NOTE: This post was drafted for last weeks adult learners week which, quite aptly, got hi-jacked by my University assignments. As learning is something that should always be celebrated I’m carrying over learning week posts to this week. Why the heck not? 🙂

What’s a week of learning posts without some great places to learn?

This post of sustainable fashion books should provide at least one thought provoking read for you in regards to sustainable and ethical fashion. All of these are books that I have read, reviewed, and referred to many times over and should hopefully give you a good ‘jumping off point’ with your life long learning journey. The following snippets are a little bit of my wording and a whole lot of blurb! I figured that the this was the best way for you to decide what you would like to read is to have the info direct from the writers themselves in easy to follow list-format and I have linked my reviews to them as well.

To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?

This gem of a book by Lucy Siegle published in 2011 is one hell of a resource for mindful fashionistas across the globe. Despite the fact it is a few years old now much of the content is still being debated in fashion circles as we try to find better ways to operate the world-wide fashion industry.  To Die For is described as:

“An expose on the fashion industry written by the Observer’s ‘Ethical Living’ columnist, examining the inhumane and environmentally devastating story behind the clothes we so casually buy and wear. Coming at a time when the global financial crisis and contracting of consumer spending is ushering in a new epoch for the fashion industry, To Die For offers a very plausible vision of how green could really be the new black. Taking particular issue with our current mania for both big-name labels and cheap fashion, To Die For sets an agenda for the urgent changes that can and need to be made by both the industry and the consumer. Far from outlining a future of drab, ethical clothing, Lucy Siegle believes that it is indeed possible to be an ‘ethical fashionista’, simply by being aware of how and where (and by whom) clothing is manufactured. The global banking crisis has put the consumer at a crossroads: when money is tight should we embrace cheap fast fashion to prop up an already engorged wardrobe, or should we reject this as the ultimate false economy and advocate a return to real fashion, bolstered by the principles of individualism and style pedigree? In this impassioned book, Siegle analyses the global epidemic of unsustainable fashion, taking stock of our economic health and moral accountabilities to expose the pitfalls of fast fashion. Refocusing the debate squarely back on the importance of basic consumer rights, Siegle reveals the truth behind cut price, bulk fashion and the importance of your purchasing decisions, advocating the case for a new sustainable design era where we are assured of value for money: ethically, morally and in real terms.”

As this was one of the very first books I read about the impact of the fashion industry on the environment and society it has stuck out in my mind as one of the most accessible and powerful reads. Book review from me at this link.

Sustainability With Style 

Lisa Heinze, author of Sustainability with Style, is my eco soul sister. While we are yet to meet in the flesh our journeys towards a sustainable living has been a shared experience seeing us walk a similar path. After reading the account of her eco-awakening in this book I immediately reached out to her via email and reflected on the experience reading experience here.  Sustainability with Style looks the journey of an ‘image-obsessed shopaholic’ who became an environmentalist and how:

It wasn’t always an easy road, but after a few personal disasters Lisa figured out how to be green without losing her identity, and she’s sharing her lessons with you. Part autobiography and part eco-guidebook, Lisa shares everything from learning the ropes of eco-fashion and natural beauty products, to understanding the best way to talk about the environment with non-greenies. If you’ve ever wanted to ‘go green’ but just can’t picture yourself as a tree hugger, let Lisa show you how you can achieve sustainability without losing your personal style. Second Edition: now includes Lisa’s Sustainable Shopping Guide for fashion and beauty.

A deeply personal account of one woman journey towards sustainability this read would definitely appeal to Sustainability in Style blog followers.

