Fashionopolis” by Dana Thomas. New York: Penguin Press. Copyright 2019.

“What should I wear? It’s one of the fundamental question we ask ourselves every day. More than ever, we are told it should be something new. Today, the clothing industry churns out eighty billion garments a year and employs every 6th 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.” – Dana Thomas

Did you know?

  • There are sweatshops in L.A. where workers are paid $2/day
  • 20% of all garments are never worn – they are thrown away
  • 68 new garments are bought per year per person
  • Items are worn an average of 7 times before being discarded
  • Only 2% of apparel workers earn a living wage
  • Only 2% of the clothes are made in the U.S.
  • Nashville is the 3rd largest garment manufacturer after L.A. & N.Y.

Dana Thomas explores the high cost of fast fashion in the world today. She takes us to the sweat shops in Bangladesh and Honduras, among other places, where we see workers forced to endure horrible conditions such as being locked in at the start of their shift, only able to leave when their twelve hour or more shifts are over and the doors are unlocked, a single light fixture in the middle of the factory floor, no air conditioning in 100+ degree heat, no bathroom breaks, no masks so they have no choice but to breath in the fibers of the garments, and on and on.  Ultimately, apparel workers end up getting paid $.40 to $.50 an hour. Some of these workers are as young as 13 years old! This is how we are able to buy those cool t-shirts from a clothing retailer for $5. And that isn’t even discussing the toxic chemicals that are used to dye clothing, the overuse of cotton which is laden with pesticides, or the thousands of gallons of water it takes to produce clothing and what all of this is doing to the environment!

But, all is not lost. There are amazing products becoming more available and more accessible all the time. Anything from organic cotton jeans dyed with natural (not synthetic) indigo to lab-grown hide-like materials as a replacement for both petroleum-based faux leather and real leather. FYI: the livestock industry generates at least half of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

In summary, if you wear clothes, you need to read this book!

Terri Lamm is the Office Manager for the Alamance County Library System. She can be reached at tlamm@alamancelibraries.org.