An investigation into the damage wrought by the colossal clothing industry and the grassroots, high-tech, international movement fighting to reform it
What should I wear? It’s one of the fundamental questions we ask ourselves every day. More than ever, we are told it should be something new. Today, the clothing industry churns out 80 billion garments a year and employs every sixth person on Earth. Historically, the apparel trade has exploited labor, the environment, and intellectual property—and in the last three decades, with the simultaneous unfurling of fast fashion, globalization, and the tech revolution, those abuses have multiplied exponentially, primarily out of view. We are in dire need of an entirely new human-scale model. Bestselling journalist Dana Thomas has traveled the globe to discover the visionary designers and companies who are propelling the industry toward that more positive future by reclaiming traditional craft and launching cutting-edge sustainable technologies to produce better fashion.
In Fashionopolis, Thomas sees renewal in a host of developments, including printing 3-D clothes, clean denim processing, smart manufacturing, hyperlocalism, fabric recycling—even lab-grown materials. From small-town makers and Silicon Valley whizzes to such household names as Stella McCartney, Levi’s, and Rent the Runway, Thomas highlights the companies big and small that are leading the crusade.
We all have been casual about our clothes. It's time to get dressed with intention. Fashionopolis is the first comprehensive look at how to start.
In this informative volume, fashion journalist Thomas convincingly lays out multiple arguments against fast fashion (low-cost, mass-produced clothing) and the cycle of rapidly manufacturing, purchasing, and discarding clothes that is sweeping the globe. Thomas points out that American "shoppers snap up five times more clothing now than they did in 1980," that fast fashion also preys on consumers' insecurities, that synthetic dyes and fertilizers have harmful effects on the environment, that southern mill towns emptied when clothing manufacturers sent those jobs overseas, and that outsourcing grievously exploits laborers (as evinced by the devastating collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, where many U.S. companies subcontracted work, which killed more than 1,000 garment workers). In the latter part of the book, Thomas delves into efforts to mitigate these effects through "slow fashion," such as Levi's using domestically produced organic indigo for some of its denim, and small, socially conscious companies bringing their manufacturing operations back to the U.S. Thomas interviews individuals such as Alabama Chanin, who grew up in Florence, Ala., "the Cotton T-shirt Capital of the World," and, upon returning home, has reimagined how clothing can be produced locally in a manner that exploits neither its employees nor the environment. Thoroughly reported and persuasively written, Sexton's clarion call for more responsible practices in fashion will speak to both industry professionals and socially conscious consumers.