11 essential documentaries about the textile industry and sustainable fashion

Learn what’s behind fast fashion garments and reflect over their social and environmental consequences. Behind the scenes of runway shows, monthly seasons, the madness of purchasing anything on sale or the constant need to wear new clothes, there is a reality that cannot be ignored. Considering that each of us is a direct accomplice in this situation and how the textile industry works, it is necessary that we learn about the dark side we almost never choose to see.


The True Cost

This documentary, directed by Andrew Morgan, centers around fashion in how it relates to the pressure of the consumer to buy cheap clothes as well as the low salaries of the people that manufacture it.  It’s an analysis of the consequences this level of consumption brings to people and the planet. The True Cost emphasizes the social and environmental price the world pays because of the textile industry. The protagonists tell us about their lives and daily struggle as modern-day slaves in a system that forces them to work non-stop at inferior rates.


The Machinists

The personal stories of three female garment workers and the boss of a fledgling trade union in Dhaka, Bangladesh intersect to portray the human cost of western high street fashion.


Fashion Factories

On April 23rd, 2013 a commercial building in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapses killing 1,000 people some of them children and leaving 2,500 disfigured. The building had been condemned and was not considered suitable for a factory setting but, nonetheless, workers were kept there for 14 hours a day without a break. This wasn’t a mere fatal circumstance but instead one that could have been easily avoided. Through witness accounts, we will investigate the cause of the collapse and reveal how major international brands had ignored security warnings. Deep within the collapsed walls of the factory, we will discover the true cost of fashion.


River Blue

RiverBlue chronicles an unprecedented around-the-world river adventure, led by renowned paddler and conservationist, Mark Angelo, who ends up uncovering and documenting the dark side of the global fashion industry.



A documentary by Jennifer K. Sharpe that discusses the inconsistencies in the fast fashion industry and our growing disconnection and lack of care regarding where and how our clothes are made. This documentary forms part of the documentation of the tragedy in Bangladesh of 2013.


 Les Costures de la Pell

Depicts the daily battle women working in garment production endure to obtain dignified working conditions and human rights. This documentary by Célia Vila and Enric Escofet, who travelled to India to witness and record the devastating reality these women must suffer through.



After filming the documentary “From Elegance to Earthworms”, which explores the growing tendency of eco-consciousness in New York City, director Michelle Vey became more aware of the unimaginable contaminating impact of the of the fashion industry and how detached it is from its consumers. This propagated the union of ethical and sustainable fashion pioneers and experts from around the world to develop this documentary. This brings us closer to the great environmental impact that massive cotton cultivation proposes as well as the health issues it brings to both the people that cultivate it and the people that wear it.


Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion

A five-episode Norwegian documentary in which the most prominent fashion bloggers in the country visit the locations where their favorite garment brands are manufactured and experience, first hand, the lives of the textile workers in the factories


Slowing Down Fast Fashion

Alex James, bass player in the band Blur turned film director, is the protagonist of this documentary. Through interviews and surveys, James offers the spectator a holistic view of fashion through an industrial, social and environmental viewpoint in the hopes that the film incites people to ask the origin of their clothes and open their eyes to what they are purchasing with a focus on the materials in which they are manufactured with.


The Next Black

Directed by David Dworsky and Victor Kohler, this documentary shows us the advances made in technology and science towards ethical and sustainable fashion. It explore clothes production, how we interact with garments and how we care for them. The narrative goes beyond apparel and displays the true relationship between fashion and how technology and innovation is helping transform it. This is not a documentary about what’s happening today or next season but what is upon us, the future of fashion.



When we get rid of clothing that we no longer want, normally it ends up returning to places in the East where the mountains of garbage are so huge that they occupy entire towns. This documentary is about the women that work in a recycling plant in India and the path our clothes take after we discard them. Only 14 minutes long, director Meghna Gupta displays many of our behaviors in this respect.

Lobao Studio’s work in fashion strives for respectful labor relationships and promotes the return of traditional craftsmanship while continuing to research new trends, textiles and designers. To know more, click here.


(cover photo @AdrienOlichon)