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Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes Hardcover – September 3, 2019
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"[A] Marley's Ghost-style warning of the irrevocable destructions to come . . . Thomas is engaging and vital." — New York Review of Books
“If you’ve been paying any sort of attention, you know that fashion is a dirty business. Human rights abuses, environmental devastation, economic devastation—these are just the broad strokes of a deeply broken system. And Fashionopolis seeks to pull the curtain back on that system. But it also wants to show us a way out.” —Esquire
"A fascinating account [. . .] Dana Thomas, a veteran style writer, convincingly connects our fast-fashion wardrobes to global economic and climate patterns and crises [. . .] Among the book’s delights are Thomas’s sketches of her individual subjects […] Thomas displays her skills as a culture and style reporter as she visits the visionaries who are attempting to remake the industry, if not from whole cloth, then maybe from lab-grown or recycled fibers of some kind. […] Thomas has succeeded in calling attention to the major problems in the $2.4-trillion-a-year industry, in a way that will engage not only the fashion set but also those interested in economics, human rights and climate policy." —New York Times Book Review
"[A] snappy, clear-minded attack on the fashion industry's rampant labor and environmental abuses. . . [Fast fashion] has decimated labor in developed countries, human rights in developing countries, and environmental quality across the globe — and Thomas asks readers to resist it however we can." — NPR Books
"Fashionopolis is an eye-opening foray into the environmental impact of fast fashion — and it’ll cause you to think twice before buying that Zara dress. Dana Thomas also explores the future of fashion with a number of eco-friendly developments." —Refinery 29
“Dana Thomas’s Fashionopolis takes readers through the dark history of the clothing industry, offering a detailed accounting of exactly what goes into the production of the 80 billion garments that are produced, purchased, discarded, and repurchased each year.”—Science
“Thomas provides glimpses of change in the industry, describing, for example, energetic start-ups producing organic cotton socks and developing fertilizer-free dye techniques… [She is] on the front line of this movement, encouraging innovation for our long-term future.”—Times Literary Supplement
“Thomas, a Paris-based fashion journalist, takes a story most of us think we know, but tells it better and in compelling, readable detail…Thomas’s long view is thought-provoking. Fashion may be faster than ever, but, she makes clear, from the first moments of industrialization it has played fast and loose with its workers and the environment…[Fashionopolis] engagingly elucidates how we may change things.”—The Times (UK)
“A pleasurable read on the innovators and entrepreneurs trying to make clothes with less cruelty and filth…The book has implications beyond cloth and thread…eye-opening.”—Financial Times
“Thoroughgoing and invigorating . . . [Thomas] approaches Fashionopolis as both an intrepid investigative reporter and an aesthete . . . This trenchant look at how clothes are produced today is both an environmentalist cri de coeur and an homage to good design.” —Shelf Awareness
“Journalist Thomas offers a wide-ranging exposé of the fashion industry…[and] shows us sustainable alternatives for the future. Fascinating reading for anyone who wears clothing.”—Library Journal
"An educated update on the current state of fashion, how it got there, and a prognostication on its precarious future . . . Thomas offers informed, fair-minded, passionate, and cautiously optimistic scrutiny of "fast fashion". . . Convincing, responsible, and motivational fashion industry reportage." —Kirkus Reviews
"A great resource for learning about the effects of fast fashion."—Reader's Digest
"In this informative volume, fashion journalist Thomas convincingly lays out multiple arguments against fast fashion . . . Thoroughly reported and persuasively written, [Thomas's] clarion call for more responsible practices in fashion will speak to both industry professionals and socially conscious consumers." — Publishers Weekly
“Fast fashion and its long-term consequences are such crucial subjects that it's hard to believe that no one thought to write this book until now. And how lucky we are that it’s Dana Thomas who finally did, bringing her encyclopedic knowledge and expertly-trained eye to bear on the excesses of a system by which companies exploit people and the planet to produce clothes that we barely wear. Investigating the factory floor to runway in search of a better way forward, Thomas makes an unshakeable argument for a different way of getting dressed.”—Lauren Collins, author of When In French
“Dana Thomas's Fashionopolis is blunt: We’re all going to drown in a landfill piled high with cheap clothes if we don’t stop shopping like maniacs. Thomas's thoughtful reporting explains how we arrived at this environmental crisis and she never lets us forget the human suffering that comes from our seemingly insatiable appetite for frocks. But her reporting also gives us a spark of hope for the future: It just may be possible to have good fashion that doesn't destroy the planet.”—Robin Givhan, author of The Battle of Versailles
“Fashionopolis is an eye-opening account of the true cost of “fast fashion”—from environmental degradation to inhumane labor practices. Dana Thomas circles the globe to profile innovators who are working to make the garment trade more sustainable and offers a vision of better, rather than, faster fashion. What should I wear?” Thomas poses this powerful question and I, for one, will never open my closet and look at my choices in quite the same way again.”—Julia Flynn Siler, author of The White Devil’s Daughters
“In Fashionopolis, Dana Thomas offers a bracing, urgently important look at the ills fast fashion has wrought—from design theft to corporate corruption, inhumane labor practices to incalculable environmental damage. At the same time, Thomas reports on innovative designers, entrepreneurs, and companies working to counter these trends, making the garment industry fairer and more sustainable. This eye-opening book is a must-read not only for fashion junkies but for everyone who buys and wears clothes, enlightening us as to the garment industry's dark past, its embattled present, and—if we make the thoughtful choices Thomas presents—its bright future.”—Caroline Weber, author of Proust's Duchess
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Thomas also looks at the history of fashion and how politics has often affected it. I hadn't realised how much NAFTA had helped wipe out much of the manufacturing base in the United States since the 1990's. Thomas shows how our decline was matched by the uptick in world-wide production went to areas where it was cheaper to produce. I didn't get the sense she was condemning NAFTA; rather that she was explaining the after-effects.
