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Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes

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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 emplo 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.


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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 emplo 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.

30 review for Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    The other night I went to my son and daughter-in-law's house for a casual Friday night dinner. They have two young daughters and some time before dinner was devoted to the girls trying on clothes and shoes their mother had ordered on line - giving their measurements and shoe sizes - and deciding what they were going to keep and what would go back. This modern day Wells Fargo Wagon delivery system is only one of the ways that clothes for all ages get made and distributed these days. In her book, The other night I went to my son and daughter-in-law's house for a casual Friday night dinner. They have two young daughters and some time before dinner was devoted to the girls trying on clothes and shoes their mother had ordered on line - giving their measurements and shoe sizes - and deciding what they were going to keep and what would go back. This modern day Wells Fargo Wagon delivery system is only one of the ways that clothes for all ages get made and distributed these days. In her book, "Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes", author Dana Thomas takes the readers behind the scenes to look at clothes made for Zara and its competitors, which provide cheap fashion just made to wear-and-throw-away, to the "back to nature" clothes, hand made in communities in the US and Europe. Zara's clothes are made in real-life sweat shops based in Asia and Central America, and Thomas doesn't stint on giving the hoary details of those places. 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This is a thoroughly well researched and well written book on the behind scenes of the fashion industry. Focusing on clothing production, the book is enlightening and frightening at the same time. To find out in detail what it takes to make a single pair of jeans and how damaging it is to the environment was shocking. After reading this book, it will be a long time before I buy another pair. It was interesting to learn about designers who are trying to create not only more sustainable fabrics, b This is a thoroughly well researched and well written book on the behind scenes of the fashion industry. Focusing on clothing production, the book is enlightening and frightening at the same time. To find out in detail what it takes to make a single pair of jeans and how damaging it is to the environment was shocking. After reading this book, it will be a long time before I buy another pair. It was interesting to learn about designers who are trying to create not only more sustainable fabrics, but also more eco-conscious reusing of material. Parts of it really reminded me of Silent Spring in the urgency of what wanting up the minute fashion does to the environment. A must read not only for eco-lovers, but also for fashionistas. It's eyeopening to find out where your clothes come from.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    One of the most interesting, well researched insights into the world of fast fashion and its impact on its workers, consumers, the environment, and beyond. I'll edit this review tomorrow, but I simply floored over what I just read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John Spiller

    "Fashionopolis" is a continuation of a subject covered in Thomas' earlier book "Deluxe," which examined the decline in quality of luxury brand products as they evolved from small to global scale. "Fashionopolis" explores the ways in which clothing has become increasingly disposable, and the human and environmental cost of the increasing global demand for "fast fashion". Having set out the effects of our fashion bulimia of binging and purging, Thomas then describes various innovations that can ma "Fashionopolis" is a continuation of a subject covered in Thomas' earlier book "Deluxe," which examined the decline in quality of luxury brand products as they evolved from small to global scale. "Fashionopolis" explores the ways in which clothing has become increasingly disposable, and the human and environmental cost of the increasing global demand for "fast fashion". Having set out the effects of our fashion bulimia of binging and purging, Thomas then describes various innovations that can make clothing production more environmentally friendly, humane to workers, while at the same time being financially remunerative. Fashionopolis' major flaw is that Thomas does not critically consider whether the "slow fashion" trends she describes will be accessible to any beyond sophisticated and wealthier punters. It's one thing to lionize the environmentally friendly means of producing selvedge jeans, but is a family of modest means going to spring for $200 jeans for their kids? Is someone working two jobs going to spend time looking on boutique online resale shops to buy gently used couture that would otherwise be unaffordable? This is a minor quibble with an otherwise thought-provoking book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    The biggest reason people buy fast fashion is the one thing that's not really addressed in this book: Price. Someone who buys fast fashion can't afford the "reasonable" price of around $300 to rent an outfit. Or $800 for a "slow fashion" sweater. Or even $50 for a t-shirt. One other thing that bothered me was the complete lack of awareness of race and class history when discussing the history of, for example, the American cotton industry. How do you talk about cotton in the South without even me The biggest reason people buy fast fashion is the one thing that's not really addressed in this book: Price. Someone who buys fast fashion can't afford the "reasonable" price of around $300 to rent an outfit. Or $800 for a "slow fashion" sweater. Or even $50 for a t-shirt. One other thing that bothered me was the complete lack of awareness of race and class history when discussing the history of, for example, the American cotton industry. How do you talk about cotton in the South without even mentioning slavery, Jim Crow, etc.? I did like learning about environmental issues and new technologies in fashion, but again, if it doesn't address the price issue, it doesn't really address the consumer need.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Allyson

