Can fashion save the planet? Through awareness, we evolve.
“I wish people would buy clothes with a conscience. I wish they would stop and think what the real cost is for us here.”- The Machinists.
These 14 movies/documentaries are a selection that will make you more aware of our reality. There is a lot of dark in the fashion industry, but there is also hope. We all need to be aware that to create change we need a combined effort: awareness, caring, making the right choices, and putting our money where our values are. So, press play on your values.
1. The True Cost
Think about fast fashion, and then really think about it. The True Cost is a story about the impact on the people that make the clothes. It’s not about fashion, nor trends, or dissatisfaction about not owning the last trend inspired by the uber influencers or celebrities. It's about how much your dissatisfaction costs.
While clothes are cheaper and cheaper, so are the lives of the people that are making them. The rise of environmental and human rights costs cannot be unseen. Before you buy a $5 shirt or a $10 pair of jeans, think again.
This movie was filmed all over the world, featuring celebrities such as Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva.
Watch: True Cost
2. The Machinists
This documentary is about the real-life and exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh. This film gives voice to three young people, mainly women, working in the factories in Dhaka before the building collapse in Rana Plaza - the sad tragedy that gave light to the ethics behind the outsourcing practices in the apparel industry.
The Machinists documentary tells the personal stories of three young women who are Dhaka garment workers and the boss of a fledgling trade union in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
You can see the story of a single young mother who lives in a room with her two sisters and seven other family members. Another story is about a young woman whose family sent her from her village to work in the factories when she was only nine years old, earning much less than the monthly cost of living in Bangladesh.
Watch: The Machinists
3. Luxury: Behind the Mirror
Fashion name-dropping? Luxury fashion glamour? Not so fast. Let's look into what's behind the curtain: a culture that drives the exploitation and abuse of migrant workers. From coats to handbags. This movie documents an infiltration into factories, farms, and tanneries to really expose the fashion cost that you might be supporting. Gucci, Prada, Polo, etc. Have you ever wondered how are their products produced? Contractors and subcontractors, no regulations and no links between them, make all this a murky industry. From human working conditions to fur origins, animal rights, overall, chocking footages. The brands can no longer pledge ignorance, and you can see why, after watching “Luxury: Behind the Mirror”.
Watch: Luxury: Behind the Mirror
4. Made in Bangladesh
Internationally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival (Canada), this is a movie about women's rights. It shows the bravery of a woman who goes against these norms, facing the lack of liberty, and how the fashion industry is not contributing to change in this scenario at all.
Shimu fled her village as a child when her stepmother threatened to marry her off to a middle-aged man. Now 23 and living in the capital, she works grueling hours for paltry sums at a textile factory while her husband searches for work.
After an accident at work that caused the death of a colleague, Shimu decides to create a union. Committed to improve the conditions of each worker, her life takes on a new purpose at union meetings, where she raises her and other women’s voices, defending their rights.
However, in a world dominated by men, this change is poorly accepted and Shimu is forced to take a stand on two different fronts: at home, with a husband who disagrees with her ideas; and in the factory itself, where bosses discontented with the course of things try, in every way, to put an end to the demands.
Watch: Made in Bangladesh
Have you ever heard about the most polluting industries? Well, the fashion industry is in the TOP 5. Following international river conservationist, Mark Angelo, RiverBlue spans the globe to infiltrate into one of the world’s most pollutive industries: fashion. Narrated by clean water supporter Jason Priestley, this revolutionary documentary examines the destruction of our rivers, its effect on humanity, and the solutions that inspire hope for a sustainable future.
Through harsh chemical manufacturing processes and the irresponsible disposal of toxic chemical waste, one of our favorite iconic products has destroyed rivers and impacted the lives of people who count on these waterways for their survival. RiverBlue brings awareness to the destruction of some of the world’s most vital rivers through the manufacturing of our clothing and also acts as a demand for significant change in the textile industry, from the top fashion brands that can make a difference.