Dana Thomas's book on the ins-and-outs of how today's fashions are produced and how the future of fashion will look is not for the reader casually interested in the subject. She covers fashion from the designs to the manufacturing to the distribution of clothing and accessories and the reader should be at least somewhat familiar with the names and the histories and techniques she refers to.
I fully understand that clothes should not be as cheap as they are and I would be happy to pay significantly more for long-lasting high quality and ethical/environmentally sound production. I get that. I'm on board! However, right now in 2019, according to the information this author provides, there's really nothing available for regular people. Unless you're into maxing your cards and buying $800 sweaters and $3000 jackets and the like.
The new book, Fashionopolis, unravels the intricacies of the textile and clothing production chain. Thomas's access ranges from exclusive venues such as Stella McCartney's studio and the “vault” where Levi's keeps originals of world-class jeans, to unhealthy denim laundries in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“Fashionopolis” begins by discussing the compulsion for consumption and the social and economic impact of the industrial revolution and mass production, until globalization and outsourcing of labor. This first part of the book (read with tissues nearby) describes the hardships of cities that were manufacturing centers in the US but saw production migrate to lower-wage countries, leaving a trail of unemployment. The fast-paced, low-cost production of fast fashion is criticized. The horrors of uncontrolled overseas production are evidenced by reports from Honduras and Bangladesh. Thomas goes beyond describing the collapse of Rana Plaza, including the background of Sohel Rana, the owner of the building. It recognizes the merits of brands adhering to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, but does not forgive the fact that the proposed agreement already existed years before the disaster, without companies making any commitment except the American group PVH Corp. and the German Tchibo network. And also points out that PVH Corp. had only previously joined the pact because of media revelations.
Thomas then delves into the jeans universe, examining the use of pesticides and genetic modifications in cotton growing, the impact of synthetic pigment dyeing, and the environmental shock caused by the effluents from the laundry process. But with each step of the journey, it offers a counterpoint, like organic cotton production.
In the second part of the book, Thomas's eye turns to brands, rescuing craftsmanship (Alabama Chanin), US production (Billy Reid, Little River Sock Mill, Zero + Maria Cornejo) and the revival of textile production in the United States. England and the USA. But the overt optimism of these pages does not make the author less critical: Visiting Reformation, California, she seems to question the contradiction between the brand's sustainable practices and the speed of its launches. I feel she leaves it to the reader to decide.
Back in jeans, Thomas investigates the production of natural indigo, the coveted Japanese brands of denim jeans and the Jeanology denim finishing system, reducing pollutant use and water consumption.
In the third and final part of the book, Thomas acknowledges Stella McCartney's influence in promoting sustainable materials and practices for the fashion industry. While in the Kering group, McCartney advocated an end to the use of natural and synthetic PVC-based fur. Claire Bergkamp is the Head of Ethics and Sustainability at McCartney, and is responsible for many of the material choices, including Canopy-certified viscose, Egyptian-grown organic cotton, New Zealand farmed wool and recycled nylon.
Innovations are not limited to the materials or methods used in the production of clothing. The way clothes are being marketed is also undergoing transformations. The retail model, through department stores, has shown its decline due to changes in consumer preference and the advent of e-commerce. Thomas cites the English Selfridges network as a rare exception for being able to stay connected to customers' expectations with ethical and sustainable practices. In the luxury market, the electronic sales platform “Moda Operandi” is reinventing service from sophisticated spaces where consumers primarily receive fashion and entertainment advice. Nordstrom launched a similar concept in 2017.
Comfort and convenience are the watchwords of retail, and Amazon, the electronics giant, has launched Prime Wardrobe, a service that allows customers to sample goods at home before making their purchase. According to Thomas, the smart virtual assistant Alexa can be programmed with the Style Check app for fashion consulting; she compares consumer photos with fashion images and offers hints about fit and color choices for clothing. It's like having a virtual fashion advisor inside your closet!
Thomas recognizes the exponential growth of the clothing retail market, with the proliferation of consignment, sale and barter platforms. She cites the example of The RealReal that sells used but luxury clothing and accessories. Finally, the clothing rental model is presented as a partial retail replacement, describing Rent the Runway's success story.
“Fashionopolis” could be an alarmist and depressing book, due to the backdrop of human exploitation and environmental impact of the fashion industry. In his thanks, Dana Thomas reveals the moments of frustration and difficulty in compiling such diverse, and many negative, subjects. But the author succeeds in articulating and organizing the content so that the reader concludes the book with a sense of optimism. Given several positive examples, it is possible to have hope for the future. I hope that those interested in fashion, as they read this work, will make more conscious choices to solve the dilemma about what to wear.
Top international reviews
Excellent for anyone.
Detailed, sad in places but shocking the company’s that sell the clothes and how some workers are treated plus how fabric is made. Very very interesting