Table of Contents

But seest thou not what a deformed thief this fashion is? William Shakespeare, (Location 33)

Tags: fashion

Note: .fashion

Conventionally grown cotton is one of agriculture’s most polluting crops. Almost one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of hazardous pesticides is required to grow one hectare—or two and a half acres—of the fluff. (Location 77)

Tags: cotton

Note: .cotton

Shoppers snap up five times more clothing now than they did in 1980. In 2018, that averaged sixty-eight garments a year. As a whole, the world’s citizens acquire 80 billion apparel items annually. (Location 94)

the late 1980s, a new segment of the apparel business cropped up: “fast fashion,” the production of trendy, inexpensive garments in vast amounts at lightning speed in subcontracted factories, to be hawked in thousands of chain stores. To keep the prices low, fast-fashion brands slashed manufacturing costs—and the cheapest labor was available in the world’s poorest countries. (Location 117)

Tags: fashion

Note: .fashion

In 1991, 56.2 percent of all clothes purchased in the United States were American-made. By 2012, it was down to 2.5 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1990 and 2012, the US textile and garment industry lost 1.2 million jobs. (Location 123)

Tags: fashion

Note: There has been a huge shift in offshoring American clothes. 56% in 1991 to 2.5% in 2012

Fashion employs one out of six people on the globe, making it the most labor-intensive industry out there—more than agriculture, more than defense. Fewer than 2 percent of them earn a living wage. (Location 142)

Tags: clothes, fashion

The third victim has been Earth. Fashion’s speed and greed has eviscerated the environment in all ways. The World Bank estimates that the sector is responsible for nearly 20 percent of all industrial water pollution annually. It releases 10 percent of the carbon emissions in our air; 1 kilogram of cloth generates 23 kilograms of greenhouse gases. (Location 151)

Of the more than 100 billion items of clothing produced each year, 20 percent go unsold—the detritus of “economies of scale.” Leftovers are usually buried, shredded, or incinerated, as Burberry embarrassingly admitted in 2018. (Location 160)

The Greek philosopher Plato put forth in the Socratic dialogue The Republic that an ideal polis should embody four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. If all came together harmoniously, the polis would attain perfect equality—a “just city.” (Location 187)

When we ask ourselves, “What am I going to wear today?” we should be able to answer knowledgeably and with a dash of pride. We have been casual about our clothes, but we can get dressed with intention. It is time to really care. (Location 217)

ONE Ready to Wear

But before any of those reviews were posted, Katrantzou’s show guests had uploaded pictures and video clips of the looks on social media, often live. And design teams for fast-fashion brands had perused those images, noted the number of “likes”—an instantaneous, and free, market study—and chosen which designs they would steal, loosely reinterpret, and produce offshore for pennies apiece.

(As I walked out of the show, a top online retail executive mused: “I bet Topshop is already working on that butterfly print.”) Katrantzou’s design work would result in global trends, but she would have no say or stake in the matter. (Location 318)

Tags: fast fashion, market research, social media

the fashion business has functioned on a grand scale for 250 years: creative thievery, indifference for others, corruption, pollution. Ever since an English entrepreneur decided that faster was better. (Location 331)

70 percent of the clothing that Americans bought in 1980 was made in the United States. Then politicians stepped in, and everything changed. (Location 406)

With QR, brands and retailers would test looks with focus groups to see what was successful before submitting production orders; said initial orders would be smaller and more frequent; and reorders would be placed only when sales data indicated a need. The intention was to cut inventory levels, amp up inventory turns, and avert leftovers and cut-rate sales. The pipeline would run more efficiently, costs would be lean, and there would be less waste, fewer losses. QR would give customers what they wanted, where they wanted it, when they wanted it. (Location 445)

If a style doesn’t sell out within a week, it’s pulled from the sales floor, and manufacturing orders are canceled. If it does seduce shoppers—a phenomenon the data analysts clock instantaneously in La Coruña—the order is reupped and manufactured in small batches at factories in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco—all a short hop to the distribution center. After a month or so, it will have run its course and be replaced by another hot new look. (Location 527)

TWO The Price of Furious Fashion

As Communist Manifesto coauthor Karl Marx later observed, “Without slavery, there would be no cotton. Without cotton, there would be no modern industry.” (Location 645)

AND SO IT REMAINED, until apparel manufacturing moved offshore post-NAFTA and most of those workshops folded. Offshore, the old-style sweatshop system came roaring back to life. In developing economies, labor laws were far less restrictive, and there was little or no oversight. Thus why, within six months of Congress passing NAFTA in 1993, the House Subcommittee on Labor Management found itself holding hearings on worker abuses in a Honduran factory where the American women’s wear brand Leslie Fay was sourcing clothes. (Location 705)

Tags: nafta

Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told me. “Fifty million people depend on the garment industry. Our economy is dependent on it.” The government planned to double output in five years. (Location 790)

Tags: bangladesh

Note: .bangladesh

The garment industry generates an enormous cash flow for the Bangladeshi government, and not only on a revenue level. In 2018, 10 percent of Bangladeshi parliament members owned garment factories and 30 percent had family members who were owners, (Location 808)

Tags: bangladesh

Note: .bangladesh

H&M was Bangladesh’s largest apparel exporter, even if the brand was in the clear, it might still be hammered by labor rights groups and consumers as a symbol of all that was wrong with offshoring: (Location 883)

Tags: hm, bangladesh

Note: .bangladesh .hm

Americans didn’t change their apparel shopping habits. In 2013, they spent $340 billion on fashion—more than twice what they forked out for new cars. Much of it was produced in Bangladesh, some of it by Rana Plaza workers in the days leading up to the collapse. (Location 907)

They are hyper-polluting—in their creation, and in their afterlife. (Location 1026)

Tags: jeans

Note: .jeans

Nonorganic cotton—known in the business as “conventional” cotton—is among agriculture’s dirtiest crops. One-fifth of insecticides—and more than 10 percent of all pesticides—are devoted to the protection of conventional cotton, though it is grown on only 2.5 percent of the world’s arable land. The World Health Organization has classed eight out of ten of America’s most popular cotton pesticides as “hazardous.” (Location 1041)

Tags: cotton

Note: .cotton

Conventional cotton is also extremely thirsty: to grow one kilo requires, on average, 2,600 gallons (or 10,000 liters) of water. Processing it swallows even more: approximately 5,000 gallons for one T-shirt and a pair of jeans. If fashion production maintains its current pace, the demand for water will surpass the world’s supply by 40 percent by 2030. (Location 1044)

Tags: cotton

Note: .cotton

Trade agreements and globalization changed that landscape. By 2018, there were roughly six thousand textile and garment production companies in Vietnam, employing 2.5 million workers, and accounting for about 16 percent of the country’s exports and more than $30 billion in revenue. Experts believe that last figure will jump to $50 billion by 2020. (Location 1126)

Tags: trade agreements, vietnam

Note: .vietnam

Roundup is the world’s most heavily used pesticide, and it accounts for 40 percent of the global glyphosate weed killer market. (Location 1293)

Tags: pesticide

Note: .pesticide

Slow fashion champions localization and regionalism rather than mass-ification. It honors craftsmanship and respects tradition while embracing modern technology to make production cleaner and more efficient. It’s about treating workers well, Chanin said, and “buying from the person down the street whose face you know and love.” (Location 1355)

Pollution is the cheapest way to do business.” (Location 1964)