Thursday 23 August 2012

A Little Light Reading

It's easier than ever, and at the same time more difficult, to read appropriately around the subject of ethical fashion. There are all kinds of blogs and online reading resources for the curious reader to explore (including, I hope, our own humble efforts). But if you want to find something with a bit more depth and heft--well, that can be a bit more tricky.

Here at The Pier we are indebted to Pamela Ravasio, whose Shirahime blog is a favourite of ours. She's tenacious at finding decent books on the subject and making sure they get our attention.

The problem, as Pamela points out with the weary tone of someone that's seen it far too often, is that books on ethical fashion tend to only be available in their home market--an interesting phenomenon for a subject that is, at its core, concerned with the negative effects of globalisation.

With that in mind, I'd like to focus on a couple of books that are (or soon will be) available in the Pier's home market, the UK. Both are very worthy of your attention.


To Die For--Is Fashion Wearing Out The World? comes from Lucy Siegel, the green correspondent for The Guardian. It is, as you'd expect, impeccably researched, and substantial. But it's also cleanly, concisely written and extremely accessible. There's little point in turning a potential convert off with impenetrable language and a screed of tables and graphs. To Die For doesn't do that. Instead, Lucy carefully allows us to relate the contents of our wardrobe to the bigger picture. The book takes on everything from the rise of fast fashion and it's ethical and environmental impact, to the simple things we can do as consumers and concerned citizens of the planet to lessen that blow. Heartily recommended.


Meanwhile, Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed: Responsible Shopping In The Age Of Cheap Fashion does much the same, but tweaked for an American audience. I'm not saying she dumbs it down--far from it. Overdressed is every bit as smart and well-informed as Lucy Seigel's book. But Elizabeth's approach is lighter and less condemning, focussing on the positives. For example, she visits the only living wage garment factory, and treats the story of a move away from fast fashion as more of a personal odyssey. The hard truths are in here, but they're designed to be more of an impetus for change than an indictment of consumerism gone riot. It's as affable and charming as you'd expect from a book about globalisation.

I think both books are great both as primers to the state of the ethical fashion world, and as an eye-opener into the practices and abuses that made it necessary. You could do worse than add them to your summer reading pile.

To Die For--Is Fashion Wearing Out The World? by Lucy Seigel is available now.

Overdressed: Responsible Shopping In The Age Of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline is released at the end of the month in the UK.

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