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Sustainably Stylish: Six must-watch documentaries for any fashion lover

by Shradha Aswani

Learning more about fast fashion.

By Aparna Sharma

Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (2018-2020):
Season 5, Episode 3, “The Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion”

Available on YouTube and Netflix

This 30-minute video is brilliantly delivered and executed, and hits the perfect balance between a TED Talk and a stand-up comedy show. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to have a good laugh while learning something meaningful and important? It’s an easy-breezy watch over lunch break or on your commute to work.

A joke he made that I loved was, “Every brown dude here is brought to you by Zara; that’s why we all look like we manage a BMW dealership in Fremont.” It struck a chord with me because fast fashion killed individualism – it constantly creates ‘FOMO’ on a trend, which in turn has created a fashion culture where everyone looks identical.

The True Cost (2015)
Available on YouTube

In sustainable fashion circles, you’ll hear a lot about this 2015 documentary, which was probably the first one to bring out the ugly side of fast fashion to a larger audience. It documents the events which led to the Rana Plaza Incident in Bangladesh, which is a disaster that killed thousands of garment factory workers. In the aftermath of Rana Plaza, filmmaker Andrew Morgan traveled to 13 countries to explore the dark side of fashion, unveiling the life of low-wage workers in developing countries and also showcasing the ways that the fast fashion industry is killing the planet. This documentary uses an interesting approach that looks at environmental, social and psychological aspects of fast fashion, and it also examines how fast fashion’s rapid turnover of new trends is causing mass consumption. It puts together many different interviews with environmentalists, garment workers, factory owners, sustainable fashion brands, and fair trade promoters, opening our eyes to modern-day slavery in the garment industry. Made in a typical documentary style, it has a run time of 90 minutes but is definitely a must-watch despite its length.

Fast Fashion – The Shady World of Cheap Clothing – a DW Documentary
Available on YouTube

This 43-minute documentary chronicles the shady world of cheap clothing. It provides evidence on how Zara’s business model is based on stealing designs from small independent designers who don’t have the legal means to win a battle against a huge fashion conglomerate. It also shows how fast fashion brands are using social media influencers to create the ‘FOMO’ concept all the time, and capitalising on the vulnerability of young users so they constantly feel the need to buy something new to fi t in. This documentary takes the viewer into the fast fashion factories of Leicester in Central England and showcases how greed and a complete lack of empathy fuels the new-age, ultra-fast fashion industry.

The Truth Behind Fast Fashion – Are Fashion Retailers Honest With Their Customers?
– a DW Documentary

Available on YouTube

This 28-minute documentary shows the complete lack of traceability and transparency in the fast fashion industry. It focuses on the two most popular fast fashion brands: H&M and Zara. A journalist follows the recycling trail of their self-proclaimed recycling programmes, and what we learn is that fast fashion can never be fully recyclable or sustainable under their current business model of overproduction.

And here are two documentaries made in the last year:

Fast Fashion – Dumped in the Desert – a DW Documentary
Available on YouTube

This is another DW documentary which showcases the horrific amount of clothes dumped in the Atacama
desert and the environmental disaster which has already begun.

The Environmental Disaster that is fuelled by Used Clothes and Fast Fashion
Available on YouTube

Made by ABC News, this chronicles the problems faced in Ghana. It really opens our eyes to how nuanced and layered this problem is.

Aparna Sharma (Instagram: @stylishsuitcase) is a non-conformist who believes that fashion must become a force for good and style must meet sustainability. She breaks down the nuances of slow fashion and how we can stay stylish without being trendy.

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