8 sustainable and ethical fashion documentaries you must watch

8 sustainable and ethical fashion documentaries you must watch

On the 24th April, we are commemorating 6 years since the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013. It is considered the deadliest structural failure accident in modern human history, and therefore also the deadliest garment-factory accident in history with 1134 workers killed and over 2500 injured (source: Wikipedia).

Fashion Revolution is an NGO whose mission is to ensure that accidents such as Rana Plaza never occur again, aiming “to unite people and organisations to work together towards radically changing the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed, so that our clothing is made in a safe, clean and fair way”. This week (22nd-28th April 2019), there are many events taking place all over the world, most of which are free to attend. You can check out what’s going on in your country here.

You might have seen people on IG posting images proudly announcing ‘I made my clothes’, and there is indeed a lot to be happy and proud about when we are crafting our own wardrobes. However, it’s important that we do not become smug and complacent when it comes to the impact of the textile industry on the planet (yes, including the fabric we so lovingly collect and stash).

So, my small contribution to the Fashion Revolution week is to tell you about a few of the documentaries that changed the paradigm for me, back in the day when I was still buying clothes, and which also inform a lot of my choices when buying fabric and when making other everyday consumption decisions.

Many of these documentaries are available for free, so I really encourage you to give them a watch.

Header Photo by Mc Jefferson Agloro on Unsplash

Sustainable and ethical fashion documentaries you must watch

1. The True Cost

This is the one documentary that changed the mindset of many a fashionista. It’s a film about the impact of clothes making on the planet and its people. The title refers to the fact that often when buying clothes, especially cheap and disposable one, the true cost is not really reflected in the retail price. If you were to watch only one documentary of this list, make it this one!

Trailer:

2. River Blue

Following international river conservationist, Mark Angelo, RIVERBLUE spans the globe to infiltrate one of the world’s most pollutive industries, fashion. Narrated by clean water supporter Jason Priestley, this groundbreaking documentary examines the destruction of our rivers, its effect on humanity, and the solutions that inspire hope for a sustainable future.

Trailer:

If you are based in London, come and watch this film with myself, Kate from Time to Sew and other like-minded sewing people at Village Haberdashery on the 24th May. Book your place here.

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3. The Machinists

The film documents the exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh with the personal stories of three young women working in factories in Dhaka. The documentary is seen through the eyes of 3 garment workers and looks at their everyday lives, their struggles at home, the constant battles they face with their factory owners and puts a face to the men and women who make clothes for our high street. Directed by Hannan Majid and Richard York.

Trailer:

4. Minimalism

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things examines the many flavours of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life—families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker—all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less.

Trailer:

5. Unravel

Unravel follows the Western worlds least wanted clothes, on a journey across Northern India, from sea to industrial interior. They get sent to Panipat, a sleepy town and the only place in the world that wants them, recycling them back into yarn. Reshma is a bright, inquisitive woman working in a textile recycling factory in small time India, who dreams of travelling the vast distances the clothes she handles have. While Reshma shows us how these garments get transformed, she and other women workers reflect on these clothes. Despite limited exposure to western culture, they construct a picture of how the West is, using both their imagination and the rumours that travel with the cast-offs.

Trailer:

6. The Next Black

New technologies, sustainability concerns and innovative minds are transforming our clothes. The Next Black documentary film introduces the designers, innovators and leaders who are shaping the future of clothing.

Trailer:

7. Sweatshop – Deadly fashion

This is a reality TV series on Norwegian TV that took three avid fashion consumers to Cambodia to experience by themselves how the cheap clothes they buy are actually made.

8. Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion

Alex James, Blur bassist turned cheesemaker, presents this critical look at the fashion industry and its enormous human and environmental cost. Far from predicting the apocalypse, Slowing Down Fast Fashion seeks to provide solutions. By talking to designers, activists and high street brands, the film shows that there is a wide-ranging and ever-growing thirst for change.

Trailer:

Available on Amazon Prime Video


LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE SEEN ANY OF THESE FILMS AND WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF THEM. AND IF YOU ARE IN LONDON, COME JOIN THE SCREENING OF RIVER BLUE ON THE 24TH MAY! I’D LOVE TO MEET YOU IN PERSON.

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4 Comments

  1. Marina
    25 April 2019 / 3:31 PM

    I’ve seen the true cost but none of the others so they will be making my list. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      25 April 2019 / 7:49 PM

      So glad you found this useful! Let me know what you think when you see them.

  2. Elaine Marsh
    25 April 2019 / 7:08 PM

    I will watch these vids later, but I really don’t need to as I’m already in agreement with you. But some manufacturers, popular ones selling cheap fast fashion, plus TV programmes, like ITV’s Morning (magazine) programme are promoting cheap clothes in an item I saw this morning, with their fatuous presenters. They are fueling the fire. People want cheap clothing, and cheap everything and then soon dispose of it. Fact. I’ve drastically slowed down/stopped my clothes buying and making do with clothes that are in my wardrobe, I’m shopping in my wardrobe in fact and coming up with many combinations, I’ve stopped wasting valuable money, although I didn’t buy cheap clothing. Once I’ve used up the few pieces of fabric (bought a while ago) I will cease to make anything new, because it’s probably something I already have or a version of it just waiting to be tweaked to update it if I can be bothered to do that. There’s more to worry about than fashionable clothing, like transforming these clothes-making countries into something else, helping them to find another way to sustain themselves, that is safe, legal and aids their independence.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      25 April 2019 / 7:50 PM

      Thank you for your thoughts, Elaine! Yes, I think I am in that boat too, I have enough clothes to last me ages, but it’s hard to stop the creative bug. I’m focusing on refashioning and repairing at the moment, so at least I don’t make new things too much anymore.

So, what do you think?

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