Jan 042013

The Sustaibable Fashion HandbookThe Sustainable Fashion Handbook is a beautiful and mighty tome, which has clearly been conceived to be *the definitive sourcebook* on this whoppingly complex subject.  Sandy Black‘s position as professor of fashion and textile design and technology at London College of Fashion gives the book weight, but it’s real strength lies the scores of contributions from academics, designers and industry experts on a multitude of associated topics.

The book is divided into 5 main chapters to help us reach an understanding of sustainable fashion:

1 Self and beauty / Culture and consumption
2 Desire and fashion/ Design and innovation
3 Craft and industry/ Transparency and livelihood
4 Speed and distance/ Ecology and waste
5 Techno eco/ New fashion paradigms

The book contains be best attempt I’ve seen at defining fashion, an emphasis on the garment’s life cycle from raw material production through use to disposal, information on the transport networks needed to keep the fashion coming and various ways people are beginning to try and break the unsustainable practices which are now commonplace.

The academic contributors have opened my mind, and led me to look at projects such as The Textile Toolbox and Local Wisdom.  Campaigns like the Asia Floor Wage are also represented, showing a way forward, as are new types of fabric and new production methods, e.g. spraying or growing textiles.

The contributions from heavyweight designers are enlightening, such as Vivienne Westwood “Buy less, choose well”,  Hussein Chalayan “Understanding nature, how we relate to it, and understanding our bodies…”, Issey Miyake ” I have endeavoured to experiment to make fundamental changes to the system of making clothes” and Yohji Yamamoto.  However, the amount of greenwash included by high street brands, some of whom have more integrity than others, does undermine the book at times.

Basically, the book is well worth the read, but at the size of a 1980s Yellow Pages this is not something to be undertaken lightly.  I suspect it will not age well as technology races ahead and the images are very NOW, but will endure to provide a snapshot of our times.