Beyond the True Cost – 8 Films You Need to Watch

It’s an all too familiar action: infinite scrolling. You’re looking for a film or a quick show to binge watch, ultimately resulting in endless searches through dozens of platforms. You can only watch Emily in Paris so many times. And if you watch it for #styleInspo then maybe it’s time to balance out that fairy tale version of fashion with a little reality.

Many of us are familiar with The True Cost, the documentary about a building that collapsed filled with garment workers making clothes for popular brands. It is a story about greed and fear, power and poverty, examining connections between fashion, consumerism, mass media, globalization and capitalism (Siegle 2015). It premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and really brought attention to the ethical issues of current fashion production.

But learning how the system works and the stories of the people behind it isn’t a “one and done” kind of thing. There’s always more to learn. Ranging from short films to televisions shows to full length documentaries we’ve rounded up the best picks to add to your watchlist.

Unravel | 2012

watch the trailer here

We may be used to our family members’ hand-me-downs but the world of fashion has discreetly hidden the world of cast offs: unfavored and ‘unfashionable’ clothing that finds a home in landfills oversees. Nestled in the Northern regions of India, these garments take on new lives in the homes of recycling factories or simply on the side of the road. As locals use their crafts to refurbish the forgotten clothing, we learn of their dreams of the West and constructed imaginations of the far away fashion world.

Cotton Road | 2014

watch the trailer here

Few can answer what their favorite shirt is made of, let alone where the garment is made. Director and producer Laura Kissel went in search of answers, following the global supply chain unbeknownst to us all. Venturing from the rural farms of South Carolina to the textile factories of China to unpack how our demand for more more more continues to drive low-costs and unethical labor practices. All a part of the process that shows no signs of slowing.

Udita (Arise) | 2015

watch the feature film here

At the heart of a grass roots organization lies 5 women fighting for rights within the garment workers’ struggle. After incidents of violence, arrests, and the tragedy of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the demand for better in Bangladesh arose. Through the eyes of union female members and leaders hear daily challenges faced and the desires for more.

ReMake’s Made In | 2019

watch the trailer here

Remake’s ongoing series Made In continues with Made in Mexico, an honest, open conversation around Mexico’s economic impact on the industry. Follow fashion designer/activist Amanda Hearst and an array of designers trekking across the country to meet the women behind the machines; hoping for safe working conditions and fair wages, they voice their concerns on mass production and their ambitions for a better life.

The Clothes We Wear | 2020

watch the feature film here

It’s no secret that sustainability sells. The latest trend within fast fashion resides on the price tag, with eye catching phrases of ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘green’ to ease the minds when making a purchase. But is it all genuine? Two reporters examine European textile factories at the height of hyper-consumption, determined to find the truth behind the so-called sustainable movement.

Made in Bangladesh | 2020

watch the trailer here

Every day, 23 year old Shima attends work in a Bangladesh clothing factory full of hazards and underpaid employees. Tired of the unethical practices Shima becomes inspired to unionize much to the dismay of her husband and management. Steeped in realism, the fictional film tracks the truths of garment workers and the strength it takes to make a difference.  

ReDress the Future | 2021

watch the trailer here

It was only a year ago that climate justice activist Mikaela Loach entered the small screen through her series ReDress the Future. As a fellow fashion lover it became increasing difficult to ignore the harm being done by the fashion industry, prompting her to develop a beacon of hope amongst the pollution and toxic waste. The three part series exclusively on the Waterbear platform meets the experts and designers pioneering sustainable fashion ideals, creating a responsible and less impactful way of producing our favorite garments. Closing the informational gap between clients and brands Loach dives into educational, actionable options for the everyday consumer, demonstrating how change is possible no matter the wearer.

Fashion Scapes | 2021

watch episode one here

Director Andrew Morgan and producer Livia Firth are the minds behind the investigative documentary to address circularity. Within each piece, the pair explore the false realities behind a circular economy, and the necessary changes that need to be made in favor of a more socially and environmentally just industry. Through their travels and in depth storytelling we learn of the ongoing fight for circular fashion and the future full of possibilities.

-Kennedy Smith


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