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Elizabeth Cline’s exposé of the pre and post Rana Plaza  social and environmental implications of the fashion industry is a shocking (as the title promises), well researched, and thoughtful read. Having tackled this read mid Wardrobe Workout 365 Day shopping ban I found that it reinvigorated my passion for the environmental and social cause of conscious fashion and got me up off my butt and head first into my closet to examine the contents. In Overdressed:

 Cline set out to uncover the true nature of the global fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of fast fashion retailers and discounters, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to factories in China, follows the fashion industry as it chases even lower costs into Bangladesh, and looks at the impact (both here and abroad) of America’s drastic increase in imports. She even explores how cheap fashion harms the charity thrift shops and textile recyclers where our masses of cloth­ing castoffs end up. All in an attempt to answer: What are we doing with all these clothes we’re buying–68 items a year? And more important, what are they doing to us, our society, our environment, and our economic well-being.

While this book is an easy read it does have some serious shock value. It would be a good one to read as part of a book club or reading circle, or even wrangle a friend to read with you. That way you have someone to chat to about the content. No such luck finding people to talk to? Feel free to comment here or get in touch via the contact page or social media.


The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy 

A fashion book on the making of a T-shirt written from an economic perspective Peitra Rivoli  provides a very ‘meaty’, facts and figures based read. While this book isn’t necessarily going to be the best pool-side vacation read it is well worth a look for anyone who is interested in the entire journey a clothing item makes, from conception to your closet and beyond. It provides quite a solid economic analysis of the manufacturing process and allows you a little bit of ‘transparency’ in an otherwise very guarded production system. Travels of a T-shirt gives this transparency by:

Tracing a T-shirt’s life story from a Texas cotton field to a Chinese factory and back to a U.S. storefront before arriving at the used clothing market in Africa, the book uncovers the political and economic forces at work in the global economy. Along the way, this fascinating exploration addresses a wealth of compelling questions about politics, trade, economics, ethics, and the impact of history on today’s business landscape. This new printing of the second edition includes a revised preface and a new epilogue with updates through 2014 on the people, industries, and policies related to the T-shirt’s life story.

Using a simple, everyday T-shirt as a lens through which to explore the business, economic, moral, and political complexities of globalization in a historical context, Travels encapsulates a number of complex issues into a single identifiable object that will strike a chord with readers as they:

  • Investigate the sources of sustained competitive advantage in different industries
  • Examine the global economic and political forces that explain trade patters between countries
  • Analyze complex moral issues related to globalization and international business
  • Discover the importance of cultural and human elements in international trade

This story of a simple product illuminates the many complex issues which businesspeople, policymakers, and global citizens are touched by every day.

While I personally struggled to devour this read in a timely manner. It is one that I come back to regularly when curious about the facts and figures of the garment industry and it is definitely a good one for those who enjoy their fashion facts with a serious slathering of numbers.

Eco-Chic: The Savvy Shoppers Guide to Ethical Fashion 

Following on from the in-depth Travels of a T-Shirt is the easy to read give-to-your-grandma/sister/BFF kind of book ‘Eco-Chic’ from Matilda Lee. This book is informative enough to really get the reader thinking about where their fashion comes from, but also digestible for those who are new to the concepts of fashion and environmental damage and social injustices. While the book has a little mileage on it (having been published in 2007) it’s still a great little gift for yourself or anyone you think might like an introduction to the world of eco-fashion. Obviously aimed at a different audience from the meaty read above Eco-Chic looks at:

The hottest trend on the catwalk is ethical clothing. Top fashion designers and spokesmodels including Katharine Hamnett, Stella McCartney and Bono’s wife Ali Hewson are all voicing the benefits of eco chic. But what is this new fad, and what difference can it make to the world? “Eco Chic” gives you the full story on this fashion phenomenon, from which fabrics are harmful to the environment, to how you can create your own eco-friendly fashions through recycling and savvy shopping. You will discover how to spot and avoid garments produced in sweatshops and why supermarket ‘fast clothes’ make both you and the planet sick. This book will allow you to look great but also feel good about your impact on other people and the planet as a whole.

A more practical and accessible approach to tackling the big fashion issues from the bottom up Eco-Chic was a surprising good introductory read. It taught me a lesson… don’t judge a book by it’s mauve ‘clip-art’ looking cover.



Do you have a favourite eco/ethical/sustainable fashion read?

Please share it with us below.

Happy reading my E(co) Friends.

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