If you are anything like me, you have been using your free time in lockdown getting through all of the films and television shows on streaming sites. Whilst I am a sucker for a good drama or feel-good film, I often find myself a little lost and bewildered by the sheer volume of content available to us.
In an effort to inspire your next viewing, we have collated a list of some of the best sustainable fashion documentaries available now. Whether you are a sustainability expert, or someone wanting to learn more about the effects of the global fashion industry on the world, these documentaries each offer an interesting take on some of the biggest issues facing the fashion industry.
1. Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion
This documentary provides a critique of the fashion industry and its effects on the environment and its workers. Presented by Blur Bassist, Alex James, it explores the biggest questions regarding fast fashion. From exploring where the materials come from, how they are made and where they end up, Slowing Down Fast Fashion is a great exposé of the supply chains.
As well as highlighting the devastating human cost of the industry, James raises important questions about the environmental impact of the clothes we purchase. The documentary follows the complete life cycle of a material and leaves a lasting image of the disastrous effects of plastic-based materials.
Through insightful interviews with designers like Vivienne Westwood and fashion journalists like Dylan Jones (editor at GQ), the documentary emphasises the importance of finding a sustainable future for fashion. Raising questions about the affordability of sustainable fashion and the potential future of the industry, this documentary offers potential solutions to the problems facing the industry today.
2. The Next Black
In a unique look into the fast fashion industry and its future, The Next Black looks at the past, present and future of the consumerist desire to keep up with the latest trends. The documentary is made up of a series of interviews with leading designers, environmentalists and fashion executives that ask the toughest questions facing the industry today.
The Next Black is all about the potential for a hopeful future for the fashion industry through science and technology. Whilst the new innovations shown in the documentary are exciting, the documentary still expertly emphasises the importance for the consumer not to be passive in this hopeful change. If you are fascinated with technology and the future of fashion, this is definitely the documentary for you.
Although it is much shorter than the other films and documentaries on this list, Unravel offers a unique and powerful image of the wasteful consumerist culture in the west.
Directed by Meghna Gupta, the film brings the viewer on the journey our discarded clothes make to India. In factories in Panipat, North India, these clothes are shredded by hand and turned back into threads by the female workers. Gupta gives us a unique experience into seeing how some of our discarded clothes are reused.
However, the most interesting and perhaps most powerful part of the documentary is the reaction of the local workers in Panipat to the sheer volume of discarded clothes. With little knowledge of the western cultures, the workers offer interesting observations on the different garments that come through the factories. In one particularly poignant moment, the workers question why there are so many new and barely worn clothes brought to the factories.
4. Is Fashion Destroying The Planet?
Despite not being commissioned for a whole series, this pilot not only looks at the devastating effects of fast fashion but also looks to emphasise the importance of the consumer in enforcing necessary change.
In an interview with Fashion Revolution founder Carry Somers, the documentary covers the importance of understanding who made our clothes. Instead of just showing the viewer the issues with the fashion industry, ‘Is Fashion Destroying The Planet?’ promotes the ways in which the consumer can actively participate in this cultural shift where we expect to know where our clothes come from.
5. The True Cost
Directed by Andrew Morgan, this documentary film focuses on the effects of fast fashion. Filmed just months after the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, Morgan takes the audience on a journey through the damaging supply chains of the global fashion industry. From the poor conditions for workers in developing countries to the effects of genetically modified crops, The True Cost shines a light on just how unsustainable the fashion industry is.
The film also interestingly explores the role of western media in encouraging mass consumption and materialism. Drawing on the American consumerist phenomenon of Black Friday deals, the documentary shines a necessary light on the absurdity of the wasteful and materialistic culture in operation in the west.
The True Cost goes full circle. Contrasting images of low wage workers in Bangladesh factories with footage of the Black Friday sales in America, we are shown the supply chain in its entirety. Whilst The True Cost can be a tough watch, it is an important exposé of the fast fashion industry and a must-watch for anyone that is interested in sustainability.
“…will this be a turning point, a new chapter in our story, when together, we begin to make a real change as we remember that everything we wear was touched by human hands?” – Andrew Morgan
These documentaries each offer their own unique take on sustainable fashion and the devastating effects of the fast fashion industry. With the current pandemic raising questions about over consumption across the world, we believe that these documentaries are more important than ever to inspire change and hope.