost, just a couple final, perhaps rapid fire questions before we wrap up? Is that all right with you? Cool. Yeah, it's great. What's perhaps one book film or resource that you might recommend to focus it could be in or out of the fashion industry, but what what's something that perhaps has impacted you recently or or something you always come back to?

Andrew Morgan  42:14  

I you know, I have to say, Lucy Siegel's book to die for was was really what started this whole thing for me, you know, from from that newspaper article, her book really connected the dots. And I think since then, the stuff that she's written for The Guardian, she just continues to be a voice. For me that resonates. She wrote a book this past year around plastic, which is both including and goes beyond the fashion industry. I love it. And I also I also love the work that Satya many has done and continues to do. I continue to find her writing and her the urgency and conviction of her human base storytelling, most recently around modern day slavery in and around the fashion industry. I just find it stirring and upsetting and hopeful all at the same time. So yeah, the two of them, you can't go wrong. And there's so many. I mean, there's so many. And I to be really honest, I have a stack sitting here of new things that have been sent to me that I know are going to be amazing to actually check them out. Hmm,

Cory Ames  43:21  

excellent recommendations. And yeah, it's it's good that there is an abundance of those resources available. It's definitely hard to parse through just a couple more and

more, right. Yeah, it feels like Yeah, that's great.

And next for you, is there any sort of morning routine or daily habit that that you feel like you absolutely have to stick to, if anything, I try

Andrew Morgan  43:44  

to I try to have a little meditation practice in the morning and to be totally on this. On my good days at work. So my bad days, the kids get up before I do, and it's just a mess. Yeah, I have, I think increasingly over the pandemic, where we've all been, I think working a lot more and working from in and out of our homes and our lives feel there's no there's not as much boundary. I think I I really have had to work hard at it just being still and being quiet and breathing. And I've had to really work at I can, my brain can kind of go it can be hard to turn off. And I can also at the same time tilt towards depression mentally. So I think for me just just in the morning, having a moment where I can just kind of get a bearing on how I'm doing and what what's happening in this mysterious machine that kind of grounds me and it helps me get get started for the rest of them.

Cory Ames  44:46  

That's it's a common shared sentiment for folks that we have on the show and I think it can be something that's extremely worthwhile for many of the people who do the work that our listeners do which is focused on some element of using their their useful hours of the day to ideally leave the world a better place so it can be quite all consuming. undoubtably, and which kind of brings me to a final one, Andrew, what's maybe one piece of parting advice that you might leave our listeners with, and these these folks who are changemakers, active, aspiring from all sectors all over the globe, what's one thing that you'd leave them with?

Andrew Morgan  45:24  

I think you just can't underestimate the unseen impact of your life. And the work you're doing. I think a lot of the work that I do has been built on the work of other people. And some of those people I've gotten a chance to meet and thank and many I haven't, and never will, and someone wrote a column, someone wrote a blog, someone made short film, someone took a photograph. And it irreversibly changed the trajectory of my life and my work. And it opened up actual pathways in my brain. And if you're an entrepreneur making products, if you're someone creating content, if you're a parent, if you're a person of any kind, like I think there is there is a, there is an inner connectedness to the story of progress that I think if we could actually see what would kind of blow our minds in some of the smallest actions, some of the smallest steps, some of the, the most incremental feeling things in our life, people are watching, people are always watching. And those those changes add up. And I, I just can't, I can't get over. And I can't get past that sense that we are not spectators. We're not consumers, we are actively writing the story that will become the history of this generation. And that is a very real and present task. It's something that we're all invited to. It's something that isn't in the present tense. It's happening right now. So this is the time that we're here and we're live for we didn't build this world, we didn't organize it this way. We're not going to be here to see where it goes next. But we are in this very brief moment in time tasked with and gifted with the opportunity to contribute and that is just extraordinary. And I hope whoever you are, wherever you are, whether you're feeling like you're on top of the mountain today, or you're just like having a hard time getting out of bed, I hope. Hope somewhere in you. You can you can remember that today.

Cory Ames  47:11  

Wonderful advice for us to end on and Andrew finally, finally, where where should folks specifically keep up with you your work and films to come?

Andrew Morgan  47:19  

Yeah, my site is Andrew Christopher morgan.com, which sounds pretentious. I just couldn't get the the filmmaker thing to say. And yeah, I'm on Instagram, Andrew underscore, Morgan. I'm trying to do a better job of sharing more as as we go. But yeah, those those two places. Definitely have all the stuff that we're working on.

Cory Ames  47:43  

Perfect. Well, those linked up in the show posts are growing solo.com Thank you so much, Andrew, I do appreciate it. Okay, that is a wrap another episode of the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast in the books. I hope you enjoyed it. As always your host, Dr. Cory Ames. I always really enjoy knowing that you're you're out there listening to this episode, engaging with the content, perhaps the folks that we featured doing this exceptional work in the world. If you enjoyed the show, and you haven't already, please leave us a review wherever it is that you get your podcasts and hit the subscribe button if you haven't already that really helps other folks like yourself, discover the show. And lastly, if you have not yet, sign up for the better world weekly newsletter this is our weekly discussion of building a better world with our global community of changemakers and innovators from all sectors and all walks of life. So go to grow ensembl.com backslash newsletter to get the next Better World weekly in your inbox. Alright y'all, we'll talk next time

Andrew MorganProfile Photo

Andrew Morgan


Andrew Morgan is an internationally recognized filmmaker focuses on telling stories for a better tomorrow. His experience includes a broad range of work that spans narrative and documentary storytelling for various film and new media projects. His work has been filmed and released all over the world through HBO, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. The New York Times describes Morgan’s unique style as “gentle, humane investigations” and Vogue wrote it is “evidence that each of us can act as a catalyst for change within our own lives and work together towards a greater good.” He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Emily and their four kids.