Montreal·Absolutely Quebec

Absolutely Quebec series launches season 3 with 100% T-Shirt

Director Kaveh Nabatian explores the history, ethics and political culture of our most common garment. Featuring American Apparel founder Dov Charney, Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire, Sugar Sammy and Tegan and Sara, among others.

Documentary cottons to James Dean, Sugar Sammy, Tegan & Sara

Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry boasts his favourite shirt, merchandise for his father's 1981 theatre production (Kaveh Nabatian/Intuitive Pictures)

Montreal filmmaker and musician Kaveh Nabatian has combed the world's cotton industry — through manufacturers' factories and warehouses, rock festivals, political rallies, thrift shops and beach fronts — to piece together this compelling examination of the iconic T-shirt.

100% T-Shirt airs Saturday, July 19th on CBC Montreal at 7 p.m. (Kaveh Nabatian/Intuituve Pictures)

The feature documentary 100% T-Shirt (airing Saturday, July 19 at 7 p.m. ET on CBC Television) looks at an industry grappling with an evolving global economy.

Featuring ousted American Apparel founder Dov Charney, musicians Tegan and Sara, comedian Sugar Sammy, Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry (also Nabatian's band mate in the instrumental outfit Bell Orchestre), NYC punk pioneer Richard Hell and Montreal-based LGBT design company Revel and Riot, the film examines the T-shirt's role in the birth of punk rock and its evolution as the chief political and cultural messenger of our times. 

Nabatian also documents the garment's global marketplace. 

After you watch this movie, you'll be able to make better decisions about how you buy a T-shirt, and you’ll look at T-shirts in a different way.- director Kaveh Nabatian 

“The film is about the T-shirt — from the cotton ball, to the recycling plant, to the countries where our T-shirts end up,” says Nabatian.

100% T-Shirt exposes production techniques, retail and marketing practices as well as secondary and tertiary markets from thrift shops to bundled shipments of used T-shirts to African countries, known as the Mitumba trade.

What started out as an unsightly undergarment staple for 1940s American marines, the T-shirt has become our most ubiquitous piece of clothing, now worn by 98 per cent of the world's population.