01 Oct Top 12 Sustainable Fashion Documentaries to watch in 2023
If you ever feel like watching something meaningful and impactful, read on. We would like to share a list of our top favorite documentaries about sustainable fashion and where the future of fashion is headed. Enjoy it.
“This changed the way I shopped for clothes. I felt like I couldn’t know these things and still shop in a way that perpetuated the industry working this way.”
AndrewD, Amazon review
An outstanding documentary brought to us by a talented filmmaker Andrew Morgan in 2015. True Cost is a story about the clothes we wear, the people who made them, and the huge impact of the fashion industry has on the environment and humanity. We loved this film so much that we devoted a whole article to it!
If you are new to sustainable fashion and want to learn about it from just one short film – try an episode called “Fashion” of the Netflix series “The Future Of”. You’ll learn about fast fashion and its alternatives, and about how disposable fashion comes into focus for designers and researchers.
Besides fashion, with the help of industry experts, this innovative docuseries examines new and emerging technological trends to imagine revolutionary possibilities – from the future of health, gaming, dating, and cheeseburgers, and much more.
“The fashion business has become so profit-driven that we forget the connection between human and fashion, transforming it from a dream into a nightmare.”
Dr. Hakan Karaosman, Fashionscapes
Andrew Morgan, the award-winning director of the True Cost documentary, has been continuing his research in sustainable fashion, and so did Livia Firth, his collaborator and the founder of Eco-Age agency. Over the past decade, Livia Firth has closely followed the fashion supply chain across continents from Africa to South America in search of sustainable solutions to fast fashion production.
This collaboration resulted in Fashionscapes, a five-part documentary that investigates global fashion supply chains and turns the camera towards stories of hope and possibility. The short documentaries will take you on a journey around the world – from wool production in Tasmania to female artisans in Guatemala – and reflect on what it takes to create a successful circular economy.
“This true documentary has really put a huge impact on how I am going to really think and make better choices when buying clothing.”
Mia Edwards, Amazon review
When international river conservationist Mark Angelo embarked on a mission to protect the world’s most significant rivers, little did he know he would stumble upon the dark underbelly of the global fashion industry. Shockingly, he uncovered a startling fact: the textile industry consumes a staggering 3.2% of available fresh water and contributes to 20% of pollution related to the industry. The toxic combination of wastewater, carcinogens, and dyes used in the production of our affordable jeans is being recklessly discharged into rivers, posing a severe threat to the drinking water supply for millions in developing nations. Yikes!
“L-o-v-e-d this: genuinely forward-thinking designers. Absolutely inspires me to get back to the mending pile and the fabric stash!”
Thecatcameback321, YouTube comment
The Next Black produced by AEG is one of those documentaries that made us feel extremely lucky in terms of the historical timeframe we live in. It explores the future of fashion by talking to the heroes of sustainability like Patagonia, Studio XO, Adidas, and Biocouture. If you are open-minded and love technological inventions of all sorts, this film will take you on a fun ride. A ride that includes Lady Gaga’s famous “bubble-making” dress and brewing in bacteria sustainable fabrics, to the idea of an outfit as a tumbler for the body.
“We are looking at a beauty that has different parameters, more human parameters. More inclusive parameters, more original parameters. This is the future of the fashion industry and of beauty.”
Orsola de Castro, Where the Future of Fashion is headed
A great freebie from VPRO Documentary that not only highlights various problems of the fashion industry but also proposes some unique solutions. As the founder of Fashion Revolution Orsola de Castro notes, the change needs to happen on all levels of the supply chain, from the corporations, factories, designers, and we the consumers. The documentary features five pioneers of the sustainable fashion industry, and each of them presents something truly extraordinary. For example, during the Fashion Week in London, Vin + Omi, a market veteran with seventeen years’ experience working with recyclable clothing, presented a collection made entirely with plants and plastic bottles! Or an award-winning Flemish innovator and designer Jasna Rokegem who’s been creating a prototype of the one and only garment we need. The one that protects us from bacteria, doesn’t need to be washed, and even changes our moods.
“Every person on this planet needs to watch this amazing documentary. Before it’s too late.”
Ryan Pineda, YouTube comment
An outstanding example of environmental journalism, Cowspiracy came to life after the director, Kip Andersen, watched An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore and his climate change activism inspired Kip to get on a path of environmental activism. He started to religiously recycle, frequently skipped showers, and befriended a bike. He thought he did everything he could to save this planet. Until one day, following a link from his friend’s post, Kip landed on the report by the United Nations which stated that raising livestock generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector – cars, planes, ships, – combined.
What’s more, methane produced by livestock is 86 times more destructive than carbon dioxide released by cars we drive.
Follow Kip Andersen on a journey of uncovering the dark secrets of the animal agriculture industry. Who knows, maybe you’ll decide to pass on those new leather cowboy boots this season!
“Whether or not you wear fur, or carry a leather bag, this eye-opening documentary will help you become a more conscious consumer.”
Katie-san, Amazon review
The fur market is worth $40 billion worldwide – a 70% increase in the last decade. Fashion industry is one of the biggest fur consumers, providing warm clothing not only for residents of cold countries with 6 months-long winters but also for rappers like Kanye West who occasionally proudly show off his fur coats. From moody Siberian forests to emerald Indonesia, the director of this terrific documentary, Reggie Yates, travels to discover the true cost of furs and animal skins that seem to never entirely leave fashion. “These animals won’t be here forever if there isn’t regulation,” notes Yates. What’s the message to us, fashion consumers? “I’m not judging you but do some research, and I’m saying this to myself as well,” says the director.
A great documentary that will help you question even the “fake” fur fluffy keychain you were thinking of lately.
“Excellent film. Everyone should watch.”
Corrie, Amazon review
After the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, reporter Sarah Ferguson went on a mission to follow the supply chains of some of the biggest Australian fashion retailers, like Forever New and Kmart. She started in Dhaka, a busy and dirty capital of Bangladesh, the main exports of which – 75% – comes from making clothes for third-world countries. At the spotlight are factory workers who survived the Rana Plaza collapse, and who share heartbreaking stories about their every day at factories where they are frequently abused. The majority of factories have bars on the windows, and workers die in factory fires trying to escape from the disaster. The survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse, severely wounded, not able to work and on the edge of survival because they didn’t receive any compensation. Produced by ABC Australia, this documentary is a must-watch if you want to know about the lives of people who make your clothing.
“It is proactive and offers solutions on how to be sustainable, both as a consumer and a designer.”
Monica Seggos, Amazon review
Directed by Alex James, known as both a former bassist for a British band Blur and a cheesemaker on a farm in Cotswolds. This documentary is centered around one question: what can we do as a society and individuals to slow down fast fashion? We follow the director on his journey to finding the answers, some of which are things that me and you can do. We can begin by thinking, asking questions, looking at the labels, knowing which material it’s made from and about people who made them, and where they will go after your next closet detox.
“That is so sad. I am proud to say I do not buy those brands.”
Star Sister, YouTube comment
Can you imagine living a life as a woman in Cambodia where poverty forces you to first become a prostitute, then, when you are arrested, the corrupt government forces you into making cheap clothes for the West for $80 a month? And that’s even not the worst news yet.
A VICE founder Suroosh Alvi is on his way to Phnom Penh to investigate who is making our clothes just to find out the sad truth: women say they have better working conditions as prostitutes than in the clothing factories! The Cambodian aggressive anti-trafficking campaign claims to give former sex workers a better chance. But in reality, there are three thousand women cluttered in one room, working 6 days a week all day for $80, which is barely enough to feed their children.
“What a great short documentary! So interesting, eye opening and informative!”
T Toronto, YouTube comment
If you ever wondered where your clothing ends up after you kindly donate it, this short free documentary will finally illuminate this mystery. Shot in Panipat, one of India’s clothing recycle facilities, it follows local women whose job is to prepare clothing for its final destination. Despite the almost tragic set-up, the film is cheerful in tone, especially when Indian women share how amazed they are to find trousers that can fit four people into. They giggle at the huge amount of unworn or slightly unworn clothing. “Everyone here says that the clothes come over because there’s a water shortage in the West,” says one of the workers. Why water shortage? Well, because they think that we can’t afford washing them! This film also gives you a new perspective, which is always invaluable.
We hope you’ll enjoy watching these amazing documentaries. There are other great documentaries on fast fashion, as well as environmental issues our planet faces that didn’t make the cut. Some of free sustainable fashion documentaries worth watching are Fashion Factories Undercover, The Machinists, War on Waste: Fast Fashion, and BBC: The Price of Fast Fashion.
Some outstanding environmental documentaries and TV shows are Down to Earth with Zac Efron, Before the Flood with Leonardo DiCaprio as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, The Anthropocene: The Age of Mankind, and Surviving Progress. To get more advice on how to find your own path to sustainable fashion, watch Clara’s Vuletich TedTalk How to Engage with Ethical Fashion, and a documentary Minimalism.