If you want to see an extreme example of sustainable fashion, this short and sweet British documentary may be the answer. The Nettle Dress follows textile maker Allan Brown as he talks about his seven-year project making a viking-style dress from locally foraged nettles. It’s an odd starting point for a film, but naturally there is more behind the process.
Narrated throughout by Brown himself, he talks about the loss that led him to find solace in his craft – the death of his father – as well as the passing of his wife from cancer at just 45. The nettle weaving takes on a new meaning, a meditative exercise where each strand seems to have a little bit of his past in it. Brown’s easy, hippie-like delivery also muses on our own connection to nature: nettles are, he points out, the first plant everyone learns about, because of its sting.
Making something beautiful from a potentially painful source is symbolic for his own journey. Given the column inches devoted to the problem with fast fashion, it’s also a pertinent reminder about the potential of material that literally grows all around us. It’s not the most urgent film, amounting to a long walk in the woods with Brown (and his dog) and hearing his story.
This works because director Dylan Howitt mirrors that meditative process in the way the film is paced. It’s pleasant, comforting, and features plenty of the nature that inspires its subject. Touching in places, The Nettle Dress is a great example of how even the most unusual subject matter can be made fascinating with a little bit of patience.