6. The Next Black
It’s about the way we take care of clothes. It’s about how to improve the understanding of what people will use and wash. How can we take care of clothes sustainably today and tomorrow?
It’s an understanding of the evolution and technological development in everything that involves fabrics and how it has been affecting the creation of clothes.
The Next Black brings together designers, innovators, and leaders from around the globe for a discussion on the concept of clothing. It explores ahead of what we are wearing to explore how we produce clothes, how we interact with them, and how we care for them. Each person interviewed has a fresh perspective on the future of the clothing industry - and all of them are using their passions to fuel change.
Watch: The Next Black
Where can our Western clothes go after when we don't want them anymore? Let’s travel to Northern India, more specifically to Panipat, a single place in the world that accepts them and recycles them back to yarn. Every year 100,000 tons of clothes make their way to India to be recycled. This awareness-raising short doc from UK-based filmmaker Meghna Gupta, makes you reflect on overconsumption. Even when we think clothes can be recycled, someone must do it. And where do they go? To places with cheap labor, and underprivileged women. A story about Reshma, a bright, inquisitive young woman working in a textile recycling center who dreams of traveling 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. The thread then begins its own journey, inevitably winding back up as cheap imported clothes. And the cycle begins again.
If you care where your clothes are made, this is the movie for you. And if you don’t, it’s also for you. Traceable is a documentary following emerging Fashion Designer Laura Siegel and the journey to develop her Fall/Winter collection using ethical and transparent practices. Fast fashion clothes and their low prices make us disconnect where, how and by whom these clothes are made. Laura Siegel rejects the world of fast fashion and instead opts for something more sustainable. Not only does she believe in offering clothes that are good for the environment, but sustainability also means that it supports and helps the communities that make them.
It would be amazing for the world of fashion if we started valuing the makers of our clothes and the ancient production practices, which have made clothes into remarkable pieces of art.
9. Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion
Nowadays clothes are not created to last a lifetime and fast fashion rarely lasts one season. Before the introduction of fast fashion, there were 4 clothing seasons in one year. Now, there are 52, with new styles coming out every week.
English musician Alex James became familiar with the term “fast fashion” during his days on tour. Rockstars are constantly being sent new clothing, regardless of environmental factors. James found this outrageous and began avoiding fast fashion from the beginning, by negotiating whether new pants and socks were necessary. He began his exploration by slowing down and seeking 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. The first thing we must do is ask ourselves these 5 questions:
- How can it be so cheap?
- What is it made of?
- Who made it?
- How long will you wear it?
- Where will it end up?
50% of the clothing we own ends up in landfills (washington post), and 80% of what we wear is made up of petroleum, which is non-degradable. Throwing clothes in landfills is an unsustainable option. After asking yourself these questions before purchase, it is also important to come with a knowledge of the clothes you intend on wearing.
Watch: Slowing Down Fast Fashion
10. Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion
This is no exploitative doc, relying on shock value. It started off as a web series, chronicling the experiences of three young fashion bloggers, who spent a month living the life of Cambodian garment workers in Phnom Penh. But after the headlines and articles all over the world, million hits and many inquires, the web series has been re-versioned into an hour-long documentary.
Frida, Anniken, and Ludwig live, breathe, and dream fashion. They spend hundreds of euros each month on clothes and make a living promoting the latest trends. Aside from the speculation that factory workers must be ‘used to’ their hard lives, they have never given much thought to the people who make their clothes.
As well as working in the factories, the workers must survive on 3 dollars a day. These are consequences of cheap fashion. When hip fashion bloggers swap shoes with Cambodian textile workers: that's exactly what you can watch here.
Watch: Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion
11. Clothes to Die For
This is a documentary film about the worst industrial disaster of the 21st century. How can any of us forget the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh? An 8-story building that housed factories, with no conditions whatsoever, filled with workers, mostly women, that were making clothes for many known fast fashion western companies? More than 1100 people died and 2400 were injured.
