The existence of fast fashion has become common knowledge. We might all think that we know what it means, but do we really know what the day-to-day impact of the sweatshop is on a developing economy and its people? How about the true cost of the fashion system? And perhaps most importantly, do we know what we can do about it, in order to have a more sustainable future?
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Why read about sustainable fashion?
Fast fashion and fashion waste contributes to around 8% of global climate impact, and employs some 430 million people, most of whom do not earn a living wage.
Many of us like the idea of a more sustainable fashion industry, but for some reason or other, we still find ourselves stuffing our closets with the same bargain-basement garments that seem to go out of style within weeks.
Maybe we can turn this culture around with the help of some inspiring voices and practical guides?
We’ve put together our favorite books on fast fashion that will galvanize you into action, give you the facts and hidden stories behind one of the most polluting industries, and provide you with the know-how and strategies to implement long-lasting change.
Related Reading: Must-read books on Sustainability / Best Zero Waste Books
Top Books About Sustainable Fashion
From finding out the shocking practices of the cotton industry, to figuring out how to build your perfect capsule wardrobe, there is plenty to learn about sustainable fashion. We list our top recommendations for the best sustainable fashion books.
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
Author: Elizabeth L. Cline
The original in ethical fashion books, by award-winning journalist Elizabeth Cline. Published in 2012, it might feel a bit outdated now that awareness of the impact of cheap, disposable clothing has reached a mainstream audience, but it’s still a great introduction to the core issues.
The content is well-researched and highly engaging, and the wake-up call to society has not quieted with time. If you are looking for a bit of motivation to commit to the cause of sustainable fashion, or perhaps looking to convince someone else, this is the definitive book to start with.
The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good
Author: Elizabeth L. Cline
In a follow-up to her first book, Cline provides a practical guide to implementing the changes that were called for in Overdressed.
Covering strategies for defining your style and optimizing your wardrobe, as well as suggestions for how to move towards zero-waste fashion and shopping more ethically, this book will take you on a step-by-step process to changing your approach to fashion without compromising on style.
A must-read for anyone grappling with the idea of creating an ethical wardrobe and trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?
Author: Lucy Siegle
Examining the harmful ways in which our obsession with fast fashion is hurting the planet, and the people that make it, Lucy Siegle delivers an important read on the topic with her book, To Die For.
With insights into how we, the consumer, can make changes with our purchasing power, and how the industry can, and must, do better, it’s an essential read for anyone wanting to learn more about the unsustainable ways in which the fashion industry operates.
Siegle believes it’s possible to be an “ethical fashionista” and lays the path on how you can follow her lead.
Fashionopolis: The Price Of Fashion – And The Future Of Clothes
Author: Dana Thomas
If Cline didn’t get you fired up and outraged, then Thomas’ Fashionopolis surely will.
The book explores the heartbreaking stories behind the supply chains of some of the world’s leading clothing brands, giving a powerful account of the social impacts on millions of people.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as the second half of the book shifts focus to highlight the positive changes that are taking place in the fashion industry.
How To Break Up With Fast Fashion: A guilt-free guide to changing the way you shop for good
Author: Lauren Bravo
As a self-confessed former fashion addict, Bravo takes us on her personal journey to finding a more sustainable way to look good.
Filled with suggestions for small changes and witty anecdotes, it will leave you with the sense that anybody can achieve a sustainable relationship with fashion.
One of the most accessible books on fashion sustainability available today!
Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change
Author: Kate Fletcher and Lynda Grose
Conscious consumers will want to get their hands on a copy of this forward-thinking book by Kate Fletcher and Lynda Grose.
While examining the ways in which fashion brands and the textile industry can do better, this book gives ample examples of companies that are using innovative ways to fight fast fashion.
Organized into three sections, the first part looks at a piece of clothing’s lifecycle, and how the impact of the fashion industry can be reduced across the board – from material manufacturing to recycling at the end of the garment’s life.
The second part looks at innovative new business models within the industry, and the third part encourages emerging fashion designers to rethink their role within the industry.
Fibershed: Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists, and Makers for a New Textile Economy
Author: Rebecca Burgess
Many of the environmental issues associated with the fashion industry come from the production and preparation of textiles.
Fibershed presents an alternative concept to the commercial processes used in cheap clothing, focussing on local farming, natural dyes, and restorative agricultural practices.
Whilst the examples are a little US-centric, the ideas are universal and it is an eco-fashion book that will certainly get you thinking wherever you are in the world.
Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution
Author: Safia Minney
Both inspirational and educational, Naked Fashion is most definitely one to add to your reading list.
Interviewing people involved in all aspects of the fashion industry – from high-end designers like Vivienne Westwood, to the makers of our clothes, model agencies, and even actors such as Emma Watson – this book gives insights into what we can all be doing to make fashion more sustainable.
The author is the founder of people tree – a sustainable fashion label – and is a leader in the fair trade movement. So you know you’re getting your facts from a reliable source here.
Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes
Author: Alison Gwilt & Timo Rissanen
Focused on the four key stages of a garment’s lifecycle, this thought-provoking book by Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen gives insight into the ways fashion houses are designing pieces with less waste and a longer lifespan.
From material selection to responsible manufacturing, encouraging a slow-fashioned mindset, and alternatives to sending clothing to landfill – it really is your A-Z of all things to do with the world of sustainable fashion.
This book also includes case studies from visionary designers, so it’s an ideal read for fashion students or anyone wishing to expand their knowledge in the area.
Why French Women Wear Vintage: and other secrets of sustainable style
Author: Alois Guinut
Dispelling the myth that well-dressed people own more clothes, this book focuses on how refining your personal style can help make your shopping habits more sustainable and even breathe new life into your existing wardrobe.
The author provides practical tips on how to refresh your existing clothes and make them work for you, and paired with some fascinating interviews from French women on fashion, it is sure to change your perspective on what it means to be stylish.
The Travels of a T–Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade
Author: Pietra Rivoli
Following the story of the production of a simple t-shirt, this book explores the complex influences that global trade, economy, politics, and commercialization has had on the clothing industry, and presents a balanced, factual view of both the good and bad consequences.
Although it’s not a light read, Rivoli provides engaging insights into the sometimes surprising effects that international trade has on our day-to-day purchases.
Magnifeco: Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-toxic Beauty
Author: Kate Black
Presenting practical ways to implement sustainable fashion practices, this book goes one step further and provides a resource list of ethical brands that are accessible to every budget and style.
With a chapter on every fashion category – from beauty to haute couture for special occasions – Black gives down-to-earth and informative advice on how to bring sustainable fashion into your lifestyle.
Sewing School Fashion Design: Make Your Own Wardrobe with Mix-and-Match: Make Your Own Wardrobe with Mix-And-Match Projects Including Tops, Skirts & Shorts
Authors: Andria Lisle and Amie Plumley
Finally, for the ultimate in a slow fashion book, this is a fantastic beginner’s guide to designing and sewing your own clothes.
It is actually aimed at kids aged 8 to 12, but the clear instructions apply to any novice and the patterns work well for adults.
So whether you’re aiming to inspire the next generation of conscientious fashionistas, or have never picked up a needle in your life, this book will start you on your way.
It’s hard to be a conscious consumer if you’re not aware of the issues that exist behind your choices, or if you don’t know what the alternative options are. Start understanding the fast fashion industry, and what makes fashion sustainable, by reading one of these books on sustainable fashion today!