Book Review

Future Fashion White Papers

It is troubling that when we aim for change, we sometimes falter because the change seems to lack sufficient magnitude to justify the effort.  For example, it is startling to hear people say that alternative energy is a pointless pursuit because it only supplies a minuscule amount of that which is necessary to meet our needs.  This line of thinking leaves me cold because everything starts small.  There were horses, and now there are cars.  There were leeches, and now there is medicine and surgery.  People wore animal skins, and now there is fine cloth knit on intricate machines.  It is productive instead to view the process of cleaning up our world as an intricate web, and one where every small victory is another crucial thread untangled.

Future Fashion White Papers leads me to think about this phenomenon because when I first read it, five or so years ago, finding information about where and how my clothing was made felt impossible, and locating designers and makers working on sustainable, or even local, production was an uphill battle.  But now, only five years later, it feels that much progress has been made.

The strength of this book lies in its format: a series of essays written by designers, textile developers, and other apparel-industry professionals working to secure a clean and stable future for apparel.  This proves to be an excellent platform for highlighting the breadth and depth of sustainability progress being made, not only because the writers of the essays were generous with their  knowledge, but also because they were specific about their efforts and the outcomes.  The book inspires, but then builds a bridge from inspiration to reality by sharing essential action steps, snapshots of missteps, and details on lessons learned along the way.

Equally impressive is the roster of writers: Natalie Chanin, Horst Rechelbacher, John Patrick, Dr. Michael Braungart, and others ranging from to professors to textile developers to fashion models.  As I re-read the book these last weeks, I looked up the companies to see how they were faring.  Happily, many of them are thriving.  John Patrick's Organic label sells online and in boutiques.  Natalie Chanin's company, Alabama Chanin, continues to grow and thrive.  Horst Rechelbacher's Intelligent Nutrients food-grade organic beauty products are readily available both here in Minneapolis and across the United States.

Crucial aspects of dyestuffs and textile laundering are also topics for review in Future Fashion; people are working hard on every front, in research labs, textile businesses, and on farms, and they are shifting the tide of fashion's ecological and ethical footprint.  Future Fashion White Papers is an excellent snapshot of how they are doing this.