Through a series of compelling interviews and unseen archive footage, the film gives voice to those directly affected and highlights the greed and high-level corruption that led to the tragedy. It also provides an insight into how the incredible growth in the garment industry has transformed Bangladesh, in particular the lives of women.
Described by the Telegraph as "blunt and brilliant", the film raises fundamental questions about the global fashion industry and the responsibilities of all those involved.
Clothes to Die For is directed by Zara Hayes and produced by Sarah Hamilton.
Watch: Clothes to Die For
12. Udita (Arise)
Life, death, oppression, and resistance. 5 years with the women of Bangladesh's sweatshops and their fight for a better life. This is an extraordinary and raw insight into the lives of the female factory workers in Bangladesh. You can look at the struggles that women trade unionists in the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) have faced in Bangladesh over the last five years.
Women make up the majority (85%) of workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh but only under 2% of these workers are in trade unions. Women workers frequently face harassment by male supervisors and can face particular harassment if they are in a trade union. Yet the women in the film will discover that being part of a union is the only way they can overcome the serious problems they face at work with unsafe conditions, low pay, and very long hours. One worker says she only gets to see her baby for one hour a day when she gets home in the evening, and then he's asleep.
UDITA also shows the terrible impact that was caused on families by the Rana Plaza collapse, following one woman whose daughter and stepson were killed in the collapse, who now must care for her daughter's children. In one scene we can watch the children listlessly walking over the rubble of the Rana Plaza factory under which their mother was crushed.
This film underlines the importance of solidarity and support to make sure more women leaders emerge to win dignity at work in garment factories.
Watch: Udita (Arise)
13. The Clothes We Wear
We live in an age of hyper-consumption, and nowhere is this more obvious than the fashion industry. Fast fashion is driven by glossy advertising campaigns and many consumers are constantly buying new clothes. New collections are arriving on the market at an ever-increasing rate. And if you believe the information campaigns run by some of the textile giants, you’d think consumers can now buy with a clear conscience. It’s become trendy for clothing labels to tout their green credentials, advertising eco-friendly labels allegedly made according to strict environmental standards. But is it all genuine? Two reporters go undercover to find out what’s really happening in the textile factories where many clothes destined for the European market are made. They discover the extent of the environmental devastation caused by the industry and how companies are making a profit from the fact that sustainability sells. This is a movie about greenwashing.
Watch: The Clothes We Wear
14. The Shadow of Gold
Do you know where the gold in your ring comes from? This film reveals that glittering gold can have a dark shadow. The Shadow of Gold takes an unflinching look at how the world’s favorite heavy metal is extracted from the earth. The film explores both sides of the industry: the big-time mining companies that dig deep and lop off mountaintops to extract gold from low-grade ore, and the small-time miners – who extract gold by hand, often producing just enough to survive.
From Indigenous people in British Columbia struggling to recover from a spill of toxic mine waste to the brotherhood of Chinese miners, sick with silicosis, fighting a state-owned gold mine for compensation and an artisanal miner in Peru who knows that the mercury he uses to process gold is toxic and polluting, but feels he has no other option.
Being China the biggest producer and gold consumer, at the top of the supply chain, – in London, Dubai, and Toronto – you can watch how conflict gold reaches unaware consumers and how gold-mining corporations are allowed to damage ecosystems with impunity.
The film also shows a better hope for gold with engineers, scientists, and Fair-Trade advocates who work with miners to tackle gold’s worst environmental and social problems. You can even see new technology that replaces cyanide-based processing with a biological process that leaves no toxic cyanide in the waste.
In the end, The Shadow of Gold isn’t all about gold, or even its shadow. The film enters the lives and tells the moving stories of hard-working people who face danger just to go to work every day, in the hope of securing a better life for their families.
Watch: The Shadow of Gold