Book Review

Shaping Sustainable Fashion

In the introduction of Shaping Sustainable Fashion, first published in 2011, the authors promise to reveal sustainability innovations of which fashion is capable; those which will move fashion industry forward, away from outdated wasteful processes, and towards a cleaner, updated model.  

The book partially delivers on this promise, reviewing some of the negative effects of conventional fashion industry practices, and offering some historical perspective on how those industry practices evolved, before introducing the reader to some possible improvements.  

Designers and industry professionals will be engaged by information on textile waste, intervention points during the design process, zero waste design, and new developments in fiber, not to mention the business potential presented by apparel recycling.  But even casual readers curious about improving habits within their household will find food for thought, particularly in the writings about care and use of clothing and also some endearing examples of ways people have prolonged the life of beloved garments.

However, the book feels disjointed, perhaps due to its overly-complicated formatting structure of case studies following pertinent readings.  Six contributing authors and two editors showcase facts and theories with regard to fashion sustainability topics, which are divided into four sections: Source, Make, Use, and Last.  The sections are meant to highlight the available opportunities for conservation and improvement during each stage of a garment, and for the most part these points are well-made.  The smattering of case study examples throughout the text represent excellent real-world examples but are also brief and exacerbate the disconnected feeling of the text.

In spite of the (at times) less engaging writing, and the aforementioned disjointed feeling of the book on the whole, the text is packed with ideas for every person interested in the carbon footprint and future feasibility of clothing as we know it. We are reminded that the responsibility of cleaning up our apparel habits lies not only with industry and designers, but also with consumers.  We are invited to consider a world where a garment is cut without waste, where a garment is designed to never be washed, or where a garment can be rebuilt over the course of its long life, either by the owner or by professionals.  We are left necessarily unsettled by some of the recommendations but also inspired to start making the necessary changes.