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The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes

Penguin Press,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Fashion journalist Dana Thompson offers a riveting investigation into the impact of fast fashion.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


American journalist Dana Thomas may shock you and make you reconsider how you choose your clothes. She reports that the exponential growth of the fashion business in the last three decades has devastating long-term environmental implications. Thomas’s in-depth descriptions of new technology, materials and processes also provide a glimpse of the world to come. This book is a must for anyone associated with the fashion industry, but is also a provocative examination of how the industry is struggling to transform itself even as current practices make the status quo unsustainable. You may never look at a pair of jeans the same way again.


Ready-to-wear clothing transformed the fashion industry.

Richard Arkwright started the first water-powered mill in 1771 by essentially stealing Lewis Paul’s carding machine and James Hargreaves’ spinning jenny. He went from 200 workers to 1,000 in a decade, and thus contributed to the start of the Industrial Revolution and the transformation to mass manufacturing of clothing.

The invention of the lockstitch sewing machine in the 1830s increased the speed of manufacturing clothing. And, in the 1850s, Paris couturier Charles Frederick Worth introduced seasonal collections, so women could choose from existing designs. This shift from made-to-order clothing to designer collections and standardized sizing was a radical transformation that increased apparel production and consumption. The industry boomed with the Civil War, as factories churned out uniforms for soldiers.

The American fashion business expanded in the 1920s and exploded after World War II. In the 1940s, the Garment District of New York City employed 200,000 workers who made two-thirds of the clothing that people wore in the United States. The subsequent decade ...

About the Author

American journalist Dana Thomas also wrote Fashionopolis (Young Readers Edition): The Secrets Behind the Clothes We WearDeluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster and Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano.

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