These sustainable fashion films aren’t as light as The Devil Wears Prada, but they’ll tell you a whole lot more about how a $10 dress was made at a price that cheap.
It’s Fashion Week! From designer debuts to celebrity fashion, there’s no better time than these first few weeks in September to remind ourselves about the increasing importance of sustainable fashion. One of its biggest impacts is on the people who make our clothes. Living wages improve the standards of living versus slave wages that force families to choose between paying for shelter or food. Safe working conditions prevent abusive environments or faulty infrastructure that can lead to fatal incidents. Mitigating the waste from dyeing processes can prevent polluting water resources close to factories with toxic amounts of lead, mercury, and chemicals. These are some of the positive impacts sustainable fashion can bring by moving away from the traditional production model made prevalent by the fast fashion industry.
Yet, as NY Fashion Week kicked off with the debut collaboration of a legendary supermodel with a fast fashion brand, it’s clear that the industry is still embracing fast fashion and $10 dresses instead of taking the initiatives needed to positively impact the farmers, fabric dyers, garment workers, and artisans who make our clothes.
As consumers, education is paramount. Watching sustainable fashion films might seem frivolous. But, educating ourselves on the problems and solutions within the fashion industry can make us better consumers, advocates when we write to policymakers about better legislation, or buyers writing to brands to enforce labor rights in their partner factories. These three films are readily available to all to learn more about the problems with fast fashion and the changes happening within the fashion industry.
“1000 people died, no one said a thing. They didn’t say anything about them, they just talked about their loss in terms of units. How are they going to make up their margins? — so I sat there, and I said nothing, shame on me,” Sujeet Sennik~ Design Director
Television journalist Mark Kelley and Sujeet Sennik, a former design director for Walmart, investigated the factories that failed safety audits but were still contracted to make clothes for fast-fashion brands and retailers. Their in-depth view of the Rana Plaza one year after its degradation questioned whether working conditions had improved since the collapse and how a $5 tee shirt could cost thousands their lives.
Director Andrew Morgan didn’t have a background in fashion when Rana Plaza collapsed. But, he did visit thirteen countries to document the “human rights violations and the staggering environmental impacts” unraveling in the fashion industry. Collaborating with eco-activist and executive producer Livia Firth, Morgan’s The True Cost unraveled “the grim, gritty, global supply chain of fast fashion”. Yet, while this is one of the most in-depth sustainable fashion films to expose the issues, it doesn’t offer a direct solution. Morgan believes it’s not about a grand linear solution but more about how small choices (from how the industry operates to what we buy) can “support life and not take it away.”
“It’s based on materialism. The problem is that it comes at a really high price.” The True Cost
“Us girls can’t do other jobs. Boys can do lots of other jobs, but not us.” The Machinists
In 2010 Hannan Majid and Richard York told a story of economical and human rights disasters by illuminating the lives of three female garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Living on less than the monthly cost of living in Bangladesh (estimated to be $64), these women are exposed to 12-hour work-days away from their families, a loss of opportunities for receiving higher education, and the vicious cycle of poverty. And, yet, one woman aimed to change this by volunteering at a National Garment Workers Federation after her shift at a garment factory.
“As a garment worker, I try to explain to others about their rights. I help them understand how to approach their bosses when they don’t get paid enough or on time. Now, I’m learning how to stand up for my rights,” a garment worker interviewed for The Machinists.