ALL ARTS Documentary Selects

FULL EPISODE

A Fashion Uprising

This documentary follows creators who aim to reduce pollution and center justice in the fashion industry. Some return to artisanal craft and others work with the latest digital technology, but they are united in their vision of transformation.

AIRED: March 29, 2021 | 0:52:49
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Oh, yeah-ah-ah- ah-ah-ah-ahhhhhh ♪

♪ Oh, yeah-ah-ah-ah- ah-ah-ahhhhhh ♪

[ Ripping and crumbling ]

♪♪

Narrator: On April 24th, 2013,

the Rana complex in Bangladesh collapsed,

crushing to death 1,135 garment workers

and injuring thousands --

modern slaves exploited 24/7.

Warnings the building was unsafe went ignored.

There were orders to fill

to meet our insatiable demand for fast fashion.

This horrific incident shocked the world.

For some, it was fashion's 9/11.

It exposed the dark reality of an insane system --

too many collections, overconsumption,

pressure from shareholders,

designers burning out.

Globalized fashion is a red-hot world

reeking of death.

Pfeiffer's interpreter: With clothes today,

it's a never-ending loop.

It's completely insane.

Warmel's interpreter: Trends, what's in, what's out,

what's hot, what's not --

none of that exists.

The only production in fashion at the moment

is capital production.

There's -- there's no cultural production anymore.

Edelkoort's interpreter: The whole fashion system is absurd.

Narrator: The fashion industry produces

80 billion garments every year,

making it the second-largest polluter in the world,

second only to oil.

Fashion has become a toxic passion

that is gleefully destroying us.

♪♪

We met the progressive activists

who are working to humanize fashion.

♪♪

Some have taken up weaving.

Others create with 3D printers.

All call for ethical creativity and sustainable, humane fashion.

Farewell, indifferent, superficial fashion,

a grinning parody of itself.

In 2018, another kind of fashion is possible.

♪♪

Paris -- April 24th, 2017,

Four years to the day since the Rana Plaza collapse,

a group of fashion activists has not forgotten.

[ Speaking native language ]

Narrator: For them, there's blood on clothes.

The culprit is the fashion business.

Their slogan is "Who made my clothes?"

And they want to put a face on those who keep us on trend.

[ Indistinct cheering ]

Interpreter: Who made my clothes?

I feel like shouting. This is an appeal to the world.

Narrator: They use agitprop, happenings,

and Internet radio broadcasts of street debates

to get their message across.

Interpreter: For me, the Rana Plaza tragedy

was the moment when, for the first time in life,

I opened my wardrobe to see where the clothes I owned

had been made.

Interpreter: Six months before that,

the Tazreen garment factory caught fire in Bangladesh.

112 women died in the flames or by jumping from windows.

The conditions are truly appalling.

No one talks about it.

The threshold is 300 dead. It's 1,138.

Interpreter: It's willful blindness,

Brands -- the big brands --

often don't even know anymore where they're manufacturing.

Narrator: This international movement is called

Fashion Revolution.

♪ Underground, underground

[ Speaking French ]

Warmel's interpreter: Fashion Revolution's aim

is to speak out and raise awareness.

We're convinced we can change fashions ecosystem,

and to do that, we need a grassroots movement.

Narrator: Fashion Revolution is calling for transparency.

As with organic products,

the idea is to trace a garment's supply chain.

They want to see the faces behind the labels.

Via Twitter, brands are told to disclose information.

The main targets of their discontent

are the multimillion-dollar retailers

that invented fast fashion.

Kopp's interpreter: Fast fashion is brands like H&M, Zara,

who showed up in the '90s with a really new business model

that involved producing clothes as cheaply as possible

in very poor countries in order to offer innovative collections,

which made a real contribution to fashion

every three weeks.

This constant novelty, in my view,

created a kind of addiction,

which is pretty harmful for the planet

and for people.

[ Speaking native language ]

[ Woman squeals ]

Narrator: On November 12th, 2004,

for the first time ever,

a god of haute couture, Karl Lagerfeld,

produced an affordable collection for H&M.

[ Speaking French ]

A rampaging horde of bargain hunters

cleaned out the Swedish clothing's giant store

in just 20 minutes.

With their rarity enhanced through communication,

these mass-looks designer collaborations

have become a hysteria-inducing yearly ritual.

Delpal's interpreter: We were perhaps the first industry

to come up with the concept of planned obsolescence,

because we claim sooner and sooner that the clothes,

the products we've created, are no longer fit for purpose

and shouldn't be worn.

