I’ve been a big fan of Safia Minney since I watched The True Cost documentary. She’s the founder of People Tree, one of the first ethical fashion brands, she’s a Fair Trade and ethical fashion activist who has recently written a wonderful book called Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics and is now working on another book on the fashion industry called Slave to Fashion which I can’t wait to read!
Slow Fashion is a delightful book and not nearly as depressing as I thought it would be. It’s a really light read, because it’s made up of quite short interviews with fashion activists, designers, shopkeepers and other inspirational people. It’s easy to just read bits and pieces of the book, but I of course couldn’t put it down and read it cover to cover in two days. What I love about Minney’s book is that it gives such a broad overview of the ethical fashion movement and gives such a hopeful view of the future: the movement is continuously growing and will hopefully soon be the norm in consumerism.
The book is less about facts about the fashion industry’s harmful sides and more about what we can do to change them. So if you’re still not quite sure why the fashion industry is harmful to the environment and the people working for the industry, this book won’t give you a very exhaustive overview of those reasons. But in a world where there is depressing news every day about terrorist attacks, environmental issues and Donald Trump’s popularity, it’s a nice change to get to read about a serious topic but in a positive and uplifting way.
There is a short introduction to the dark side of the fashion industry, and I was really shocked by some of the facts, like the following:
- Big fashion brands pay one factory to make their clothes, but because brands demand the clothes so quickly and for so cheap, the paid factories have to outsource the work. This means that brands can say that the factories they use work according to human rights laws, because those are the factories they pay and are the ones officially working with the big brands, though the clothes are not actually made in them. That means that the big brands are actually not responsible for what happens in the factories where their clothes are made, because they are officially not working with them (though the brands know that outsourcing happens all the time and are aware that their clothes are not really made in the factories they pay).
- According to a report from 2015 published by Behind the Barcode, 48% of brands hadn’t traced the factories where their clothes were made, meaning these brands can in no way claim to know that their clothes are made ethically according to international policies, though most brands do claim these sorts of things. What is even worse is that 91% of the brands couldn’t say where their raw materials come from. This really makes no sense to me; even from a financial point of view this makes no sense, since how can the companies know what they’re paying for when they don’t know who makes it or where it comes from?
- Depressingly, 86% of fashion brands aren’t even trying to pay a living wage to the workers in their supply chains. In euros for a person living in the Western world, the sort of wages garment workers in countries like Bangladesh are asking for are barely anything. It would be interesting to get figures on how much it would actually cost for brands to start paying decent wages to their workers, and especially to have these compared to costs for advertising etc.
To summarise, I think Minney’s book is amazing and such a wonderful read. However, if you’re only going to buy one book on ethical fashion, I suggest you wait for Slave to Fashion to come out, because I have a feeling that that book will be mind-blowing!