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5 films you need to watch on sustainable and ethical fashion

Home » Ruth Spencer » 5 films you need to watch on sustainable and ethical fashion

13 November 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

These must-watch documentaries might just inspire you to quit fast fashion for good.

The True Cost

In this confronting film, director Andrew Morgan, alongside a team which includes ethical fashion advocates Lucy Seigle and Livia Firth, asks the question, “Who really pays the price for our clothing?”. The True Cost investigates the exploitation in the fashion industry, detailing the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh, where 1134 garment factory workers were killed.

It also shows how the excessive profits made by some of the world’s biggest clothing brands don’t filter down to the garment producers who risk their lives in hazardous working conditions to meet the world’s insatiable demand for clothing. As the website for the movie says, “the price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically.”

Watch The True Cost here.


In RiverBlue, international river conservationist Mark Angelo travels the globe to show the effect the fashion industry, and its dumping of toxic dyes, waste water, chemicals and carcinogens, is having on the world’s rivers and the health of the residents who rely on them for drinking water.

Narrated by clean water supporter Jason Priestley (aka Brandon if you grew up watching 90210), the film also shares sustainable solutions to the fast fashion crisis.

Watch RiverBlue here and join the filmmaker’s movement towards a more sustainable fashion industry here.

China Blue

This 2005 doco will make you think twice about the jeans you are wearing, and wonder just how much of what you paid for those jeans went to the person who made them. Shot without permission from the Chinese authorities (the crew were even arrested during filming), the documentary follows 17-year-old Jasmine and her co-workers, who work for less than a dollar a day in a jeans factory, for almost 20 hours a day, seven days a week.

It also provides the perspective of the factory owner, who is under pressure himself from clients to meet unrealistic targets and unrelenting deadlines. China Blue is part of filmmaker Micha X. Peled’s ‘Globalization’ trilogy, which also includes Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town and Bitter Seeds, another devastating watch, this time about suicides in the Indian cotton industry.

Watch China Blue here.


Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists investigate the culture of consumerism that the pursuit of ‘the American dream’ has created. Minimalism questions how much happiness this dream really brings people and details the damage this pursuit is causing the environment. The documentary, available on Netflix among other platforms, features interviews with a number of minimalists such as entrepreneur Jesse Jacobs who shares the message that “you’re not going to get happier by consuming more”.

Watch Minimalism here.

Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion

Another celebrity endorsement for sustainable fashion – this time from former Blur-bassist turned cheesemaker, who seeks to find a solution to the fashion industry’s human and environmental costs. Alex talks to designers, activists and fast fashion brands and discovers there is opportunity for change – if consumers are willing to get behind the brands making a difference.

Watch Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion here.

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