on 11 June 2011
This is one of those books which turns out to be a lifesaver. In my case, it was an antedote for the serious problem of no longer being able to enjoy shopping for clothes.
It's no fun spending hours finding that perfect item, only to find that it looks like a rag after three wears. And it's no fun buying something for £5 when it's obvious that it took hours to make and that the person who made it got paid pennies. Like most people out there who love clothes I tried not to think too much about the human cost of what's available on the high street, but hiding from the truth rarely makes us happy, and isn't that what fashion is supposed to be about?
This book has given me hope via the concept of The Curated Wardrobe. Siegle suggests that opening our wardrobes will be a lot more fulfilling if they contain a collection of important pieces, each considered carefully before being included and and each being worthy of being preserved and treasured. `Curating your clothes' she says, `is a bulwark against filling your closet with impulse bought fashion junk'. And if, like me, you don't have a lot of money to spend (and you're not convinced that so called designer pieces are actually any better in terms of quality or provenance), she offers lots of practical ideas for getting started on building your collection.
Yes, the first half of the book is a hard hitting expose of the nasty goings on behind the scenes of the fast fashion world - and yes it's shocking. Some of the awful truths in there will be lodged in my brain forever. But it's a brilliantly researched, totally convincing and unputdownable read. Siegle has a clear and compelling style and I can guarantee that after reading it you'll be buzzing with a new enthusiasm for developing a wardrobe which makes you feel good and doesn't cost the earth or the wellbeing of the people who produced it.
on 30 June 2011
Seriously, this book should be compulsory reading in schools. Anyone who has ever worn or bought clothes should read it (that'll be everyone, then...). Siegle's book is a coruscating exposé of exactly what fashion is doing to the planet and to other human beings, the vast majority of them women and children. Clothing production is one of the most polluting and exploitative industries on the planet and we are all culpable. The first half of the book is full of terrifying statistics on what clothing production costs in terms of pollution, disease, child slavery, destruction of habitat etc, and the second half gives the user (just when you'd given up hope) some ideas for solutions - buy less, buy more carefully, buy organic, recycle, sell on, etc. As a dedicated fashionista who thought she was pretty eco-aware, some of the information in this book came as a shock, and has totally made me rethink my buying habits. Buy it, read it and pass it on.
on 4 July 2011
I have been interested in ethical living for a long time- however my success with trying to source an 'ethical' wardrobe has always been a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. I knew about sweatshops, etc. but this book opened my eyes even further and has strengthened my resolve. Surprisingly perhaps for such a book, it turned out to be a real page-turner- and dare I say even made me laugh on occasion. Reassuringly, and importantly the tone not preachy in the slightest. However the message is clear; we can go on no longer, enough is enough and we as consumers have the power to change things for the better. Stirring stuff.
on 4 July 2011
This is a very thorough and thought provoking book. I would highly recommend this for anyone even remotely interested in fashion. I've been a designer in the industry for years, and didn't realize the amount of exploitation going on in the manufacturing process. Fashion production should be ethical and socially responsible. Paying living wages for the makers in third world Countries without the use of harmful chemicals, further impacting the said workers lives.
It's completely changed my view of buying quick fix fashion items from Primarni et al. Please spread the word!
on 31 December 2011
I have to agree with a previous reviewer who gave the book 1 star. It is true that a lot of the "fast fashion" and over purchasing is a part of prolonged adolescent and there is very little context given to the statistics in the book.
There are 2 great chapters to this book. One is the chapter on Cashmere and how it is produced. Another is a chapter at the start of the book about how prices decreased while sales rose and British production disappeared.
Both those chapters have been used to promote the book and they are what convinced me to buy it.
The rest of the chapters are not as good.
My main problem with this book are some of the subtexts running through the book. They are as follows: Science is always bad and causes pollution. Global Captalism is bad. Large Corporations are evil. All Western nations particularly the USA exploit poor countries with poor people.
The author herself name drops a lot, mentions her 200 pound jeans casually and looks back fondly on the days when cheap fashion didn't exist. I often felt like I was being lectured by a Champagne socialist.
The 2 biggest flaws of all was first there was no chapter on Green Chemistry and general science context was very poor.
