The Next Black, a documentary that explores how out-of-the-box thinking and more conscious design are shaping the future of our clothes, had its first screening in Brooklyn earlier this week. The event kicked off a weeklong exhibit at the BF+DA about the growing intimacy between technology and fashion.
“The clothing industry is much characterized by ‘news’: new collections, trends, colors, cuts; something that becomes quite clear on a week like Fashion Week. In The Next Black, we are looking beyond what’s new to understand what’s next by meeting some of the pioneers in the world who are at the forefront of redefining what we wear,” Lovisa Sunnerholm, one of the film’s producers, recently told Ecouterre.
The film features brands such as Studio XO — which, as co-founder Nancy Tilbury asserts in the film, is all about “making science fiction, science fact” through its creation of “digital couture experiences” through a blend of traditional and 3D-printed fabrics — along with innovations in wearable tech by companies such as adidas. It also asks whether the most groundbreaking fashion innovations could be organic, in a chapter called “Brewing Sustainable Fabrics.”
The documentary also highlights the shift from the traditional, made-to-order aspect of fashion to the modern, mass-produced “fast fashion” model, in which most clothing is designed in one country, manufactured in another and sold worldwide.
“While new styles at low prices are abundant, the relentless production and consumption is accused of having a much higher cost on the environment,” the narrator says.
“Fast fashion comes from the ability of companies to deliver inexpensive clothes made in places where the costs are the lowest and they can be turned around with the fastest speed possible and change weekly or monthly. Then you end up with fast fashion that satisfies a need or desire in the consumer,” Rick Ridgeway of Patagonia, a vocal proponent of more conscious consumption, says in the film. “If that’s the case, then it’s the desire of the consumer that’s driving it — that’s where the change has to come from.”
The fashion industry has been under consistent fire in recent years, thanks to the efforts of NGOs such as Greenpeace, working to bring the industry up to code in terms of its environmental impacts. But the industry’s social impacts are another matter entirely — while a handful of brands have committed to improving conditions in textile factories since the devastating Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013, huge discrepancies still exist between livable conditions and wages, as three unsuspecting fashionistas recently discovered firsthand in the Norwegian reality series “Sweatshop.”