Sunday, 24 June 2012

Wear In The World?

If you fancy a light read that gives a surprisingly nuanced view of the global fashion business, then I can recommend Where Am I Wearing? Kelsey Timmerman's 2009 book documents his travels as he tries to find the people that made the clothes that he wears on a daily basis. He would travel to Honduras, Bangladesh, Cambodia and China, and discover that there are no simple answers to the dilemma of ethical fashion.
His major aim is to put names and faces to the workers that create our clothes, to make it plain what's happened in our quest for cheap clothing. It's eye-opening and often tragic, but Timmerman deals with the subject in a warm and funny way. He's remarkably clear-eyed on the wooly thinking that can lead to boycotts, which cause far more harm than good. Taking away people's jobs, especially people who support entire families on one wage, is simply unsupportable. Yet, as Timmerman says:
“There isn’t a single worker who makes my clothes who lives a life that I would find acceptable.” 
There are solutions, and they're not cheap. But along with most of us, Timmerman wants to see an end to a global economy that is so obviously skewed away from fair trade and towards exploitation. His book, as relevant now as when it was published, is a great way of raising awareness towards that aim. In fact, the revised edition of the book visits a fair-trade factory in Ethiopia which shows what can be done with a remarkably small set of resources. If you're interested in ethical fashion, this book puts a smiling face on the stories behind the cheap t-shirts and flipflops.
Where am I Wearing?: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes is available at Amazon, and probably other good retailers as well.

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