Krish Srinivasan reviews the “must-watch”, “shocking and inspiring” documentary, Fashion Reimagined.

In the world of high-end London boutique fashion stores, there is one creative director with wild ideas making incredible strides. This creative director combines one of the world’s most lucrative industries — fashion — with one of the world’s most necessary ideas – sustainability. High end celebrities from Emma Thompson to Vicky McClure wear her clothes. Vogue and The Guardian have devoted pages to her innovations. I am talking about Amy Powney.

Powney is the rags-to-riches (quite literally) creative director of luxury womenswear brand, Mother’s Pearl. In 2017, she set herself the challenge of creating a sub-label titled No Frills. The catch? No Frills must be completely sustainable and ethical. What follows is a whirlwind process of innovation, travel, failure, long working hours, and in the end, success. And this has been captured in Becky Hutner’s astounding new documentary, Fashion Reimagined.

Filmed alongside the 18-month process of creating No Frills (to deem this a ‘process’ is a wild understatement; what Amy Powney, Chloe Marks and the team at Mother’s Pearl have achieved is shown by the film to be nothing short of an actual miracle, made possible through idealistic but grounded hard work), Hutner’s documentary reveals some startling facts, narrated by Powney herself; her voice and accent, one not usually associated with high end fashion execs (she’s the daughter of Lancashire based back-to-nature hippies), is refreshing, expressing a sincerity and passion befitting of the project.

We discover, for example, that if the Fashion Industry were a country, it would have the 3rd highest carbon footprint in the world, after the USA and China! We read of the colossal water consumption to make just one pair of denim jeans — 7600 litres. We are made aware of the ridiculous process of fashion transportation; for example, wool is gathered in Uruguay, processed in China, spun in Turkey, sold to Paris, developed in London, and then sold back in China as the finished product. We see first-hand the devastating impact the Fashion Industry has on animal welfare (sheep muling for example — a truly horrible process), on workers in developing countries, on the PLANET!

“If the Fashion Industry were a country, it would have the 3rd highest carbon footprint in the world”

Becky Hutner’s film backs its socially conscious message and extraordinary story with a truly strong aesthetic. Phil France has composed a breath-taking score, thoughtfully placed alongside some stunning and some emotionally provoking shots of the reality behind our clothing: wool farms in Peru, sheep muling in Scotland, child labour in Turkey, modern day slavery in Bangladesh… All the filming is gorgeous and often gets one wondering how it was captured: whether it’s shot-reverse-shots of intimate family conversations or floating pans of models walking around London Fashion Week, they all contain the same cinematographic immediacy.

Nietzsche, in his seminal essay The Greek State, made the contentious and oft-misinterpreted claim that the creation of high-culture/great-art is made possible through the subjugation of a mass population who must tend to society’s menial activities.

This is essentially — with difference in content, but not form — the system we have in place today, under 21st century globalised capitalism, in which a small upper class of the ultra-rich, high-level politicians, global celebrities, businessmen and so on, subsist on the occupational produce of a largely servile, underpaid, labour-selling working class. Whether this is just or not, and whether this, alongside catastrophic levels of climate change, are intrinsic parts of capitalism or not, is a question for another article, perhaps even a book (see Thomas Piketty’s 2019 release Capital and Ideology).

But when applied to the Fashion Industry, especially the one portrayed in Fashion Reimagined through the eyes of Amy Powney, one wonders just when our way of life — our very subsistence within global capitalism — became so horribly objectionable…

Fashion Reimagined is playing in select cinemas across the country. Visit the following link to find a screening:

Watch the official trailer here.