8 must read books on sustainability and fashion

For anyone new to ethical fashion, sustainability and wanting to know how our clothes are made, we definitely recommend watching the documentary True Cost. It is a compelling documentary into the world of fashion that is hardly ever shown to the public and will change the way you shop for clothing. We also recommend these 8 books that will inspire you to continue on with your ethical and sustainable fashion choices.i


Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell

This book takes a provocative look at the truth behind bargain shopping. Low price is so alluring that we may have forgotten how thoroughly we once distrusted it. Ellen Ruppel Shell traces the birth of the bargain as we know it from the Industrial Revolution to the assembly line and beyond, homing in on a number of colorful characters, such as Gene Verkauf (his name is Yiddish for “to sell”), founder of E. J. Korvette, the discount chain that helped wean customers off traditional notions of value.







Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-hand Clothes by Andrew Brooks

Andrew Brooks takes readers on a global journey, from fabric to fashion show, to reveal the worldwide commodity chains and hidden trade networks that transect the globe and perpetuate poverty. Stitching together rich narratives from markets in Mozambique, Nigerian smugglers, Bolivian traders, London vintage shops, and growing ethical fashion lines like Vivienne Westwood’s, Brooks draws connections and shines light in the world’s dark corners—and forces us to think anew about fashion, ethics, and our role in global production and exploitation.






Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline

This is a good read for those unfamiliar with how most of our clothes are mass produced in sweat shops. In Overdressed, Cline sets out to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent retail­ers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to cheap-chic factories in China, follows the fashion industry as it chases even lower costs into Bangladesh, and looks at the impact in North America and other countries.









To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle

A compelling and well researched book, To die for is a must read for everyone new to fast fashion. An expose of the fashion industry written by the Observer’s ‘Ethical Living’ columnist, portraying current practice as inhumane and environmentally devastating. Siegle believes that, in spite of current problems, it is possible to be an ‘ethical fashionista’, and she sets out her ideas on how such a situation could be achieved.”







Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution by Safia Minney

Safia Minney is founder and CEO of fair trade and sustainable fashion label People Tree so the book has a lot of images and references about People Tree. But it also has a great collection and images from designers and people that are leading the new fashion revolution. With sections onFair Trade movement, vintage fashion, supply chain issues, and ethical brands, it is a great and entertaining read.







The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade by Pietra Rivoli

A great and unbiased read on manufacturing, trade and globalization.

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy takes the reader on a fascinating, around the world journey to reveal the economic and political lessons from the life story of a simple t-shirt. Over five years, business professor Pietra Rivoli traveled from a Texas cotton field to a Chinese factory to a used clothing market in Africa, to investigate compelling questions about the politics, economics, ethics, and history of modern business and globalization.






Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre by Dana Thomas

An informative, beautiful and sometimes terrifying insight into the luxury fashion industry. From terrifying raids on the Chinese sweat shops to the daunting chic of Paris workshops, from the handcrafting and economics of early-twentieth century designers to the violent truth behind the ‘harmless’ fakes, Deluxe goes deep into the world of extravagance, and asks: where can true luxury go now?








Unfair Trade: How Big Business Exploits The World’s Poor And Why It Doesn’t Have To by Conor Woodman

An eye opener on what first world shopping habits does to the rest of the world.

In Unfair Trade Conor Woodman traces a range of products back to their source to uncover who precisely is benefitting and who is losing out. He goes diving with lobster fishermen in Nicaragua who are dying in their hundreds to keep the restaurant tables of the US well stocked.



7 thoughts on “8 must read books on sustainability and fashion

  1. Thanks so much for publicizing these books. We all need to understand the impact of the clothing purchases we make. Find ways to pressure manufacturers … and designers… to do better!!

    • Definitely! There’s a lot of reading materials, sites like ours, documentaries, blogs and brands trying to make a difference but a lot more people need to be informed!

  2. Thanks for the suggestions. It’s so important we understand the impact of our shopping choices. You might be interested in ‘Where stuff comes from’ interview/portrait series of people wearing their favourite ethical clothes.

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  4. Pingback: Style with Ethics: My new year reading list – Rarely Wears Lipstick

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