The Plot: UK-based fashion designer Amy Powney has worked her way up from humble origins to a notable figure in the industry. Raised by environmental activists, she’s concerned about the environmental impact of the fashion industry and why sustainability must be the way forward. This extends to the sourcing of key elements such as cotton and wool, tracing them back to the country of origin and going through as few countries as possible. As Amy and her business partner Chloe Marks prepare for London Fashion Week in a few months time, we watch their company Mother Of Pearl prepare the only completely sustainable collection to go on show…
The Verdict: Here’s a startling statistic. If the fashion industry was a country, it would be the third biggest polluter in the world. Even amidst all the glamour, bling and distinct personalities, it’s a destructive industry that works through supply chains that use chemicals that damage the environment and the health of low-paid workers. One of the dirtiest products out there is the humble pair of denim jeans, according to designer Amy Powney. She’s one of a growing movement of designers moving towards more sustainable, environmentally-friendly solutions to develop the necessary materials for the clothes we wear. An outsider looking in, she’s not so much trying to reinvent the fashion wheel but changing the mechanisms that drive it, to make it more efficient and reduce the footprint on the planet while keeping costs under control.
Becky Hutner’s revealing documentary Fashion Reimagined is very much designed as a wake-up call for the industry from a new generation of young, environmentally-conscious designers re-thinking their manufacturing practices. Focusing on Powney, the first two acts track her across the world as she travels from the UK to Uruguay, Peru, Turkey, Austria and Paris in an attempt to locate a fabric supplier that is onboard with her way of thinking. The system doesn’t generally work like that though, so she works through various suppliers before finding the one that fits her needs. The third act then follows her team as they prepare for their No Frills product launch at London Fashion Week, leading on to their brand gaining recognition and being worn by Saoirse Ronan and Emma Thompson, no less. One has to admire her ethical approach to her work, but it’s also a torturous process.
It’s apparent that Powney is often bending over backwards to make her sustainable solution work. She has to accept that some environmental impact is a necessary evil but reduction is the goal. It’s a convincing argument as to why we should care about the origins of the clothes we wear on a day-to-day basis. Hutner’s following of Powney can’t quite shake off the impression of tunnel vision though, very much a one-woman argument against an industry that is grindingly slow to embrace change. There’s surprisingly little context from the industry itself i.e. no major fashion mavens offering their perspective on how the fashion industry can change in step with this grassroots movement within it. As the credits roll, there are some signs of progress (leather made out of mushrooms?) while there are some hard facts to face. Fashion Reimagined presents one talented woman’s vision of a more sustainable future for the fashion industry, if it’s willing to listen and embrace the change it so desperately needs as the toll mounts on the planet. An interesting watch for anyone curious about fashion, the environment or both.
Rating: 3 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
Fashion Reimagined – in cinemas 3rd March and available on Sky Documentaries and streaming service NOW from 9th April.