The Weekly Journal | Fashion

By Yenia Hernandez Fonseca- July 1, 2022

10 Films

On Fashion Sustainability

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Reading about the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, plastic microfibre pollution, and ethical production in the garment industry is important. We gradually learn to make the best purchasing decisions and create better habits in our day-to-day life. 

However, sometimes, seeing is believing. After all, according to Google, we’re a visual generation so any visuals that help us understand the effects of fashion in society and the environment are more than welcome. 

At Wolfe Co., we care about the wellbeing of our planet, the hands behind the styles we consume, and the customers who trust in our products. We’ve rounded up a list of ten of the best documentary series and films about sustainability and social responsibility in the fashion industry. 

These must-see films talk about specific topics surrounding sustainability and help us understand the importance of a conscious fashion system.

1. The True Cost (2015)

In this documentary, filmmaker Andrew Morgan travels around the world to meet the people behind the clothes we see in stores. The True Cost explores several aspects of the garment industry, from low-wage workers living in developing countries who produce the clothes we wear, to fashion’s after-effects, like river and soil pollution, pesticides, disease, and death. 

Morgan examines consumerism, globalization, capitalism, poverty and mass media under an environmental, social, and psychological lens. Focusing on the effects of fast fashion, the film also unravels the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh that killed over a thousand workers in 2013. 

On the bright side, the documentary also features designer and animal-rights activist Stella McCartney, eco fashion activist Livia Firth, and Patagonia’s Vincent Stanley among other concerned individuals working towards a change in the industry. 

2. Alex James Slowing Down Fast Fashion (2016)

Remember British rock band Blur? Well, Blur bassist-turned-cheese-maker, Alex James, created a documentary that takes a look at our disposable approach to clothing and its enormous human and environmental cost. Under a critical lens, James seeks to find the solution to the damaging effects of fast fashion by talking to designers, activists, and high-street fashion brands.

3. China Blue (2005)

China Blue is a documentary film directed by Micha Peled that follows the life of Jasmine Li, a young, seventeen-year-old worker in the Chinese jean factory, Lifeng Clothes Factory. Only earning 6 cents an hour as an excess-thread cutter, Li and the rest of the factory workers produce Vigaze Jeans, a denim brand based in Istanbul, Turkey. 

The documentary talks about unfair wages paid to the employees for hours of hard work, drawing attention to sweatshop conditions and the unethical practices that take place in the garment industry—an ugly truth so many companies keep under wraps.

4. Luxury: Behind The Mirror of High-End Fashion (2019)

Not everything made In Italy is synonymous with fair working conditions. Luxury: Behind The Mirror of High-End Fashion is a DW investigative documentary that looks behind the shiny facade of luxury fashion. Shot with a hidden camera, it shows the brutal conditions of garment subcontractors, such as Chinese fur farms and the exploitation of migrants in Italian tanneries. 

5. Clothes to Die For (2014)

Clothes to Die For tells the story of the worst industrial disaster of the 21st century. Approximately 1100 people died and 2400 were injured after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. The eight-story building housed clothing factories that produced goods for many western companies, such as Joe Fresh, Prada, Gucci, Primark, Walmart, H&M, and Gap. Corruption, greedy practices and little to no care for employees surrounds the tragedy. The film gives a voice to those directly affected by the collapse.

6. Made in Bangladesh (2013)

The second episode of Season 39 of The Fifth Estate titled ‘Made in Bangladesh’ follows CBC Television journalist, Mark Kelley, and Sujeet Sennik, a former design director for Walmart, as they uncover the dangerous working conditions of the Bangladeshi garment industry and its link with Canadian retailers, like Loblaw, Wal-Mart, HBC and Lululemon. 

A year after the Rana Plaza collapse, Kelley visits Bangladesh, the second largest exporter of readymade garments in the world after China, tracking down workers who say they are still forced to make clothes for Canada in dangerous conditions. 

7. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (2016)

The Netflix documentary follows American authors, podcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as ‘The Minimalists,’ during their 2014 tour. 

Throughout the film, the pair show how they changed their ways to achieve a life on a few items. Examining the perils of consumerism and how stuff doesn’t really make people happy, the film encourages us to reduce the number of things we own, have held onto, and plan on purchasing in the future.

8. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (2019)

In this Netflix reality series, renowned Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo, helps individuals declutter their homes and lives to enjoy the psychologically beneficial effects of having a clean organized space. 

The series presents the 5 steps of the KonMari Method to clean up the things we’ve accumulated in our homes: starting with discarding stuff by category, breaking them into subcategories as necessary, only keeping the one that spark joy and organizing them neatly, while doing so in one go. 

The show had a huge cultural impact in the U.S. and the UK but it’s highly recommended if you feel like you need some guidance with your next wardrobe cleaning. 

9. Traceable (2014)

In 2012, Canadian designer Laura Siegel teamed up with fellow Parsons graduate Jennifer Sharpe to film Traceable, a documentary that aims to mend the gap between society and their appreciation of clothing. 

In the documentary film, Siegel travels to India where she meets with weavers, embroiderers, and block printers. We also see her fostering partnering with artisans in India, Africa, and Southeast Asia to design sustainable collections that would also support those communities. Traceable aims to shift our perspectives around fashion by revealing how current production demands don’t just hurt the environment but communities and cultures, as well. 

“I don’t think there’s a 100 percent solution or a ‘best way’ to do things,” she told, “It still needs to be sorted out. It comes down to maintaining the conversation and evaluating yourself as a designer on a regular basis and thinking about how you can make things better.” Highly recommended!

10. Toxic Beauty (2019)

A thought-provoking documentary, Toxic Beauty exposes the dangerous chemicals in popular cosmetic products, such as baby powder. The documentary follows the experiences and motivations of beauty product consumers as well as cancers caused by brand-name cosmetics like Johnson & Johnson, who denied knowledge of carcinogens in its baby powder as early as in 1960 despite internal tests that prove otherwise. 

UC Davis graduate Mymy Nguyen interviews scientists, doctors, and lawyers who give insight to the unregulated beauty industry of the US and the need for an updated and enforced regulatory system. Nguyen explores the effects of these substances on the body as well as future recovery. 

Trust us, this documentary will have you making a deep clean of your makeup bag! 

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