Conscious of their image,

the fast-fashion giants talk about virtuous circles

and launch recycling initiatives,

but they continue to overproduce clothes

more and more cheaply.

♪♪

Edelkoort's interpreter: Last week in Paris,

I saw a poster for a little bikini top

that cost 4 euros, 95.

And I felt sick to my stomach.

It was a very complicated bikini top, too,

with a small, very well-stitched triangle.

[ Speaking French ]

Edelkoort's interpreter: When you look at the photo,

you know there's usually 2 euros' worth of thread,

1 euro of triangle, of material,

plus shipping, display costs, and so on.

This thing should have cost, I reckon, at least 15 euros.

It's cheaper than a sandwich.

It's intolerable because it's teaching people

fashion has no value.

[ Applause ]

Narrator: Every season,

Li Edelkoort publishes her trend predictions.

Li is regarded as an authority, even when she challenges

the beliefs of the somewhat closed world of fashion.

She's currently the dean of hybrid studies

at Parsons, New York.

For more than 30 years, her trend books,

which cost a fortune,

have been the Bible of fashion editors and brands alike.

Edelkoort's interpreter: These colors again --

they'll be the season's favorites.

Narrator: A year after the Rana Plaza tragedy,

she published "Anti-Fashion," an upbeat yet damning

manifesto addressing the fashion system's failings.

Edelkoort's interpreter: I couldn't carry on cheating,

and pretending everything was fine

when I felt very strongly that it wasn't.

It wasn't fun because I love fashion

and I enjoyed all the years I spent working in the system.

And I'm not negative or an activist.

It really isn't my thing.

Narrator: Li is realistic.

She can see fashion, which she loves,

becoming greedy and vain.

Young designers are trained to become hyperactive divas,

crafts and skills are disappearing,

and the desire for profit has made creators sterile.

She believes fashion is anxious, under pressure,

oblivious to the spirit of the age,

and has become old-fashioned.

Edelkoort's interpreter: I would change everything in fashion,

everything.

It's sad and very exciting at once.

Anti-fashion has become fashionable.

It's become a movement.

♪♪

Narrator: Anti-fashion --

it's a word we hear more and more often.

It's even a movement, the Anti-Fashion Project,

which holds its general assembly in Marseilles,

world capital of this radical call for change.

Interpreter: We believed we'd attain a degree of infinity

by consuming,

the only degree possible,

and that we'd achieve humanity.

And that's shattered.

Narrator: For three days,

thinkers, fair-fashion activists,

emerging brands, outraged designers,

students, and dandies get together to rethink fashion.

Interpreter: We decided to reinvent sneakers

to create a pair that respected people

as well as the environment.

And that's how VEJA was born.

Narrator: Founded in 2004,

VEJA was one of the first brands to combine

cool and ecological awareness.

Interpreter: VEJA's philosophy

is to firstly deconstruct the entire production chain,

then improve each stage.

It's a mix of fair trade, organic, and social insertion.

We buy wild rubber in the Amazon rainforest.

We buy our organic cotton direct.

We know all the producers.

And it's a totally transparent approach.

As for our communication,

we don't shine the spotlight on a top model or athlete,

but rather on the way in which our sneakers are made.

Narrator: With an annual turnover

of more than 8 million euros,

VEJA has proven that a moral conscience

and a huge profit can go hand-in-hand.

But responsible fashion represents

less than 5% of global sales.

Fast fashion's insane and environmentally toxic calendar

has become the norm.

It upsets haute couture's creative rhythms, too.

[ Speaking French ]

Delpal's interpreter: Working to such tight time scales

obviously has an impact on designers,

who sometimes see products in stores

inspired by their own creations

before they've even supplied their own clients.

This negatively impacts the creative process as well.

There's also a need to be increasingly present

and to crank out new collections faster and faster.

Narrator: At at the end of the '90s,

with globalization and the advent of fast fashion,

the world of haute couture saw a major revolution.

Independent fashion houses were brought up by multinationals,

and fashion became the biggest money spinners

of these luxury empires,

which opened stores all over the world.

The profits are colossal.

In 2017, the global luxury market

reached sales of over 260 billion euros.

With the pressure of stock prices monitored in real time

by shareholders, the fashion business changed.

The race was on to continually develop product offerings

and produce more and more.

It became impossible for designers to keep up the pace.

Pfeiffer's interpreter: You can't come up with

something like 16 collections a year,

plus maintain a consistent brand image.

The designer is visible,

so he or she has to be a kind of brand ambassador.

Someone who's used to working in a design studio

making clothes cannot comprehend that.

