Becky Hutner’s eye-opening new documentary Fashion Reimagined follows fashion designer Amy Powney on her journey to create a sustainable clothing line.
We talk a lot about our food and other products being organic or sustainable. These are buzzy, trendy words in today’s media landscape, often used by big corporations to give the impression that they are environmentally responsible or at the very least, conscious.
But, as it turns out, many products labelled organic or sustainable are far from it as we learn from Fashion Reimagined, Becky Hutner’s feature documentary.
The film opens with fashion designer Amy Powney winning Vogue’s prestigious Best Young Designer of the Year award and being celebrated by her peers. Hutner’s film then follows her as she seeks to create a completely sustainable fashion line, from sourcing organic materials to trying to reduce the amount of countries a single garment travels to before reaching the customer.
Hutner brilliantly shows us a single shirt’s journey. Your regular white, cotton shirt can travel to 5 countries before it arrives on your doorstep. Fine, but surely it’s worth it if you’re going to wear it for a really long time? Wrong. As we learn, our consumption of clothes has risen dramatically and haunting imagery of landfills full of fast fashion items drives this point strongly across.
It’s hard to watch Fashion Reimagined without feeling a sharp pang of guilt. We all love a good trip to a shopping centre and we tell ourselves we’re allowed to treat ourselves to a new skirt or a new pair of jeans without much thought going into how this affects the planet.
Powney is a sympathetic main character. She’s remarkably ordinary and relatable as well as relaxed on camera. We also meet her family and her activist dad, to whom Powney credits her fighting spirit. Powney often mentions if she’s unable to make clothes in a responsible way, perhaps fashion isn’t for her anymore. It’s an admirable, if slightly naive point of view.
Hutner also fails to truly explore why sustainability is so difficult to achieve. We see Powney struggle to find certain fabrics as well as places that can produce the fabric from her chosen wool and organic cotton. Later, when Powney showcases her garments to buyers, no one seems particularly interested.
The reason? One buyer quietly comments on the prices being far too high for denim. This feels like the most interesting aspect of the documentary. Who can afford to be sustainable? Especially now in such a devastating cost of living crisis.
Powney herself hails from a working class family, but her brand, Mother of Pearl, is described as a luxury brand and the prices would reflect that, especially if Powney has to spend extra cash on more expensive materials.
While Fashion Reimagined includes some shocking statistics about fashion and its environmental impact as an industry, Hutner’s film lacks more nuanced conversation. The real question here should be, how do we make sustainable fashion accessible and affordable to everyone?
There’s no denying Powney’s intentions are admirable and her drive is incomparable, but Hutner’s film lacks the bigger picture, which unfortunately includes some uncomfortable questions. While Powney’s work is without a doubt important and hopefully a sign of the fashion industry’s willingness to change and evolve, here’s to hoping those changes don’t only apply to those with the funds to be kinder to our planet.
Fashion Reimagined is in cinemas now and available on Sky Documentaries and streaming service NOW from 9th April.