In the opening minutes of No Sweat, a new documentary from filmmaker Amie Williams, Ben and Jerry’s cofounder Ben Cohen explains his reasoning for creating the clothing manufacturer SweatX: “Some of us started to wonder if there might be a way to take the sweat out of the shop.” Similarly, Canadian entrepreneur Dov Charney founded American Apparel in an attempt to show that American-made clothing could compete in the global marketplace. In Williams’ excellent hour-long documentary, both businesses are examined and showcased in equal proportion.
Interviewing the two CEOs, management, factory workers, union organizers, and many others involved in the manufacturing industry, Williams seeks to look at both SweatX and American Apparel from all angles, showing the positive effects of the different management styles as well as the difficulties faced by each organization. Charney offers the most entertainment throughout the documentary, with his intrepid and controversial leadership style and explosive (and candid) commentary.
Though it’s clear that No Sweat is out to promote the idea of providing living wages for factory workers, by the end of the film the prognosis for the “sweat-free” sweatshop seems a bit dim, as SweatX folds (despite their $2.5 million venture capital funding) and Charney faces sexual harassment charges (which he claims are unfounded). But judging from the success of American Apparel in recent years, and the universal appeal of their “best brand is no brand” attitude, Charney has proven that it is possible to compete in the clothing industry while also paying a living wage to all factory workers. And with Bill Gates heavily promoting Creative Capitalism in recent years (much of the footage for No Sweat takes place in 2003, and the film was completed in 2006) American Apparel should be seeing other clothing manufacturers follow suit.
Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: Those interested in the state of the manufacturing industry
Stay Way if: You’re looking for an expose on sweatshops
To purchase No Sweat, visit Amazon