    Listened to this (read by author on Audible) as I wanted to learn more about the environmental and societal impact of the apparel industry, as well as future innovations. This book definitely brought me up to speed in a great way on those areas. However, as some other reviewers have mentioned, this book really spent a lot of time focusing on innovations made by luxury brands such as Alabama Chanin and Stella McCartney, that are prohibitively expensive to the average consumer. One skirt that Alab Listened to this (read by author on Audible) as I wanted to learn more about the environmental and societal impact of the apparel industry, as well as future innovations. This book definitely brought me up to speed in a great way on those areas. However, as some other reviewers have mentioned, this book really spent a lot of time focusing on innovations made by luxury brands such as Alabama Chanin and Stella McCartney, that are prohibitively expensive to the average consumer. One skirt that Alabama Chanin sells is $9,000, which is stupid expensive. The author seemed to spend over an hour talking about the innovations and sustainable practices this company employs. I would argue that they are not strategies that make a massive difference if they produce $9,000 garments. Now the ideas that come from these practices are interesting to think about, but it is not worth lauding over and profiling them for the amount of time that the author did. The book is slightly tone-deaf throughout the book, highlighting sustainable practices employed by the luxury fashion industry, and slightly turning up her nose at the only slightly-affordable brand for consumers, The Reformation. This book does not contain much advice beyond shop at the luxury retailers she highlighted and if you can't afford to buy from the source, buy at the sale of the sale of the sale, or buy secondhand, or buy secondhand on sale. This is not practical advice. I think it slightly promote elitism that only wealthy consumers can have a choice in how they look, leaving the leftovers for everyone else. She also highlights renting clothing as a viable option and again does not particularly focus on Rent The Runway, a company attainable for the average consumer, but a French rental company that rents Stella McCartney and other couture designers. I would read this book if you have a specific interest in learning about the environmental impact of various manufacturing practices, where the industry is generally, and what types of innovation are happening. This is not a how-to book, nor a book for the average person looking for an interesting read. It's dense and fairly academic.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This is a must read for anyone interested in the business of fashion, as well as environmentalists. Lots information, can be a little dry at times, but it is eye-opening and also hopeful about the future. Dana Thomas does a good job of explaining everything that goes into our clothes, and it is not all negative as I expected, but states the facts with some background, present day and what the future holds and who is leading the way. Like anything worthwhile, it is a marathon not a sprint.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Halley

    Dis you know 82% of the clothes made this year will end up being destroyed or dumped in a landfill?!? What an eye-opener about where my clothes actually come from, and how they make it into my hands. I honestly don't think I'll ever see a mall the same again after this book, and I'm more dedicated than ever to Poshmark/consignment shopping to reduce the impact what I wear has on the environment.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nore

    Fashionopolis is an extremely well-written, comprehensive book; Mrs. Thomas spoke to people from all levels of the manufacturing chain, from workers on the floor of the factories to fashion moguls in LA and NY, giving the reader a comprehensive look at the industry from the initial sketch to the finished product, as well as a brief history of the fashion industry and the rise of fast fashion. Her writing style is clear and engaging, which made this a quick, enjoyable read. I came away Fashionopolis is an extremely well-written, comprehensive book; Mrs. Thomas spoke to people from all levels of the manufacturing chain, from workers on the floor of the factories to fashion moguls in LA and NY, giving the reader a comprehensive look at the industry from the initial sketch to the finished product, as well as a brief history of the fashion industry and the rise of fast fashion. Her writing style is clear and engaging, which made this a quick, enjoyable read. I came away from this book much more hopeful than I did after reading Overdressed, a book near and dear to my heart, a book which solidified my decision to do 99% of my clothes shopping in thrift stores (the only things I usually buy new now are underwear and socks). Hearing about the advances in sustainable fabrics and manufacturing processes that have been made just in the past five years makes me wonder if one day, I won't be able to buy affordable new clothes without feeling like a terrible person, and that's wonderful! So why only three stars? What didn't I like about this book? Dana Thomas is the sort of woman to buy a $1,000 dress without it causing her too much stress (in fact, she portrayed buying this £831 dress in two installments as fantastic way to acquire clothing). Dana Thomas is the sort of woman who is able to afford a $750 blouse. Dana Thomas, while not one of the uberrich, is clearly well off, and deeply invested in fashion in a way the average consumer is not and cannot afford to be. The most expensive thing I have bought in the past five years was a new pair of Converse to replace the pair I'd worn for 11 years - since they were custom, it ran me about $85. The second-most expensive thing I've bought was a secondhand leather backpack about three years ago. I paid $15 for it. Most of my clothing has cost me between $7 and 25¢, since everything I buy is thrifted. I'm currently saving to purchase a few items from a small brand I love that uses deadstock fabric and sustainable practices (Noctex, which has gorgeous stuff), and their clothes only run between $60-175, depending on what you're looking at. So I think anyone reading this review can understand why I chafed at Thomas's neverending insistence that the only way to purchase responsibly was to buy from brands that list coats at $2,100, or, if you're really strapped for cash, to buy secondhand Gucci from The RealReal for a couple hundo instead of a thousand. No matter how you look at it, the brands that Thomas presents as ethical and affordable in this book are out of reach of basically everyone I know, and everyone my friends know, and everyone THEY know. We aren't out here buying $1,000 dresses. We aren't going to spend $80 a month to be able to pick a few pieces of designer clothing to wear to our office jobs. So who was this book written for? The very narrow subset of fashion magazine writers who don't quite make enough to afford the clothing they write about? I've never been so angry at a woman for talking about dresses! As interesting as it was to read about the technology going into sustainable fashion these days, none of it was practical or affordable for me or anyone I know. So here's some advice for the people Thomas isn't writing for, the people out here making enough to keep afloat, the people who want to look nice, as ethically as possible, without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on clothing: - Thrift. Find the local thrift stores in your town. Find the ones in nearby towns. Not just Goodwill - look for the ones owned by people in your community. - Learn to sew, at least enough to do basic mending. It'll make your clothes last longer. Do some research on how to care for your clothes (For instance: Got a twisted seam? Don't put it in the dryer; hang it and pull the fabric back into shape. Doesn't fix the problem, but it disguises it!). - Look for smaller indie brands like Noctex who are attempting to make clothes ethically, but affordably. Maybe they aren't using all of the most cutting-edge technology, but anything's better than shopping at F21 or H&M. Good luck out there to my fellows out there who are also relatively poor, but like to wear nice clothes. I'd still recommend this book in order to see what's going on with textile science (seriously, it was interesting), but don't expect to come away with any practical advice for where to shop.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was a great book, and definitely made me rethink how I buy clothes and what I buy. It really explored a lot of different aspects of clothing-from environmental impact to human cost to future innovations. It did drag in a few places, and I felt that it was a bit too long-some of the areas she obviously want to cover in depth but the book had to keep moving and it was apparent. Highly recommend.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adri

