Eight Eye-Opening Documentaries about the Fashion Industry

Buying clothes is something that we all do but have you ever thought about what conditions allow us to acquire new clothing at such cheap prices?  This is a typical characteristic of a fast fashion piece.

Read more about what fast fashion is in our article here.

Here are eight documentaries that explore the state of the fashion industry and encourage us to seek brands that align with our personal values.



1. The Machinists (2010)


This documentary follows the lives of three young Bangladeshi women who work as machinists in a garment factory, where forced labour, late payments and sexual harassment are the norm. The documentary explores how they are treated at work and their quality of life.

It features Amirul Haque Amin, the president and co-founder of the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), the largest national trade union in Bangladesh, who explains the complexities of the problem further.  It also showcases how the rights and dignity of workers in the export-oriented garment manufacturing industry are being upheld by the NGWF and how garment workers can seek help.


The Machinists
Available here on YouTube.



2. Tears in the Fabric (2014)


Directed by the same duo who directed the Machinists, this documentary observed the impacts that the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse had on a young Bangladeshi woman.


Tears on the Fabric



3. From Sex Worker to Seamstress: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes (2014)


This short documentary sheds light on an unusual situation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Women in the sex industry – supposedly they have been trafficked and are being forced to work – are being arrested and are given the choice between remaining in custody or being ‘retrained’ to work in the garment industry.  The fast fashion one.


Available here on YouTube.



4. Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion (2014)


This Norwegian documentary series follows three fashion bloggers to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where they spend a month living as a garment worker and get to know them. They even work for the exact wages the workers do to have a clearer vision of what they endure daily.

Watch trailer here.


Watch Season One – episode one, two, three, four, five.  Also available here on Amazon.



5. The True Cost (2015)


Probably the most well-known documentary about the fast fashion industry.

The 2013 Rana Plaza Collapse, made us all want to know the  who, what, when, where and how of the clothing that we buy. It highlights the social and environmental impacts of the industry.  We can now understand who and what is burdened with the true cost of our clothing,  by showing us just how we are able to purchase a £5 t-shirt.

It features interviews with Vandana Shiva, Livia Firth and Stella McCartney.

The documentary also gives insight to how fair clothing should be produced, with the help of Safia Minney.



The True Cost
Available on Netflix or download from their official website here.



6. RIVERBLUE (2016)


In this film, Mark Angelo, the international river conservationist, explores one of the world’s most polluting industries, fashion. Narrated by clean water supporter Jason Priestley, this groundbreaking documentary examines the destruction of our rivers and the impacts that this pollution has on those live along these rivers and use the water.

It focuses on how the industry disposes on toxic chemical waste irresponsibly and looks for potential solutions.


Available here on iTunes, Vimeo, Amazon, DotStudio and Google Play.



7. Stacey Dooley Investigates: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets (2018)


After exploring the social impacts of the fashion industry, in BBC Three’s 2008 series ‘Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts,’ Dooley now explores the environmental impacts. Her, like many, had never associated fashion with the generation of pollution before.

In this documentary, she investigates the negative impacts.  From learning that cotton production is associated with inducing water scarcity and habitat loss for animals in certain regions and toxic pollution due to textile dyes, Dooley is left shocked after seeing the devastating impact it has and needs the rest of the world to see it too.


SD Fashion
Available online on in the UK on BBC here or if you’re not in the UK, here.



8. The Next Black – A Film about the Future of Clothing (2014)


This documentary is slightly different that the ones mentioned previously as this focusses more on the solutions on how to make positive change in the industry.

The Next Black features different designers, innovators and brand representatives who explain how they are working towards reducing the social and environmental impact of our clothing.

It also introduces how companies are turning towards more ethical marketing strategies, for example, Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s VP of Environmental Initiatives and Special Media Projects , reminds of us their 2011 Black Friday ‘Do Not Buy This Jacket’ campaign.

From presenting innovative techniques used to colour fabrics without using water by the Yeh Group, bioengineered clothes which create no waste, simply reminding us why and how we should interact and take care of our clothes, this documentary is one of a kind.


The Next Black
Available here on YouTube.



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