The 2nd biggest flaw was the lack of alternatives suggested to improve the situation. Lucy Siegal's suggestions involved sewing/knitting your own clothes, having a suit "refashioned" for a huge amount of money at a special tailor or paying a to go to cobblers. Some of the alternative retailors she suggested charge very high prices which may have be reasonable for her, but not for the average person.
I agree with the author in that we need to know more about how our clothes are being made and get rid of exploitation.
Lastly, just to correct one "fact" she wrote that really annoyed me: the invention of synthetic dyes were not just a terrible thing that only ruined India's Indigo trade. She negrlected to say that it allowed the poor and lower middle class to wear purple and blues for the first time and when the chemistry of synthetic dyes for clothes and then wood dyes progressed it led indirectly to the discovery of Sulphonamides- early antibiotic drugs that saved millions of lives.
on 26 June 2011
I am an avid follower of Lucy Siegle's Observer column so was eager to read her new book and was not disappointed.
A book that is very difficult to put down, is well researched and as well as showing the many issues affecting fast fashion creates viable solutions to change how we view our clothing needs. This book should be on all schools and universities reading lists.
on 4 February 2014
Once upon a time “fashion” was only for the upper class. Clothes were custom-made to fit the bodies of rich patrons who could pay for top quality fabric and workmanship. Fashionable patters filtered down slowly, so that the lower class could copy them and produce their own clothes with lesser materials. Dressmaking was slow and expensive, both for the rich and the poor. For this reason quality was important. Clothes and accessories were made to cherish and to last.
When mass-production arrived, it was welcomed as democratic. Besides, it created jobs. Unfortunately, in the course of a few decades, the economic miracle turned into a monster. Nowadays, fast fashion is a fire -spitting dragon destroying the world behind it.
This book illustrates very clearly the environmental and ethical crimes committed in the name of profit. Fashion and elegance do not even enter into the picture. Never before there was such a huge offer of clothes and so many badly dressed women. Females who have no idea whatsoever of what suit their bodies but are just slavishly buying into the never ending heap of crummy clothes that fill the high street.
The author got interested in fast fashion because she writes a column about green living and like most of us, considered only the environmental footprint left by food consumption. She candidly confessed of not even knowing of which fiber most clothes were made of, nor knowing how to take care of them (which I found weird, but unfortunately true for too many people).
Each chapter deals with ordinary items we all own (cotton garments, shoes, leather jackets, etc…) and describes in details their destructive and exploitative nature. For instance, cotton is a crop that grows mostly in Africa. It is bought for a pittance and then moved to Bangladesh where it is processed into clothes by women and children, also paid a pittance and working under constant threat and pressure. Then the finished product is shipped back to Europe (or to the US) to hit the high street.
If you ever wondered how it is possible for high street shops to boast about weekly arrivals, it is because in developing countries a horde of semi-slaves is forced to produce whatever is considered the micro-trend of the moment (the right cut or color). It is not uncommon for these people to work 12 hours shifts assembling low-quality, cheap clothes that will barely last a season.
Cotton, wool and leather are all chemically treated to produce accessories and clothes. Clothing industry includes also tanning, which is a notoriously polluting process. Chemical dies are extremely bad for the environment. To complete this destructive and monstrous process, since fast fashion dictates that items should have a fast rotation - also because most of them would not last longer than a season - there is also the problem of dealing with discarded items. This implies an additional trip of used clothes back to Africa and more pollution, as said clothes are eventually used as poisonous land fillers.
What makes the whole procedure tragic, beside of unethical treatment of humans and animals, exploitation and pollution is the fact that cheap clothes are not even “fashionable”. They are ill fitting, low value garments, which quality is constantly declining. I actually found out myself, as I used to buy my shirts in a Spanish high street store. I still have a couple of shirts I bought ten years ago, but those bought more recently tore within a couple of months of usage. Needles to add, I don’t buy there anymore.