All of a sudden,

he has to give instructions at a distance,

and that the nature of his work has changed.

Designers today aren't really designers, clothes makers.

They're managers.

That can be really traumatic, I think.

Narrator: These rhythms lead to fatigue, exhaustion,

burnout, and psychosis.

In 2011, John Galliano's anti-Semitic outburst

seemed like career suicide.

The designer was exhausted and strung out on drugs.

Dior fired him.

Not long before that, the suicide of Alexander McQueen,

depressive but at the height of his fame,

rocked the fashion world.

More recently, Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz

walked out of Dior and Lanvin.

In the space of 10 years,

the figure of the worn-out designer

has become the cliché of a creatively stagnant system.

Pfeiffer's interpreter: If you study fashion,

if you're 30-something,

the greats are still the designers

of the late '80s and the '90s --

Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang, Jil Sander,

Comme des Garçons -- all the big names

who proved that clothes were no longer just clothes,

that they could be part of the history of design,

the history of art.

That's when clothes started addressing societal issues --

Gaultier and the questions of gender;

Japanese minimalism, which said a lot about a crisis,

the changes in a country;

Mugler, the prophet of futurism.

Fashion became very active

and very aware mirror of society.

And people realized all of a sudden

we were facing an age, a temporality of fashion,

a system which totally distorted the intentions.

Narrator: Globalized, the fashion images

cannibalized new media, blogs, and social networks.

All the brands communicate frantically on Instagram.

VIP fashion shows are a thing of the past.

Collections are revealed in real time,

and Internet users create their own clothes shows,

one collection after another

in a never-ending hypnotic and shallow stream.

But Instagram, the outsiders' preferred medium,

can deliver another message.

[ Speaking French ]

Fontanel's interpreter: How do you go about creating desire

for a garment?

The fact is, if you don't desire a garment,

you don't buy it.

You want to buy it when you've seen it

looking good somewhere,

and looking good where?

Kids don't actually buy fashion magazines anymore.

They check out Instagram.

Narrator: Instagram is the virtual showroom

of Samia Ziadi.

an anti-fashion designer and suffragette spudded

by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

She goes to places fashion ignores

and wants to tackle the taboos of her time.

Ziadi's interpreter: Bringing my designs here

makes them come alive.

The fashion magazine photos don't always do it for me.

I have a problem with studio photo shoots.

I like life, having people in the background,

people looking, accidents, too.

Nothing is planned.

[ Laughter ]

Narrator: Samia is what sociologists call a millennial.

Ziadi's interpreter: That's great. Just your hands.

Narrator: This first generation of digital natives,

children of the crisis, are over capitalism

and searching for meaning.

Ziadi's interpreter: I've come here with a transparent hijab

to take away its precious, strong, religious aspect,

the fact it frightens people and so on,

to show that it's basically just an item of clothing.

And I've turned it into a fashion accessory.

It isn't religious clothing at all,

even if there's a nod to that.

I repurpose clothes but always with a touch of humor,

because if you don't have fun with fashion, it's awful.

Narrator: Unable to finance the manufacture of her collection,

Samia has created a multi- platform visual environment

Her creations become collages,

which have their place in art galleries,

where she sells them.

Here, she can question the notion of boundaries,

like in this very political video clip

featuring a dress inspired by the tragedy of migrants.

[ Speaking native language ]

♪♪

Ziadi's interpreter: This dress represents a country

that doesn't exist.

It's actually a standard-bearer,

and its standard is this word -- migrant.

I make a lot of use of collage to present my work,

and I put it on an Olympic podium

in the winner's position.

Narrator: Completely outside the market,

Samia sells.

Her silhouette encourages us to think about

the unsolvable problems of our times.

For her, fashion reflects a stance.

Edelkoort's interpreter: What I call fashion is fashion

that changes the silhouette.

Since the advent of fashion,

designers have changed the shape of women...

Edelkoort: [ Speaking Dutch ]

Edelkoort's interpreter: ...very trim, very straight,

very puffy.

There was always something new,

which meant you moved differently.

You felt different.

You flirted differently. Everything was different.

But that ended with Azzedine Alaia, I think.

And since then, in fact,

designers have just made clothes,

and they are less and less well made,

especially in fast fashion.

Now people have to exercise to be fit enough

to wear the clothes.

In the past, the garment wore you,

so to speak.

Now you wear the garment. You give it shape.

That's something we've not seen before.

It's so shitty.

Narrator: Bland, simple, plain, functional clothes.

A surprising movement appeared a few years back,

known as normcore,

a purposely uncool, back-to-basics,

anti-fashion fashion trend.

Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg,

is the living example of this celebration of the unremarkable.

Pfeiffer's interpreter: Normcore became the central statement

of tons of brands.

I think those brands showed people were fed up

with showy luxury,

which didn't make much sense anymore.

That said, I think we're entering another phase now,

a new couture phase,

which, behind a semblance of normcore,

is doing really conceptual things.

But it's very discreet.

Narrator: Avoid the verve of fashion,

elevate everyday staples, and embrace ugliness.

This is the philosophy of uber cool VETEMENTS,

the current fashion sensation.

VETEMENTS is an international collection of young designers

founded by Georgian Demna Gvasalia,

a former student of Martin Margiela,

the great pioneer of deconstructed clothing.

VETEMENTS' first noteworthy show

was an anti-fashion shot in the arm.

Held in the basement of hard-core gay club,

overexcited fashion editors discovered second-hand clothes

with a couture edge.

No professional models,

just ordinary people, generic clothes,

a cool demonstration of the art of repurposing.

Edelkoort: [ Speaking Dutch ]

Edelkoort's interpreter: They offered symbolic clothes.

In their hands, hoodies and the like

became icons.

They really changed the proportions

and the assemblage of things.

Their very raw, very interesting styling

was understood the world over.

So for once, here was a brand

that took this business of clothes seriously

and said, "Okay, if this is the age of clothing,

we're going to go all the way

and show that they'rejust clothes,

not fashion.

Narrator: After just three seasons,

VETEMENTS is already a firm favorite with pop stars.

Most of their pieces sell out before they're even released.

VETEMENTS took anti-fashion to extremes

with its version of the DHL t-shirt.

Pfeiffer's interpreter: It's something that fashion

has always done.

It's the pauperist style.

It's the borrowing of work symbols,

clothes, and uniforms.

It's been done before with a sailor jersey,

the boiler suit, overalls.

Is it a kind of Arte Povera of fashion?

Marcel Duchamp did it.

The whole Arte Povera movement did exactly the same thing.

I think there's friction between the two.

That is, it's a work code.

It's contemporary art.

They're very aware of what they're doing.

What bothers me more is that millions of people

are willing to fork out loads to look like a courier.

Narrator: An original DHL t-shirt

cost less than $10.

With a designer price tag,

VETEMENTS' version is the most unexpected fashion hit

of recent years, and it's even been copied.

People that bought it -- they paid, like,

$300, $400 for a shirt that says "DHL" on it.

It's kind of ridiculous.

It feels like they're almost messing with

the fashion industry by doing that.

It's controversial.

So I paired it, the DHL shirt, by putting "MEMES" on it.

Narrator: Davil Tran is not a designer,

but a fashion geek.

Yes, they exist.

He created VETEMEMES,

the VETEMENTS parody label, for fun.

This is pretty good. Turn around.

It all started when he saw VETEMENTS' oversize black parka

sell out in New York on day one.

[ Camera shutter clicking ] Twirl.

He has created a parallel market with his homage bootleg project.

The maverick has his own ironic fashion brand.

To do my brand, I just research online.

I looked on Google how to find a factory.

And all the designs I did in Photoshop,

and I just reference some of VETEMENTS' work.

And I turn it into my own.

I put a little play on it.

Narrator: But the joke caught on.

With a huge fan base, VETEMEMES' knockoffs

compete with the originals.

Tran: I restocked this eight times,

and it's sold out, like, every time.

Narrator: Davil flogged his fakes and created a buzz

in the fashion press, not the least "Vogue."

My early articles were about me potentially getting sued.

What's VETEMENTS gonna do? Are they gonna sue me?

People like that, you know? It's, like, click bait.

"New York Times" wrote about it,

and they reached out to VETEMENTS.

And VETEMENTS told them that they liked the project,

they supported it, and they were not gonna sue.

So I was super happy about it, yeah.

Narrator: The attitude of Demna and his collective

is surprising in an industry

where counterfeiting is the arch-enemy.

Pfeiffer's interpreter: It raises questions

about royalties, information sharing,

open-source culture.

And the real message here is

creation that comes of nowhere no longer exists,

Everyone builds on existing codes.

DJs make a name for themselves by remixing,

by creating an original track

from a work that isn't their own.

Fashion does that, too.

And that's a good thing if it promotes the recycling,

salvaging, and repurposing of existing pieces.

It can become a fairly positive message

about current conception.

Narrator: VETEMEMES is a hobby for Davil Tran.

