The summer holidays are the perfect time to relax with a good book. To help you create a shortlist, we’ve asked three amazing women to review ground-breaking books which delve deep into the world of fashion.
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
by Elizabeth L. Cline
Overdressed was one of the first books I ever read about the ethical issues of fashion and it left an indelible mark. Elizabeth L. Cline combines journalistic expertise with a flair for storytelling to detail how clothes have gone from valuable to disposable in a relatively short time frame.
Cline’s journey into the story of cheap fashion began with her own experience buying seven pairs of $7 shoes in one day, only to have them fall apart within weeks.
And after a decade of only buying fast fashion she realised that – despite the 354 pieces of clothing in her possession – she didn’t know anything about where her clothes came from, she didn’t love them, and she definitely didn’t feel well-dressed.
Cline provides a stark appraisal of the fashion industry, arguing that “fashion largely deserves its bad reputation,” because of the size and power of the industry, its impact on self-image, and its blatant disregard for the environment and human rights.
She brings us into the room to learn firsthand how the apparel industry changed so dramatically and introduces us to some of the people impacted in factories across America, the Dominican Republic, China and Bangladesh. Cline also shows us the results of this changing industry as we go inside H&M stores and the clothing donation centres that now overflow with cheap clothing. She makes connections between fast fashion, the outsourcing of jobs and economic inequality experienced in the US today to highlight that this is not just an issue for fashion lovers.
Ultimately, Cline shows us a way out of the fast fashion cycle via a closer connection with our clothing and support of ethical fashion designers, shining a light on a future where we can love clothes and feel good about them, too.
Lisa Heinze is an author, researcher and academic with expertise in incorporating sustainability into today’s lifestyles. Lisa is committed to supporting others to live sustainably (with style!) and has published her book, Sustainability with Style, to do just that. She is co-founder of Clean Cut, Australia’s sustainable fashion council, and is currently working on a PhD project examining fashion and sustainability.
To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?
by Lucy Siegle
To Die For was a bit of a shock doctrine for me. It’s been more than a few years since I first read it but I distinctly recall devouring it in quick bursts, pausing frequently after I’d read something daunting, putting the book down whilst I recoiled in a mix of shock and horror and then regrouping and furiously underlining and annotating pages.
It was written before Rana Plaza collapsed, so if this tragic event wasn’t to become the poster child for the multitude of issues the industry faces, this book contains pretty much all of the others. Except they aren’t seismic events, they’re just business as usual in many parts of the world.
To Die For is a tome to give you short term shock-and-awe and long term motivation. Lucy is such a sharp journalist with a brilliant wit and at times it feels like an undercover investigative thriller. You really can’t believe what you’re reading!
There is no pleasant way to describe how the snakeskin on your handbag comes to be or the effects of chromium tanning on leather workers. But it’s necessary to know if you’re vested in taking responsibility as a consumer or as an employee in a kinder future of fashion.
I’d say to any reader of this book, don’t shy away from the facts, dive in, be intrigued, be shocked and then come away with a renewed appreciation for the clothes in your wardrobe and the journey they’ve taken. If nothing else, it will make for fascinating dinner party chatter.
Melinda Tually is the Director of NDLESS: The New Normal and the Co-ordinator for Fashion Revolution Australia and New Zealand. Melinda advises brands and retailers on responsible business and supply chain strategy, social and environmental risks, communications, partnerships and sourcing. Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for greater transparency in the fashion industry. Fashion Revolution Week runs from April 24-30 in 2017.
A humorous, intelligent and well-researched look into the past, present, and future of fashion.
Clare Press is a fashion journalist and editor-at-large for Marie Claire, so her research, though dense and detailed, is written with wit. Wardrobe Crisis is full of enjoyable anecdotes about couture’s famous designers, their muses, and her own experiences in the world of fashion.
I learnt so much about the history of fashion, highlighted every wonderful statistic (many Australian statistics, music to my ears!) and was left with a hope for the future innovators and leaders in the fashion industry.
A must-read for anyone who is the slightest bit interested in fashion and how it can change our world, for better or worse.
Bethany Noble is the Chief Marketing Officer for Good On You (pictured here with Clare Press). She has spent time in India researching ethical supply chains and volunteering for a social enterprise employing women who have been trafficked. Bethany is passionate about ethics in the supply chain and bridging the gap between consumerism and development.
Hungry for more? Check out our suggested reading list:
- Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with Your Wardrobe
- Magnifeco: Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-toxic Beauty
- The Sustainable Fashion Handbook
- Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics
- Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion
- ReFashioned: Cutting-Edge Clothing from Upcycled Materials
- Eco Fashion
- Eco-chic: The Fashion Paradox
Do you have a favourite book about the fashion industry? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Editor’s note: Good On You did not receive compensation for mentioning the books in this article.