    Very interesting to know where clothes come from, and where they go once we are done with them. Sad to hear the first 3/4 of the book, and all the gruesome details of the clothing industry. Happy about the product innovations of the future. I can not afford $800/item clothes. So I guess I’m a fast fashion unsustainable enabler. But until my budget is not shoestring, it’ll probably stay that way. Bleh!!!!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachelle

    Fashionopolis... a breath of fresh air, revealing fast fashion's history, present, and future. Facts after facts! This book shows human and environmental impacts along with economical losses associated with outsourcing clothing manufacturing to foreign countries in sweatshop condition. Author touches on the movement for more sustainable fashion with less harmful materials, using renting websites in lieu of purchasing new, and repurposing exhausted garments into raw material.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Eye-opening, interesting, depressing, and a bit hopeful. I was hoping for a bit more for how the middle class consumer could encourage better clothing choices, but I have many companies I was introduced to, to do some more research on. But this book definitely made me now double think about my clothing purchases.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mizuki

    At first it sounds depressing to hear about poor working condition for sub- or sub-sub-contractors, but throughout this book the author suggest several positive ideas for the future of the fashion industries and for us customers. I maybe still enjoy wearing new clothes, but it not always have to be 'new'. It was good to think about sustainability as one of the consumers.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Janet Darlington

    Other than skirts over $1000.00 US being touted as sustainable (which is the inequality that caused fast fashion to rise in the first place), this was a good, informative and up-to-date book. I enjoyed it and a lot of the information in it was new to me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten stracke

    I thought this was enlightening. I was aware of some of the problems of fast fashion, but this book did a good job breaking down the history, current situation and likely future of fashion. It was well organized and didn't drag, and had a lot of good examples of companies doing it right.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    3.75 Stars. I think this book addresses an important issue. I was hoping for more suggestions that individuals could use to effect change, personally and globally. About 2/3 of the way through the book, it started to become a slog. A little more editing would have helped.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Excellent reporting on an important subject. It's not so much about fashion -- it's about the environment, sustainability.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary A

    This was a good book very insightful. It makes one rethink before buy clothes.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Secret List of Books

    Clearly written, well researched and really interesting. Heard about it first listening to an interview with the author on a fashion industry podcast.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    The omnivores dilemma for the fashion industry

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Varelis

    I loved this book. It not only told about where fashion fails, it discussed who was making a difference. How things were changing. I finished this book and immediately wished for more.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Quratulain

    Great read

  24. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    Everyone who wears clothes should read this.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maša

    An overview of textile and fashion industry.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Flexnib

    Read this to learn more about the fashion industry, its impact on our environment, its sometimes appalling labour practices, and people who are trying to do it differently.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bea Patterson

    Read this book before you buy another piece of clothing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erin Bentrim

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  30. 5 out of 5

    Karman

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