His real job is to select and sell the best

used luxury and designer clothing on Grailed --

pieces for fashion enthusiasts,

rare items that Davil finds online

and then sells or collects himself.

That's Yohji pants.

I actually sold this recently for $500,

so I gotta ship that soon.

I like clothes with, like, a history to it.

This one, for example -- it's rare,

and you can't find this, like, anywhere else.

And if you buy new, like,

hundreds of other people could have it, you know?

This is what I love about, like, archive fashion.

I already have too many used clothes.

I don't feel like I need more new clothes.

It's expensive and unneeded.

I love to recycle.

It's one of my favorite pieces.

Features a cobra print on the inside.

If the fashion industry decides to stop making clothes,

I think we'd be all fine.

Like, nothing would change.

I think we would have enough clothes

to clothe everyone and every single animal on Earth.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

Narrator: The overproduction of clothing is staggering.

Every year, 2 1/2 billion pairs of jeans

are sold in the world.

France consumes a massive 700,000 tons

of textiles annually.

Only one quarter will be sorted and upcycled

in centers like this in the Paris suburbs.

[ Man singing in French ]

The best pieces are resold in France.

Others are shipped to Africa.

An unsellable clothing is turned into insulation.

This inexhaustible source of textiles

is Anais' hunting ground, too.

The hipster rag picker unearths the raw materials

for her future collections here.

[ Singing continues ]

Warmel's interpreter: I don't buy fabric because

there's already more than enough material out there,

and it makes no sense to produce more.

[ Singing continues ]

Today I found this fabulous woolen material.

I'm going to make a little jacket with it,

This cotton here will be perfect for a swirly dress.

And this is my fave.

It's everything I love -- a big floral print,

and it was a curtain.

I'm after bold prints that tell a story,

lots of flowers.

That's really the DNA of my collections.

And they're in near-perfect condition, too.

Warmel: [ Speaking French ]

Narrator: With her finds, Anais produces

two collections a year of her brand, Les Récupérables.

♪♪

Anais' green approach,

turning old materials into desirable fashion,

is known as upcycling.

Warmel's interpreter: It simply involves

taking unwanted materials

and turning them into products of greater quality.

Warmel: [ Speaking French ]

Warmel's interpreter: If you take, say,

the vintage 1970s curtain with the huge orange flowers

that's and "A."

Then you add know-how, time, expertise, tailoring

to get an A+.

Narrator: Knocking something up with used clothing is a fundamental trend,

an esthetic and economic imperative,

As with VETEMENTS, upcycling is the new couture, a new craft.

Pieces found in thrift stores are enhanced in the studio.

Everyone has their own methods.

The web is literally teeming with upcycling tutorials.

Warmel's interpreter: Hey, Betsa, look what I found.

Narrator: Recycling is an opportunity to get creative.

Warmel's interpreter: I think we can make

a little kimbo out of it.

Betsa's interpreter: For sure. Go for it.

Warmel's interpreter: But we can't salvage this bit.

Narrator: From remnants too small to make a classic garment,

Anais and her designer have invented their own classic,

a boléro borrowing from Spain and Japan.

Warmel's interpreter: There have always been kimonos

at Les Récupérables.

I decided I wanted it to be workable,

malleable, suit everyone, and a kind of oddity, too.

So I thought, "Okay, let's create the kimbo,

the kimono-boléro."

It suits all sorts of body types and a smaller woman, too,

because it actually lengthens the silhouette.

Betsa's interpreter: Let's see. How does it fit?

Narrator: Les Récupérables kimbo are 100% French

and cost 90 euros.

This is how short supply chains are created

and why small factories are opening up throughout Europe.

♪♪

Based in greater London,

eccentric 30-something Daniel Harris

is the antithesis of fast fashion.

He makes woven cloth, and his mill

is the first in the capital for over a century.

The London Cloth Company has revived a bygone craft.

Daniel has restarted long-forgotten machines,

and they work wonders.

♪♪

With a handful of cash, a collector's spirit,

and his do-it-yourself skills,

Daniel has revived authentic tweed,

which everyone was after.

Harris: This loom is a design from about 1910.

I got from a place called Lochcarron in Scotland,

and it came out of a basement filled with water.

So every single piece of this,

one end of it is covered in rust.

This is actually the loom I started with.

We use it for weaving scarves.

These types of looms -- these are very basic.

They have no imagination. They have no ambition in life.

All they want to do is weave one thing,

but they will weave it all day, every day, without fail.

[ Loom clicking ]

Daniel's mill spans several industrial revolutions.

His turn-of-the-century looms sit alongside 1960s machines.

