From quick-read articles and in-depth interviews to buzzworthy social media posts, there’s no shortage of information when it comes to educating yourself on the way the fashion industry operates. But sometimes, you just want more. Rounded up below are12 books about sustainable fashion, authored by industry professionals, that take deep dives into the world of apparel — from the logistics of supply chains to the impact of garment production on the environment to the many impediments individuals face in wanting to make ethical purchasing decisions.
Grab a warm beverage, cozy up under a blanket, and grab a copy of whichever book speaks to your interests. Here are 12 books about sustainable fashion that go deep into the problems, and potential solutions, we can find in the industry.
12 Books About Sustainable Fashion
For the big picture thinker: Overdressed
Author and journalist Elizabeth Cline (and current Advocacy Director for Remake!) explores sustainable and ethical fashion in her 2012 book, Overdressed. Overdressed is a must-read for anyone interested in getting a broad understanding of the justice issues and environmental destruction that is deeply embedded in the fashion industry. At the close of the book, Cline sums up the responsibility we all have in making fashion a force for good, noting, “At the risk of sounding too earnest, we are all stewards of our clothing, responsible for seeing it through its different phases of life.”
For the deep thinker: To Die For
Journalist Lucy Siegle does a deep dive into ethical and sustainable fashion in To Die For, her 2011 book. