I remember reading Naomi Klein’s No Logo way back in 2002, while backpacking around the world and seeing real poverty for the first time. I’d never heard of a sweatshop before. After reading it I could no longer take pleasure in the united colours of my wardrobe or just do it in my favourite yellow sports top. The seams on my clothes screamed at me how someone had actually personally sewed them, in conditions beyond my imagination. Sometimes a book changes the way you see the entire world, and these seven books below have the potential to do just that, too. Watch out, fast fashion, we’ll be armed with new knowledge!
British journalist Lucy Siegle promises to “reveal the truth about materials, production, and the wardrobe lives of our clothes.” We think she does a brilliant job telling us everything that’s wrong with the fashion industry in an interesting, detailed and extremely readable way. The environmental issues, the raw materials, the garment workers’ plight and the half-hearted attempts at corporate social responsibility are all unraveled, leaving us no choice but say bye to the thrills of fast fashion.
For American readers, Overdressed with its US focus is a similar yet more relevant read than To Die For. What makes the book particularly easy to relate to is that she starts off where we did – as a fast fashion consumer with far too many clothes. To find out what’s really going on behind the ever-changing collections of companies like Gap and Forever 21, she interviews garment workers, sourcing professionals and designers at big corporations. In the end, she even travels to factories in the Far East to represent her fake fashion sourcing company. Cline said writing Overdressed changed her shopping habits for good, and reading it might well change yours (if you haven’t changed them already).
Buy clothes, get bored of what you bought, give it to charity to help those in need. All very ethical and commendable… or is it? In Clothing Poverty, Andrew Brooks tells us the disturbing true story of our cast offs by following a pair of jeans around the world. We were shocked to learn about the international trade networks in recycled clothes and the way charities actually perpetuate poverty by flooding developing countries markets with last season’s rejects (driving local producers out of business). Yet another reason to buy clothes that we really love and want to cherish forever after.
Tansy E. Hoskins used to lament that there wasn’t “a single book on fashion that dealt with everything I wanted an end to: the terrible working conditions, the environmental destruction, the eating disorders […], the racism that fashion promotes, the self-loathing and the black hole of wanting that exists and cannot be filled no matter how much you buy.” Now there is, as the above description is Stitched Up in a nutshell. More than a little angry, more than a little political, this fab manifesto of a book fills us with rage against the fast fashion machine.
The name of this book is borrowed from an eponymous 19th century poem, a part of which reads:
“It is not linen you’re wearing out,
But human creatures’ lives!
Stitch – stitch – stitch,
In poverty, hunger and dirt.”
A renowned researcher and writer, Seabrook explores the production of cheap clothing from 18th century Manchester and Bengal to the slums of Dhaka today. The cheap clothes in Western stores have been dearly bought, he argues, and their price bears no relation to the pain of the people who produce them. Song of the shirt is a beautifully written and highly recommended read if you want to know about how moving clothes production in order to get the cheapest price affects (and destroys) people’s lives across the globe.
Compiled by People Tree founder Safia Minney, Naked Fashion takes a different approach to fighting fast fashion. The book is made up of interviews of people who are personally making a difference in the world of fashion, from designers to buyers to illustrators and TV presenters. They’re a much needed glimmer of hope in the bleakness that most of our bookshelf basics inspire, so pick it up whenever you take a break from all the fashion fact hideousness. There’s even an ethical directory at the end, for those times you need some sustainable extra to your wardrobe.
Wear No Evil is a practical fashion guide for combining ethics with style. After listing the very compelling reasons (most of which we know by now) why we need to abandon our current clothes shopping ways, it moves on to wardrobe organizing with an eco-friendly approach. The book offers refreshing and doable solutions: we can’t wait to try out its 16-point integrity index for clothes and cross-reference its ethical brand guide with Labour Behind the Label’s Tailored Wages campaign.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know about this one already. Feel Good Wardrobe was published in Finland in 2012 and is the inspiration behind this blog. Its aim is to help you “fix your own clothing issues and the problems of the global fashion industry at the same time,” and you can read the first chapter right here. The book, a step-by-step journey to a happy relationship with your wardrobe, is currently available only in Finnish, but we’ve translated parts of it for your reading pleasure. Just look for the tag Feel Good Wardrobe. And if you want to see all of it in English, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do.
Happy reading – despite the sometimes bleak content, let’s remember that these books have the keys to a happier world for everyone! Please share with us which one(s) you loved or loathed, and of course any other life changing fashion reads you’ve discovered!