It's strangely beautiful.

Despite his mill's archaic appearance,

Daniel is a formidable sole trader

with a startup mentality.

He puts the magic of marketing at the service

of a passionate love of authentic textiles.

♪♪

Harris: Weaving's insanely repetitive.

It's super boring,

but it drives you to, for some reason,

to keep doing it

and doing it more and getting it better each time.

I can't really tell you what it is.

It's like an addiction,

a very, very cruel, unforgiving addiction.

But what is incredibly satisfying is getting fabric

that has been washed, what we call finished,

back, delivered, and you open it up,

and it's not sort of an attempt at doing it.

It's proper.

Narrator: There's no planned obsolescence at Daniel's mill.

His artfully woven cloth is durable.

It can be passed on for several generations,

just like our grandparents' clothes.

His approach appeals to Japanese, British,

and American brands

like Ralph Lauren and even Nike.

And visitors eager to know the secrets

of authentic British tweed

regularly tour the London Cloth Company.

So this is...

Harris: What it's very good for is educating people

in where your fabric comes from

and actually how much work goes into it.

They would never have necessarily

fully understood the path

that the wool or the cotton or whatever would take

in order to become the cloth that then becomes your clothes.

They're not just interested in the old looms.

I think they're interested more in the process.

And the advantage with the old looms is

you can see the process more clearly.

Narrator: On his own scale, Daniel has invented a new model

of retro future factory.

Designer, boss, worker, and artist,

he has reinvented tweed culture and restored its authenticity.

[ Looms whirring and clicking ]

Far from the clutter of machines,

the worker cooperative Friends of Light

embodies a new idea of luxury taken to the extreme --

ultra-slow fashion.

With monastic patience,

by hand and in the middle of the countryside,

four New Yorkers spin, weave, and sew one-off pieces.

This gets filled up later, but you can start here now

and then connect to this.

Yeah, I'll do these.

Before setting up her cooperative

deep in the Hudson Valley,

Pascale Gatzen ran the grueling marathon

of the world's major fashion weeks.

A graduate of ArtEZ in the Netherlands,

she presented her work alongside Viktor & Rolf

and other young talents known collectively

as the Le Cri Néerlandais.

Gatzen: I was educated in a very ambitious fashion education,

and there was only one value of success,

and it was to become the next big fashion designer.

I didn't know myself differently

than being successful within that system.

And that became actually lethal to my health and to my condition

because I constantly felt I needed to prove myself

and I needed to be in the spotlight of fashion.

And if I wasn't there, I didn't know who I was.

I didn't know the meaning of my life.

So by the time I kind of approached my 30th birthday,

I had a mental breakdown.

Narrator: Broken by this burnout,

Pascale stayed clear of fashion for six years.

Currently a lecturer

at the Parsons School of Design in New York,

she wants to inject some meaning into fashion.

With her partners, all former students,

she is rediscovering ancient techniques

such as pre-Columbian weaving.

Gatzen: Mae is working on the backstrap loom,

and a backstrap loom is one of the oldest looms,

basically, in the world,

but it's been used in almost every continent

in the world.

Now South America is the most well-known place

for this type of weaving.

Narrator: Their star creation

is this reinterpretation of the Chanel suit

woven using primitive techniques.

Gatzen: A lot of people refer to it as the new couture.

A jacket now, but we will go up

'cause it's kind of not doable for us.

It's $3,200.

And we pay ourselves $15 an hour to weave it,

so it's a very transparent price

'cause it takes at least 160 hours to make, so...

And then we have the materials and other costs

that are included.

Pfeiffer's interpreter: I think we're entering

a kind of post-luxury phase.

People aren't interested in shouting

about their wealth anymore.

It's more like, "Look, this ismy taste.

I went out here. I know such-and-such an artist.

These are my references."

The idea of luxury as a way of saying

you're better than everyone else doesn't cut it anymore.

Narrator: This need for humility

is evident in Friends of Light's horizontal economy.

Its members are co-owners, decision makers,

and paid equally,

a fulfilling approach, they say, for a modest turnover.

Their fashion has enabled them to invent their lives.

Yes.

I wanted to live my life in a fulfilling and creative way.

For the first time in my life,

I felt that I was interested in creating a business

because it was no longer about me individually

supporting myself or my company.

But all of a sudden it could start to support

a group of people

and a political and social vision

that I felt very strongly about.

Narrator: Friends of Light's wealthy clientele can afford

this extra bit of soul.

It's a new kind of luxury.

