Even when pursued with ethical motives, this undermines local markets, deprives the regional poor of vital work and prevents local textile industries from developing properly.
This is Andrew Brooks’ thesis, and his investigation of less familiar aspects of the industry kicks off with a biography of a pair of jeans, tracking the production process from Zambian cotton farm to Chinese textile plant, to designers in Milan and San Francisco; a tour round a market worth around $60billion.
While the consumer might view fashion as a facet of independence, the underlying truth is that it restricts social mobility on a global scale.
No aspect goes unexamined, from the charities which encourage donation of unwanted clothing, to ‘upcycling’ – using old clothes as the basis for new fashions: style with one eye on the environment.
But even ethical consumption can have its downside, and it’s hard to escape the feeling you’re being scolded – every approach seems to make things worse – but impossible to deny the force of the arguments on show.
CLOTHING POVERTY: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-Hand Clothes by Andrew Brooks, Zed Books, £14.99 (paperback)
This review was published in the May 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine