Although sustainable and fair fashion appear to be popular terms, few consumers truly understand what the movement is fighting against: the harm to people and nature caused by fast fashion. Despite having a general idea, the reality of the fashion industry's impact remains largely abstracted. Thus, if you want to educate yourself as a consumer or find extra motivation to dress sustainably and avoid fast fashion, we recommend watching these documentaries about fast fashion.
Fashion is a means of self-expression, a way to communicate to the outside world who we are and what we like. Fashion can also symbolise status and prestige and make us stand out or feel like part of a social group. Through fashion, we can continually reinvent our identity, and fast fashion makes this easier and quicker than ever. Capitalism and globalisation are the drivers of fast fashion, which prioritises quantity over quality and offers more items faster and cheaper. But it comes at a cost to the environment and people.
However, the reality of sweatshops and garment factories remains largely hidden and obscured by greenwashing, despite growing media attention on fast fashion scandals in recent years. The best documentaries about fast fashion shed light on the darkness of the industry and make clear why cheap fashion always comes with a high price at the other end of the production chain.
The True Cost
This 2015 documentary is one of our favourite documentaries about fast fashion, and thus an absolute must-watch. Filmmaker Andrew Morgan addresses the exploitation of people and nature, focusing on the working conditions and impacts throughout the entire production chain - from genetically modified cotton and its socioeconomic, environmental, and health consequences to the violation of labour rights during textile processing and the finished low-cost product, as well as our wasteful consumption. This groundbreaking documentary is filled with expert interviews, such as Stella McCartney, and covers nearly everything that defines fast fashion. The film forces us to fundamentally change our mindset and aims to transform consumers into activists. If you only watch one documentary about the fashion industry, make it "The True Cost".
Another documentary that specifically addresses water waste, drinking water pollution, and toxic chemicals in fashion dyeing processes is 2017's "RiverBlue". In this film, the Canadian conservationist Mark Angelo embarks on an epic three-year river expedition around the world, revealing shocking damage done to rivers and water sources by the global fashion industry. The insightful documentary offers both devastating statistics and hopeful solutions for a more sustainable future through changing consumption patterns. And for this reason, "River Blue" is among the best documentaries about fast fashion, in our opinion.
Made in Bangladesh
This award-winning 2019 drama by Rubaiyat Hossain, although not a documentary, is a realistic, educational, and informative film about working conditions in Bangladesh's garment factories. The protagonist, Shimu, a 23-year-old garment worker, fights for fair labour rights after a colleague's death in the factory. The film depicts her struggle against factory management and her husband's disapproval, as well as her unwavering determination to fight for safe working conditions for her fellow workers. "Made in Bangladesh" is an honest portrayal of social rebellion and a powerful feminist statement that should be near the top of the list of fast fashion films.
The best documentaries about fast fashion: conclusion
Additionally, there are many other documentaries. "Unravel" from 2012 is a 14-minute short film that addresses textile recycling in India. "The Next Black", a hopeful documentary from 2014, aims to find innovative ways to make the fashion industry more sustainable. Though nearly a decade old, the solutions offered in the film are still relevant. "The Machinists" from 2010 offers an intimate look at the conditions in garment factories by following three Bangladeshi workers and their struggle for fair working conditions and wages.
Most of these documentaries, however, are dated. It's notable that there have been few recent documentaries on fast fashion that address climate change and its impact on the environment. It would be valuable to see a documentary on the impact of the pandemic on the fast fashion industry or the effect of fashion on animal welfare. The issue of fast fashion is becoming increasingly complex and the consequences of cheap, short-lived clothing are growing. To bring more transparency to the fashion world, many more documentaries are needed, but these best documentaries on fast fashion offer a good insight into one of the dirtiest industries of our time.
Sustainability & Fairness at SANVT
With SANVT, we aim to contribute to a greener future by establishing high-quality, timeless, fair, climate-neutral, and sustainable fashion as the new standard. We continuously seek innovative processes, including recycling our water cycles, dyeing without toxic chemicals and heavy metals, reducing CO2 emissions, using GOTS-certified biodegradable materials, offering plastic-free packaging, reducing transport distances, achieving climate neutrality through local reforestation projects, and producing fairly in Portuguese family-owned companies. Learn more about our sustainability initiatives, factories, and climate promise, and help us make the fashion industry more responsible.