Instead of the umpteenth chic accessory,

they purchase one-off handcrafted pieces

made with that most precious of commodities -- time.

♪♪

Ultra-futuristic machines are a great time-saver.

It took a 3D printer 120 hours to make this jacket.

♪♪

Maybe I should make it shorter.

This object scanner,

the next major technical revolution,

is Israeli Danit Peleg collection assistant.

♪♪

A graduate of Shenkar,

Tel Aviv's prestigious fashion school,

the young designer made waves

with her extraordinary graduation show.

♪♪

I didn't know anything about 3D printing

when I started working on this project,

so I start my research on the Internet,

and so many amazing people shared their knowledge with me

and helped me to learn more about this technology.

Narrator: She approached her local makerspace, XLN,

where creatives hack machines

to artfully meld fashion and technology.

Peleg: They were so happy to see a girl.

[ Laughs ]

They immediately gave me all the information I needed.

They teach me anything I know about 3D printing.

Narrator: For her first collection, created entirely at home,

Danit kept her machines running night and day

to print jackets, dresses, skirts, and even shoes.

Her groundbreaking work baffled some of her teachers

but captivated the world.

In just two weeks,

over 5 million people viewed the video on Facebook

of this first fiercely independent collection.

♪♪

This is the Liberte jacket.

It has the word Liberte embedded into the textile,

and it was the first garment that I ever printed in 3D.

So this jacket has a really big place in my heart.

Narrator: For this triangular-latticed jacket,

which she printed piece by piece, then assembled,

Danit was inspired by the composition

of Eugène Delacroix's masterpiece

"Liberty Leading the People."

And I felt that what leads us is actually the freedom,

the idea of freedom.

That's why the DIY culture becoming so big.

And people are actually

really like to create things by themselves

and they like to be self-reliant

and they like to be part of the production

of what they're having.

I felt like something big is happening.

This is starting of a new revolution.

♪♪

♪♪

Narrator: Fashion has rediscovered handcraftsmanship,

but technology is turning couture on its head.

♪♪

Dutch designer Iris van Herpen

has been stunning the fashion press for 10 years.

Her inspired boundary-pushing designs

are made from nearly everything but fabric.

She was the first designer to use 3D printers

to produce unique textures

and structures with futuristic materials.

She's showing in Paris today.

♪♪

The centerpiece of her collection

is this burst of suspended drops of water

dubbed the "Alchemy of Light" dress.

When you look through the structure,

it actually transforms the body,

but also the light that goes through it.

It's a bit inspired by insects early morning

when they are covered in dewdrops.

That's a bit the inspiration behind it as well,

how light can actually transform the shape of the body.

Narrator: Iris van Herpen is a whirlwind,

a creator who defies the laws of fashion.

Based in Amsterdam,

she works at her own pace to understand nature

and create her radical futuristic vision of it.

Yeah, looks nice.

So you made them a little smaller, right?

Woman: Yeah, and they're quite close together now.

Explorer of the unconscious,

visionary, and determined,

Iris van Herpen is mesmerizing.

The multidisciplinary designer

works with scientists, architects, and artists

like New Zealander Carlos van Camp,

with whom she created her legendary collection, Voltage.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

van Herpen: Both craftsmanship and newer materials and technologies

have their own advances and their own aesthetics.

And when you merge the two, as a designer,

you can come to, yeah, completely new shapes

and even the behaviors of the garments.

Narrator: Already immortal,

Iris' dresses are exhibited in museums around the world.

At once primitive and futuristic,

all her collections offer a worried

and poetic view of nature.

♪♪

van Herpen: The technology is never an inspiration for me.

It's more like a tool.

I'm much more drawn to the organic and to nature.

I actually think, in some way,

we are losing connection with nature.

And I wouldn't even know how to not be inspired by nature,

as the most beautiful shapes and materials

and transformation are all happening within nature.

♪♪

Narrator: Reconnecting with nature

is tech fashion's new field of research.

The future will be to make garments with cellulosic fibers

derived from renewable resources such as seaweed,

potatoes, corn, and even milk.

Edelkoort's interpreter: The promise is to replace

all things synthetic with biotech,

which is obviously much better for the environment,

for people, for skin, for everything.

Narrator: These alternative fibers are vital.

It takes 11,000 liters of water, as well as pesticides,

to make a single pair of cotton jeans.

Overall, the world's main fashion brands use

over 9 trillion liters of fresh water annually.

There is urgent need for action.

Edelkoort's interpreter: There are already products

being made with spider silk, but with no spiders involved,

because spiders are capable of producing

five different sorts of threads,

one that is very, very elastic.

