[Tribeca ‘22] Fashion Reimagined (2022) Film Review

Fashion Reimagined, directed by Becky Hutner, takes audiences behind the scenes of Amy Powney's journey to changed Mother of Pearl's business model and create a sustainable fashion brand.

[Tribeca ‘22] Fashion Reimagined (2022) Film Review
Mother of Pearl Creative Director Amy Powney (Fashioned Reimagined)

by Sydney Bollinger

The fashion industry’s impact on climate change has become well known in recent years, especially with documentaries like The True Cost (2015) gaining immense popularity upon their releases. The 2015 documentary may be the single most impactful piece of media regarding the fashion industry and climate change...until now.

Becky Hutner’s new documentary Fashion Reimagined (2022) follows fashion designer Amy Powney as she turns London luxury brand Mother of Pearl (MOP) into a leader of sustainable fashion. This isn't an expose, which we've often come to expect in environmental documentaries about polluting industries. Instead, Hutner shares both the hardships Powney faces and and the success Powney finds as she completely changes Mother of Pearl’s business model to be both friendly to the climate and friendly to fashion industry workers.

The film begins in 2017 when Powney wins Best Young Fashion Designer of the Year. Concerned about the industry’s increasing effects on the global climate, she uses her prize winnings to create a completely sustainable line of clothing called “No Frills.” Hutner shows how Powney transforms Mother of Pearl into an exemplar of sustainable fashion. In telling the story this way, Hutner effortlessly displays just how much sustainability is not the norm.

Powney's journey is both harrowing and inspiring. As she seeks out sustainable solutions, months go by with each day closer to the release of No Frills. Watching Powney and her team find solutions to sustainability are significant because their story shows that sustainability is an option. The "conventional" fashion market and fast fashion are not necessary; they thrive on excess. This is common knowledge, but Fashion Reimagined peels back the layers to show exactly what sustainable designers and fashion brands are working against.

The documentary's transparency about the fasion industry is unparalleled, especially in how it shows just how difficult achieving sustainability in fashion is. Powney is uncompromising on her position for No Frills to be completely sustainable; even when there's not a clear path toward sustainability, Powney and her team pivot to find new solutions. It's a compelling narrative that Hutner captures with a deft hand. Unlike many documentaries about climate-harming industries, Hutner does not excavate all of the bad things that are happening and instead brings optimism climate change activism with a solutions-based story of success.

Woman stands in front of moss covered ground and trees wearing a flannel jacket.
Fashion Reimagined director Becky Hutner

As Powney makes her business model more sustainable, the film dives deeper into some specific issues of sustainability in fashion. The sections of the film focused on denim, specifically, offer a raw, honest look at the popular closet staple. This transparency not only impacted Powney’s decisions, but also prompts audience discussions about the havoc denim wreaks on the environment.

Of course, there is still more work to be done in this realm, especially in fashion that fits all bodies and sustainable fashion that is affordable to those who can’t afford high price tags. Neither of these things were the film’s focus, but fashion affordability and accessibility of plus sizes are often left out of the conversation. Whether or not this is in Powney’s purview, I think the film could have benefited from some discussion of this, especially because the paragons of sustainable fashion are often out of reach for many.

This film, though, is a wonderful look at the fashion industry and how it is changing to be more sustainable. Since Powney released No Frills, more and more sustainable fashion brands have popped up, which shows how important Powney’s work is and the change in values we’re seeing in the fashion industry.

Powney and Mother of Pearl’s work inspires action around the fashion industry and has changed the conversation completely on what fashion is. Further, Mother of Pearl's classic-with-a-modern-touch style fits nicely in with Powney's sustainability goals. She's designing timeless pieces to last, standing against an industry where massive closet turnover is the norm.

The film closes with a brief look at the 2020 #FashionOurFuture campaign, during which thousands of people committed to wearing/purchasing only sustainable fashion for the entire year. Although the campaign has ended, Powney’s story and spirit will continue to drive change in the fashion industry.

Here’s to hoping we see more sustainable fashion in our future.

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