Already gone through your whole Netflix/Hulu/Prime/HBO queue of shows to watch during quarantine? If you’re a fan of fashion documentaries, we’ve got quite the lineup for you. We’ve rounded up a list of the best documentaries about sustainable and ethical fashion available online right now. Whether you’re already a sustainable fashion expert or someone who is starting to question the fashion industry and is interested in exploring the sustainable/ethical fashion space, any of these films will give you an insightful look into fashion industry and encouraging us to push for a system which does not harm.
The True Cost
If you were to watch only one documentary on this list, this would be it. This is probably the most well-known and most-watched documentary on fast fashion and made many a fashionistas question their buying habits. The central question this film asks is: who pays the price for our clothes? It takes us all over the world to witness the life cycle of a piece of clothing, from the crop to the finished product. It’s a film all about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our planet.
This is the second film by Micha Peled in his Globalization series; it dives deep into Chinese denim production, taking viewers inside a blue jean factory in southern China. This documentary examines the factory’s harsh conditions, providing perspectives from both the top and bottom levels of the factory’s hierarchy. Overall, it provides commentary on the complex issues of globalization from the human level.
Length: 86 minutes
Watch it on: Vimeo
RiverBlue follows river advocate Mark Angelo as he goes on an unprecedented three year, around-the-world river journey. Along the way he traverses some of the world’s most beautiful to most pulloted rivers, while also uncovering and documenting the extensive pollution impacts of the global fashion industry.
Clothes to Die For
This documentary is about the worst industrial disaster of the 21st century – the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, in which more than 1,100 people died and 2,400 were injured. Zara Hayes investigates the incident and attempts to name those responsible for the corruption, negligence, and greed that lead to the death of these workers. Through compelling interviews and unseen archive footage, the film gives a voice to those directly affected, and provides an insight into how the growth in the garment industry has transformed Bangladesh, in particular the lives of women.
All items of clothing come with a “Made in…” tag, but that only tells us where the final assembly of that piece took place. All the pieces that make up that same garment could come from different places all over the world, only to be shipped and assembled together in one place. And 90% of the goods we consume in the West are manufactured in far off lands and then shipped to us. Freightened takes a look at our global shipping industry as a whole and how it stimulates conflict and inequality.
In this documentary, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, explore the issues of overconsumption and the benefits of minimalism by taking us inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life who all strive to live a more meaningful life with less.
Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion
Alex James take a closer look at the fashion industry, examining our thirst for cheap clothing with the attitude that it is disposable, and the effect that this can have on humans and the environment.Talking to designers, activists, and brands, this film shows a wide-ranging and ever-growing eagerness for change.
The Next Black
Bringing together designers, innovators, and leaders from around the globe, The Next Black is an open discussion on the future of clothing. It poses questions including: Will mass consumption of clothing continue to rise? Are smart fabrics and new technologies the way of the future? Or will we go back to more traditional and organic materials and methods?
This film follows the personal stories of three female Bangladeshi garment workers who make clothes for popular high street brands and their union boss in the garment factories of Dhaka. The stories of the machinists force us to confront the reality of our cheap clothing through demystifying their origins and show us the human cost of western high street fashion.
When we throw our clothes away, they travel on a journey to Panipat, India, the only place in the world that will have them, and their textile recycling plants. While showing us how the garments get transformed, the women workers of these plants reflect on the clothes they recycle and rely on their imagination and the rumors that travel with the cast-offs to construct a picture of the West, a part of the world that they can only dream of going to.
Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion
What originally started as web-series charting the experiences of three young fashion bloggers spending a month living the life of Cambodian garment workers in Phnom Penh, has been re-imagined into an hour-long documentary. This doc follows Frida, Anniken and Ludwig as they trade in their posh lives for working factories and surviving on $3 a day. It poignantly shows the consequences of cheap fashion.
Sweatshop II: The Hunt for a Living Wage
Following the release of Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion, which provoked headlines and articles all over the world, fast fashion companies were forced to respond. Anniken and Frida received a personal invitation to visit any of H&M’s factories. In this sequel, they return to Cambodia’s sweatshops for a second time to see if anything has changed. Joined by two other bloggers, Sarah and Lisa,they meet up with some of the workers and activists from the first series to see how their lives have changed.