Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment

Maxine Bédat. Portfolio, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-0-5930-8597-4
Bédat, founder of the New Standard Institute, traces the life cycle of an average pair of jeans "from farm to landfill" in this rich exposé of the fast fashion industry. In Texas, where roughly half of all U.S. cotton is produced, Bédat discusses the financial risks that come with growing cotton organically, rather than relying on synthetic chemicals, genetically modified seeds, and other "conventional" methods, and details the historical links between the cotton industry and slavery. Posing as a denim buyer, Bédat visits a "wash house" in Guangdong, China, where she sees unprotected workers spraying a toxic "denim fading agent" on jeans and effluents from the treatment process draining into a nearby river. Bédat also discusses how the "trend-based aesthetic of celebrity/influencer culture" has contributed to the rise of disposable fashion, and points out that "wearing a garment twice as long would lower greenhouse gas emissions from clothing by 44%." In Ghana, she documents how the flood of cheap, used clothing from the U.S. weakens the local textile industry. Though Bédat occasionally loses the thread of her arguments amid the copious details, she gives a well-rounded portrait of the hazards posed by fast fashion. Readers will think twice before buying their next pair of jeans. (June)
Reviewed on : 03/25/2021
Release date: 06/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-593-08598-1
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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