Sandy Black
Thames & Hudson, New York, 2013, English
Nonfiction, Fashion Design
9.7 x 13.6 inches, paperback, 352 pages, 307 illustrations
ISBN: 9780500290569
Suggested Retail Price: $55.00

From the Publisher. This sourcebook on all aspects of sustainable fashion encompasses not only the environmental issues presented by a wasteful and fast-moving fashion cycle but also the social impact of the global fashion industry, which employs up to forty million people worldwide in manufacturing and agriculture.

Sandy Black has assembled contributions from a diverse group with a range of perspectives: designers and technicians, academics and journalists, environmental and social action campaigners, craft specialists and artists, eco-entrepreneurs and representatives of global corporations. Each chapter presents essays by leading writers and thinkers; interviews and statements from designers such as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, and Hussein Chalayan; and case studies on everything from the life cycle of jeans to smart textiles and fair trade projects.

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Norman Weinstein

Few books with “sustainability” in the title possess the ambitiousness and cross-disciplinary depth of this colossal handbook on sustainable fashion. With hundreds of illustrations and scores of incisive interviews with designers, eco-activists, and entrepreneurs, there is an overwhelming amount in this hefty coffee-table book that really is a provocative sourcebook for sustainable designers in any field.

Sandy Black has sharply organized a burgeoning mass of sustainable fashion in a form that addresses key philosophical as well as practical questions, beginning with the fundamental (uncomfortable) question as to whether in a field as fad-driven as fashion if and how “sustainability” can be realistically achieved. That question takes on urgency when we realize that textiles and clothing life cycles use more energy and water than any other industry except for construction and agriculture. In search of sustainability in fashion—which perhaps would be a more accurate title than the one Black gave—we’re treated in these pages to wide divergences in perspectives from designers. Hussein Chalayan welcomes the challenges sustainability issues present—but straightforwardly justifies designing with materials that are not from recycled sources. The fabric printing and design company Ely Kishimoto regretfully acknowledges that it hasn’t yet figured out a process to remove dangerous chemicals from its wastewater.

Interspersed with these moderately cautionary accounts are remarkably uplifting accounts by fashion designers defying the conventional marketplace wisdom of supporting quickly and cheaply produced “throwaway” clothing with polluting consequences. Most crucially, one comes away from this swirl of new fashions, imaginary and ready-to-wear alike, with a sense of integrative vision. Perhaps designer Shelley Fox’s notion that all well-designed clothing is ipso facto sustainable is a tad simplistic, but the cross-cultural evidence in Black’s sourcebook reinforces the notion that fashion, rather than being the most ephemeral and toxic of necessary and everyday design arts, can also be made manifest in clothing that is passed down through appreciative generations.

Black’s book’s sole flaw might be its overwhelming U.K.-focus—but that seems unsurprising given the current British dominance in designing sustainable fashion, realizing that prolonging and re-purposing textile life contributes to our global commonwealth.

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