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10 Ethical Fashion Documentaries You Need To See

These ethical fashion documentaries could change the way you perceive the fashion industry….and simply buying clothes

By Chere Di Boscio

We have often pointed out vegan documentaries that could change your life by shedding light on the planetary and health benefits of going vegan. We’ve also highlighted films about the environment that could open your eyes to kinds of pollution you didn’t even know existed. But since many of our readers are obsessed with fashion, we thought it was time for a list of ethical fashion documentaries.

These documentaries are great for several reasons: one, most of them are free, and you can watch them just by clicking on the screens below. Two, they offer loads of information and inspiration for not only those who are embarking on a green journey for the first time, but for those of us who have been fed so much negative press about the fashion industry, we feel hopeless.

These ethical fashion documentaries offer a light at the end of the tunnel, be it news of fledgling unions being born in sweatshops, or suggestions on how you, as a consumer, can make a difference. And yes, you can! Just start by sharing these films with others to educate them, and hopefully, to inspire change.

10 Films About Ethical Fashion You Need To See

1. The True Cost

The mother of all ethical fashion documentaries, the True Cost is the best documentary to watch if you truly want to understand how complex the problems with fast fashion really are. It begins by showing us the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, and then takes us through the supply chain of Fashion.

It exposes how human rights are being violated on a daily basis in the fast fashion industry,  as well as the resulting ecological disasters. Director Andrew Morgan interviews top commentators in the realm of ethical fashion for inspiration and context. If you feel like you are addicted to fast fashion and you can’t help yourself, watching True Cost is a great way to kick that nasty habit.

What it focuses on: The real cost of fast fashion

Where to see it: You can catch this on Netflix, or click here to download it.

2. The Machinists

Come with us on a journey to Bangladesh! This 2010 British documentary film directed by Hannan Majid and Richard York documents the exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh with the personal stories of three young women working in factories in Dhaka. You’ll get to know these women and how their lives truly are. You’ll follow them to work, hear how they feel about their jobs, and see them interacting with bosses, co workers and their families.

What it focuses on: The real people who make your clothes

Where to see it: Click below to see the whole movie for free.

3. Luxury: Behind the mirror of high end fashion 

Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton are some of the most coveted luxury fashion labels in the world. But what really goes on behind the scenes?

Luxury labels generate over 70 percent of their turnover with leather products, but hardly anyone knows the reality of their production. This investigative documentary uses hidden cameras to take a deep look behind the shiny facade of luxury fashion. You’ll see the brutal conditions in Chinese fur farms, and how migrants are exploited in Italian leather tanneries. The film notes that major fashion brands comply with a modern code of conduct that also applies to its direct suppliers. But who controls the subcontractors?

What it focuses on: The truth behind luxury fashion labels

Where to watch it: Just click on the Play button below to see this film (one of the best ethical fashion documentaries if you ask us) for free!

4. River Blue

This documentary focuses on one of the most serious consequences of the fashion industry: water pollution. Sadly, this has gotten so bad, that some rivers in Asia are completely dead. In turn, this ruins agricultural land, destroying the only means of substance for many of the people who inhabit these areas. But the issue is not limited to Asia: if we do nothing, this problem will be soon knocking on our doorstep.

What it focuses on: Water. How water is our most valuable resource, and how the fashion industry ruins it.

Where to see it: Just click below. You’ll need to pay a small fee to see it, but if you love the oceans, it’s well worth it!

5. The Next Black

‘The Next Black’ is a documentary film that explores the future of clothing. The film introduces us to some of the most innovative companies on the planet in order to hear their opinions on the future of fashion. Unlike most, this is a rather optimistic documentary, that highlights the real heroes of sustainability, including Patagonia; tech-clothing giants, Studio XO; sportswear icon, adidas; and Biocouture, a consultancy exploring living organisms to grow clothing and accessories. It’s a film that will give you hope!

What it focuses on: The best practices and innovations in the sustainable fashion industry

Where to see it: Just click below to see if for free!

6. Made in Bangladesh

Made in Bangladesh tells the personal story of a woman who works in a sweatshop, in India. She instigates other workers to fight for their rights and better working conditions. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as you would expect. Laws exist to protect workers, but they mean nothing if no one is putting it into practice. This touching movie is based on a true story, which makes it even more inspiring!

What it focuses on: One woman’s struggle in the garment industry

Where to see it: Click here to watch it in full

7. Udita (Arise)

This is another documentary about the protests for better working conditions following the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. This event was the tipping point for many workers who lost several family members and friends in the tragedy. Since the majority of clothing factory workers are women, they are the focus in this documentary. It’s interesting that the mainstream media shows so little about these warriors and their struggles, so thank goodness for films such as Arise, which do.

What it focuses on: Female garment workers in Bangladesh

Where to see it: Just click on the screen below to watch it for free

8. Unravel

This short documentary shows you where our clothes end their journey, by taking you into one recycling facility in India. It’s really interesting to learn how the people working there perceive Western culture, and to hear their own theories about why we toss so many items of clothing away.

What it focuses on: What happens to our clothing after use

Where to see it: Right here, below!

9. Frontline Fashion

Frontline Fashion is more a reality TV series than a documentary, but it’s well worth a watch! The Redress Design Award is the focus of this show, which follows contestants from around the world as they arrive in Hong Kong  for a packed week in the lead up to the grand finale. You’ll meet the team behind the world’s largest fashion design competition, see some sights in Hong Kong, and learn all about how sustainable fashion is made.

What it focuses on: The Redress Design Award competition and its contestants – it’s like a sustainable version of Project Runway!

Where to see it: You can catch the whole series for free on YouTube! Just subscribe to RedressAsia.

10. The Clothes We Wear

There can be little doubt that we live in an era of hyper-consumption, and nowhere is this more obvious than the fashion industry. Thanks to the low, low prices of fast fashion, shoppers can afford a larger wardrobe than ever before. And if you believe the ads run by some of the world’s largest retailers, you may think that you can shop till you drop with a clear conscience. But…can you?

Two reporters go undercover to find out what’s really happening in the textile factories where many clothes destined for the European market are made. They discover the extent of the environmental devastation caused by the industry and how companies are making a profit from the fact that sustainability sells – even in the world of fast fashion.

What it focuses on: Greenwashing in the fashion industry

Where to see it: You can see the whole documentary by clicking on the play button below.

Tell us in the comments what you thought about our suggestions and tells us if you have some of your own.

First and last images: Courtesy Andrew Morgan/The True Cost Thanks to our friends at NAE Vegan for some of these film suggestions

Chere Di Boscio

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