It's a silk that is so strong

it can actually stop bullets.

Narrator: Having created a protein

that bears similarities to spider silk,

Californian startup Bolt Threads

manufactures a synthetic fiber every bit as flexible

and as durable as the original.

British designer Stella McCartney is interested

in this new non-polluting material.

She teamed up with Bolt Threads

to produce the world's first synthetic-spider-silk dress.

A lifelong vegetarian,

the designer is sending a strong message to the industry

by putting her money on biomimicry,

the firm belief that by emulating nature's

strategies and patterns,

we can create a healthier planet.

Despite seemingly different means and approaches,

couture slow fashion and high-tech fashion

share a utopia.

Edelkoort's interpreter: High tech and slow craft

share a vision of another world,

one where we pollute much less

produce locally,

so doing away with the need for transport,

and where we can "desinate" around the world.

Edelkoort: [ Speaking Dutch ]

Edelkoort's interpreter: But maybe just the idea

or the technology or the program.

And I think this is where open source

will play a huge role.

One day I was invited to an important event,

and I wanted to wear something special and new for it.

So I looked through my suitcase,

and I couldn't find anything to wear.

I was lucky to be at the technology conference that day,

and I had access to 3D printers.

So I quickly designed a skirt on my computer,

and I loaded the file on the printers,

just printing the pieces overnight.

The next morning I just took all the pieces,

assembled it together in my hotel room,

And this is actually the skirt that I'm wearing right now.

[ Applause ]

Narrator: The digitalization of clothing

advocated by Danit was a hit with the TED Talks community,

the international sounding board for avant-garde ideas.

This encouraged the young designer to go further.

I wanted to try and do mass production

with one of the items.

I call it mass production,

but it's only 100 limited-edition jackets.

And every customers can come to my website

and customize the jacket

and choose the color of the lining

and then integrate it with a virtual fitting session

and have it completely customized

to the body measurements.

Narrator: Tel Aviv is a high-tech city.

For her latest project,

Danit teamed up with a local startup

that has just launched an app

allowing shoppers to measure their bodies

and get their exact size immediately.

So the only thing she has to do is to take the two poses

in front of the camera with her body shape visible.

So it's like front pose turning,

side pose, and then --

So she has to do photos? Two photos.

Creating a 3D clone of a customer

is as much a democratization of made-to-measure wear

as a game-changer for the apparel industry.

I'm thinking about, like, all the ways

that we're going to save just because

we actually measured our customers before.

And this is what is probably a big innovation

for the fashion industry, because fashion brand --

they kind of overproduce,

and they make a guess in terms of the quantities

they're going to produce and the sizes.

3D printing plus made-to-measure

means no material is wasted.

This represents huge potential savings for big brands,

who are also keen to get their hands on

customers' personal data

to target them more effectively.

Wow. And then you can measure whatever.

Wow!

The German sportswear giant has understood this.

It recently partnered with Carbon,

a California company

that has developed a revolutionary process,

digital light synthesis, which fuses light and oxygen

to produce products from a pool of liquid resin.

Their aim is to create the perfect running shoe.

If you really want to make a shoe that's a size 9,

that same shoe for someone who's 180 pounds

versus 100 pounds has gotta be different.

Narrator: Adidas plans to roll out this new sneaker worldwide

by the end of 2018,

with in-store 3D printers fitted with scanners

to create shoes perfectly adapted to each customer's feet.

With this breakthrough technology,

Adidas will be running circles around its competitors

on the sneaker market.

In the near future,

3D printers will become mainstream

and replicate traditional fabrics.

Fashion will witness a new industrial revolution.

Clothing will be digital and patterns downloadable.

[ Speaking Dutch ]

Edelkoort's interpreter: I'm still waiting

for a fashion designer to upload patterns

on an open-source site.

It's done in the design world.

I'm waiting for fashion to catch up

so we can make our own Dior skirts

like in the old days,

because designer patterns used to be sold to department stores,

and they would re-create the garments.

It was the ready-to-wear of the time.

We're not inventing anything new.

It'll just be a different way of doing things.

Narrator: This utopia of a shift to a sharing economy

is still some way off,

but there is a constant reinvention on the fringes

of the fashion world --

more transparent, more responsible,

driven by a culture of sharing and do-it-yourself.

Boosted by the inevitable technological revolution,

fashion's status is changing.

It can finally be a common good again.

Maybe fashion's current crisis will lead to its liberation.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

STREAM ALL ARTS DOCUMENTARY SELECTS ON

  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv

FEATURED PROGRAMS