Credit: Penguin Books

It would be easy to suppose that this book is about women’s clothing and not worthy of serious interest by men. Wrong! Anyone who cares about the environment or about worldwide working conditions would find the information in Dana Thomas’ book revealing and shocking as well as hopeful and inspiring.

Fast Fashion began in the 1980s and involves using focus groups to pre-test garments for their appeal and winnowing down the offerings to assure their success. Coupled with that design approach, was the idea of debuting new fashion concepts and clothing as often as bi-weekly instead of twice a year as in the dominant days of haute couture. Not only does this current manufacturing process put continual stress on those in Los Angeles and in foreign countries tasked with meeting these demands for instant gratification, but it has created a world where designs are pirated, and the pirated knockoffs are purchased and then discarded within weeks.

Of concern are two matters. The working conditions where most of the manufacturing takes place are, for the most part, inhumane. Some are kept in virtual slavery. Most work without physical safeguards from equipment, chemical toxins and carcinogenic airborne particulate matter. A very different concern is the effect on the millennial generation of disposable fashion, where many purchase an item a week for show on Instagram or Snapchat. Fake identities are created through online purchase, same day delivery and next day discard.

But on the bright side, there are dedicated farmers, fabric chemists and manufacturers who focus on Slow Fashion. They grow indigo to create nonchemical blue dyes. They work with natural flax to make linen. Instead of favoring synthetics that don’t crush, they foster appreciation of folds and creases and build them into the design look, a look that is casual, self-assured and classic. They have begun to make inroads with Levi and other fashion houses. Others have developed ways to re-fabricate materials — both polyester and even plastic. It is also now possible to reweave natural fabrics. So, garments can not only be resold through thrift or consignment stores, but they can be recreated to complete the cycle of sustainability.

After reading Fashionopolis, you will feel differently on your next clothing purchase! 

Fashionopolis: Why what we wear matters
By Dana Thomas, Penguin Press (2019)

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