Dark and dingy factories. Women and children working, elbow to elbow, hunched over machines. Nike. Guess. Kathy Lee Gifford. Sweatshops are an all too familiar story, operating both in the United States and overseas. But does the fashion industry always have to be linked to worker exploitation?
Enter SweatX and American Apparel, two hip new clothing manufacturers that operate in downtown Los Angeles, just blocks from each other. Both companies are committed to creating "sweat-shop-free" clothing by ensuring workers earn livable wages, receive benefits and work in a safe environment. SweatX is backed by $1.5 million in venture capital from progressive ice-cream maker Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's. American Apparel was built from the ground up by eccentric Canadian immigrant Dov Charney.
No Sweat follows these two very different companies for one year, comparing their leadership and business practices, documenting a union drive, and zeroing in on the hopes and dreams of the garment workers themselves. The film investigates whether these companies can actually survive in the tight economic conditions that have sent so much of their competition overseas.
The documentary is a refreshingly honest and wild ride into the bowels of an industry that is notorious for its exploitation of mostly poor, immigrant women. From panties to politics, feminism to machismo, globalization and classic T-shirts (check your closet -- you probably already own one), No Sweat is a promiscuous, playful, nonpompous, non-politically-correct film -- the first portrait of the people behind the companies producing the next huge American clothing revolution.