The only saving grace and cheering episode of this gloomy story is the last chapter, where the author gives lots of useful advice on how to break the destructive cycle of buying into fast fashion. Follow her advice. I surely did.
on 17 July 2011
This is fairly comprehensive review of 'Fast Fashion' and how it is ruining the world and also our perceived and actual value of clothing. I would recommend it as it gives guidance on how we can realistically change our wicked ways!
on 15 August 2011
Why when I read anything by Lucy Siegle am I reminded of Howard Kirk, the tragic hero of Malcolm Bradbury's 1975 novel The History Man? Well, like Kirk, Siegle works on a fashionable topic: she polters obediently with the zeitgeist; she's on trend, so to speak. Like Kirk, she seems to be an urban creation, a real metrotextual. And then I remembered Bradbury's account of the critical response to Howard Kirk's first book, the one that made his name, and contained "an argumentative energy and a frank sense of participation in the permissive scene " "it had generally been found a committed advanced book, on the right side, (my italics) and it did sound quite sociological as you read it". Substitute "green" for "permissive" and "ecological" for "sociological", and there you have "To Die For".
All writers on factual topics interpose themselves between the subject and the reader: when it's done well the subject is transformed, rather like a skilled portrait painter captures and displays his subject's personality. Unfortunately Siegle's writing all too often resembles the style of modern celebrity TV presenters - all you see is the presenter walking in front of the subject gesticulating, the commentary bland and superficial, lacking attention to detail. It irritates. Numbers are presented as facts without context or adequate comparisons of scale. So the average tumble drier emits 248 kg of carbon dioxide per year: so what does that mean? What's more important, it's not the tumble drier that emits the gas, it's the power station that supplies the electricity that emits the greenhouse gas, and only then if the consumer opts for a fossil fuel supplier.
The method of enquiry is typical of the genre. Interviews with locals badly affected by the industry are interspersed with takes on the global business. What you lose by this approach is any sense of differences between consumer countries, or the variability of implications for the outsourced countries. I would have been delighted to learn how far all the adolescent pursuit of instant fashion affects all Western countries. What does the total picture look like? Is the UK typical? What you get instead is Siegle's astonishment as she uncovers the filthy little secrets of the rag trade. But there is no sense of the road to Damascus in the text. The inconsistencies in her life between her position as an eco-guru and her avid consumption of fast fashion are ignored.
The style is irritating. She can't keep her figures of speech straight: She "can't shake the...vibe", by which I think she means "give up a habit". It's even worse when she coins a phrase; even Sun headline writers would cringe at "From Slacktivism to Activism". What comes through is that writing a book of some 300 pages is different from the thousand or so words of a weekly column, and requires very different levels of care and organisation.
But the topic is very important. The many industries involved in the manufacture of textiles and their conversion into clothes (and other items like furnishings, conveniently forgotten here) do make a lot of pollution, do distort economies, and need to change to become sustainable. But like so many of her ilk, the environmental journalists, Siegle does not offer solutions which have any credibility. What level and mix of clothing manufacture is sustainable? What about the fact that all the current synthetic fibres can be made from wood pulp (yep, even polyester and acrylic). What about the Green Chemistry movement which is busily cleaning up all the textile finishing and colouring industrial processes. She doesn't even start to define limits, and has no recipes for change. All she offers is better information through labelling and a few self proclaimed style gurus. Can this compete with the peer pressure of YouTube, Twitter and FaceBook? You might hope so, but don't count on it.
This is the key question. What to do about the collective immaturity which leaves even the30-something Ms Siegle (my estimate) a "victim" to fast moving fashion trends? What to do about this, the underlying source of the market pull for the fashion industry? It's part of the phenomenon of extended adolescence, alongside the reluctance to commit to marriage and the non-stop partying. If I'd known this would happen I'd never have shopped at BIBA in the late 1960s - except that the clothes my wife and I bought then are still wearable for all sorts of reasons.
on 7 March 2015
Siegle has a easy, fluent writing style, in keeping with her long career as a journalist. What her investigations reveal is truly shocking and anyone with a jot of conscience will be forced to take a long, hard look at their purchasing habits. We have been utterly seduced by fast, cheap fashion. In the early days there were some pretty high-profile protests about the seedy underbelly of high street fashion but then many of the major retailers appeared to bend over backwards to demonstrate their ethical credentials to twitchy Western consumers. And we believe them because we want to. Siegle demonstrates that the problems of near slave labour, child labour, appalling working conditions and the devastating environmental impact of growing all that cotton or manufacturing all those synthetics are very far from resolved. But the money is so big, and the clothes so cheap, that Westerners bury their heads in the sand. The clear message is: if it looks too good (cheap!) to be true, it probably is.