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Documentaries on sustainable fashion

Visual Curator
Vittoria Rossini
English Translation
Andrea Terrado
Italian Translation
Bryan Bravo

The fashion industry is a major player in global economies and frequently has a negative impact. Many documentaries about sustainable fashion address their environmental footprint and human rights abuses of workers in countries of the global south.

Below you will find some essential documentaries that allow us to reconsider our consumption habits and be able to make more conscious decisions.

The True Cost 

This documentary, presented in 2015 by filmmaker Andrew Morgan, exposes the global environmental impact of the fashion industry and the true cost of fast fashion while asking who really pays the price for our clothes.

The True Cost looks at some shocking facts about the textile industry while demonstrating how the demand for low-cost (and disposable) fashion is destroying our planet and hurting workers in the sector through dangerous working conditions and low wages.

It also reveals how the industry affects the pollution of rivers and soil, due to the use of pesticides and other harmful chemical substances that are also harmful to people’s health.

On the other hand, it makes special mention of the negative consequences of the use of genetically modified cotton.

The documentary features interviews by designer Stella McCartney, Orsola de Castro (co-founder and creative director of Fashion Revolution), and environmental activist Vandana Shiva, among journalists, designers, entrepreneurs, factory owners, and industry workers.

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This 2012 short film by filmmaker Meghna Gupta presents in just under 14 minutes the journey made by garments that arrive from Western countries to be “discarded” in India, while showing the environmental impact of fast fashion.

The documentary follows Reshma, a worker at a textile recycling factory in Panipat, northern India, where she recycles discarded garments back into thread, and as she removes buttons and zippers, she imagines how Western women dress the garments she recycles.

Unravel invites you to raise awareness about the disposal of textiles.


This 2017 documentary follows Canadian writer and professor Mark Angelo, a famous river protectionist.

The rower embarks on a three-year journey down rivers around the world, uncovering the impact and pollution on waterways by the fashion industry.

The documentary demonstrates with numbers the massive consumption of water in the textile industry, particularly for denim and leather, pointing out that during manufacturing approximately 93,000 million cubic meters of water are consumed per year, and around 20% of the world’s wastewater is a direct result of the dyeing and treatment of fabrics through the use of chemicals and toxic products that seriously affect the lives of the people who live around them.

Narrated by actor Jason Priestley, it offers solutions to reevaluate our consumption practices to ensure a more sustainable future for future generations.

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Alex James: Slowing down fast fashion

The English musician, known for being the bassist of the group Blur and currently a farmer, presented in 2016 a documentary where he critically analyzes the fashion industry and its impact on the environment.

The film tackles the dangers of fast fashion shopping and its excessive discarding, revealing the hidden costs of producing low-priced garments, while talking with journalist Elizabeth L. Cline, author of the books Overdressed and The Conscious Closet; designers such as Christopher Raeburn, and textile entrepreneurs.

The film exposes sustainable fashion alternatives while asking how we can curb fast fashion.

The Next Black

It is a 2014 documentary directed by David Dworsky and Victor Köhler that explores solutions for new sustainable materials and new technologies for the future of fashion.

The film is about the people working behind the scenes at what they see as the next milestone in the history of the textile industry while interviewing designers, innovative companies, and even environmentalist Rick Ridgeway, vice president of the firm Patagonia.

The Machinists

This 2010 documentary, directed by Hannan Majid and Richard York, tells the stories of Amirul Al Haq Amin, president of the National Garment Workers’ Federation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Nargis, Ratna, and Mohammed, three garment workers.

Through statistics and their daily lives, the documentary shows the constant struggles they face for better salaries and working conditions; and for the equal rights of workers, teaching the human cost of exploitation in the textile industry.

Reinventando la moda

This documentary follows London-based fashion designer and creative director of sustainable brand Mother of Pearl, Amy Powney.

The daughter of environmental activists, after winning the Vogue award for Best Young Designer of the Year, she sets out on a mission to create a collection that is ethical and sustainable from the sourcing of raw materials to the production of garments, transforming the way we relate to fashion.

Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth

Sweat Shop: deadly fashion

This Norwegian reality TV show accompanies three bloggers and fashion consumers to Cambodia for a month to experience the making of the clothes they buy.

During their journey, they get to know the day-to-day life of workers in the textile industry while living in the same conditions.

Stacey Dooley investiga: los sucios secretos de la moda

Released in 2018 on the BBC, this documentary shows British journalist Stacey Dooley traveling the world to trace the textile industry’s supply chain and its impact on the environment and people, uncovering the hidden costs of fast fashion.

The Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion

It is an episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj’s American show Patriot Act where he reveals the dark side of the fashion industry and the environmental and ethical issues related to low-cost garments and their discarding.

The host shows how fast fashion brands are harming the environment and how their mass consumption also affects the environment.

Worn stories

This docuseries explores the wardrobes of a group of people and the emotional connections that their most precious garments generate in them, offering a unique perspective on fashion.

Image by Priscilla Du Preez (Unsplash)

Fashion documentaries allow us to learn more about the issues within the fashion industry and understand the impact of our purchasing choices so that we can make more sustainable choices and create positive change for the world.