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Development   /  Julia Martin

The Future is Fabric

Mud. Petals. Compost. Welcome to the future of fashion.


Impact areas






  • DIRECTOR Julia Martin

  • PRODUCER Julia Martin



In a world obsessed with fast, cheap fashion and race-to-the-bottom industry practices, there are threads of hope. One such strand is the community of weavers, dyers, and silk and cotton farmers of Laos.

Focusing on the Eastern Weft weaving house in Vientiane, and its inspirational leader, Master Weaver Khaisy Sophabmixay, this documentary details a powerful counter-narrative to the sweatshop culture associated with South-East Asia. For over a decade, Khaisy and her female-led cooperative have worked with leading designers in France and Japan, producing exquisite textiles without the use of synthetic dyes, human exploitation, or even electricity.

'The Future is Fabric' gives voice to Lao artisans and demonstrates that their technologies are not about simply keep the past alive; they hold the key to developing sustainable textile industries that could change the future - for good.

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0% funded
  • $24,000.00

  • $0.00

  • November 2020

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

While the world agonises over solutions to the problems of fast fashion, sweat shops, and the millions of tonnes of clothing landfill generated each year, the weavers and dyers of Laos continue to do what they have always done: produce sustainable, organic textiles without waste or human exploitation. Practising ‘sustainability’ centuries before it was a buzzword, these artisans have lessons for the global textile and garment industry as it attempts to deal with its appalling track record in human rights and environmental impacts.

'The Future is Fabric' is a story about remaining authentic in a competitive marketplace, and building economic strength through mutually beneficial enterprises rather than exploitative business practices. Guided by the insights of Lao Master Weaver Mrs Khaisy Sophabmixay, 'The Future is Fabric' documents how the history of human development is intertwined with fibre traditions, and what a sustainable fabric future could look like for all of us.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

‘Pull a thread and a whole world opens up’ is the guiding principle of this documentary. By focusing on the impact of one weaving house, we want to empower audiences with an understanding of what true sustainability looks, sounds, and feels like. Our vision is for a world where clothing and textiles are produced without human exploitation and environmental degradation.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Our desired short-term outcome is for people to reconsider their own relationship with fashion and textiles. By understanding what it takes to make a sustainable garment from start to finish, audiences will be encouraged to re-examine their consumption habits.
In the medium and long term, the film’s intention is to bring a new voice into the debate about fashion and textiles. To date, campaigns to make fashion and textiles more sustainable have tended come from those sitting at the top of the consumption chain – designers, marketeers, and journalists. This documentary gives voice to the millions of people in developing countries for whom creating sustainable clothing has never stopped being a way of life. Our goal is to ensure their knowledge informs how we move towards a truly sustainable global textile and garment industry.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Through its narrative about textile traditions, sustainability and beauty, 'The Future is Fabric' invites audiences to reassess how they purchase and use fibre products. There are a growing number of resources about sustainable fashion, natural dyeing and recycling clothing, and our promotions would link into the vibrant community working in this area. We will develop a social media strategy to ensure the film connects to ongoing social change campaigns such as #whomademyclothes and the global Fashion Revolution movement. #futureisfabric will focus on ‘closed cycle’ manufacturing, focusing on the life cycle of garments, including the time they take to compost, and highlighting the importance of traditional knowledge in creating truly sustainable industry practices.

The film will be promoted at festivals, fashion events, educational forums, and through sustainable media platforms. Where possible, film screenings will run in conjunction with hands-on fibre and dye workshops.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

We are fortunate to have four major partners participating in ‘The Future is Fabric’:

Eastern Weft weaving house in Vientiane, led by Master Weaver Khaisy Sophabmixay. Mrs Sophabmixay has granted us filming access to the weaving house, and its affiliated farm and cotton and silk suppliers.

Samorn Sanixay, Eastern Weft’s global business partner and an internationally respected textile designer in her own right. Samorn featured in our short film about sustainable textiles, ‘Creative Activism’, and advises on technical and cultural issues.

Ronin Films, which has made a formal offer to market and distribute the completed film. Andrew Pike OAM, Managing Director of Ronin Films and acclaimed documentary maker, is mentoring the development of the film, and its marketing strategy.

Screen Canberra is supporting the pre-production phase of the project through its 2020 Screen Arts Fund.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

Our ‘call to action’ is not for people to cease buying clothes or care about fashion. If anything, the film is a recognition of the universal human need to create and wear garments, and how humans have always used fibres to improve the everyday quality of life.

Our hope is that viewers of 'The Future is Fabric' will be inspired to re-evaluate their relationship with clothes. We will encourage them to seek out resources and communities that offer sustainable solutions – or create them themselves. Clothing swaps, upcycling classes, sewing lessons, natural dyeing workshops and countless other solutions already exist in local communities throughout Australia and other developed nations. Through social media, we would link viewers to sustainable clothing resources and forums that can offer specific guides to action for their different needs and interests.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

Our indicators of success will be evidence that audiences have examined their relationship with clothing and textiles and changed their behaviour as a result. In the online environment, we see the scope to run a social media campaign #futureisfabric in which participants log their comments and actions, and also a set of challenges for consumers, for example, composting an existing old garment to see how long it takes to break down. This campaign would form a quantitative data set in terms of numbers of responses, but also a qualitative data set in the comments and stories provided.

Our experience with filming hands-on natural dye and fibre workshops is that film itself can be a useful and nuanced evaluative tool. We will run workshops in conjunction with documentary screenings; these will allow us to film interviews with participants to determine how much of the film’s message has made an impact on thinking and behaviour.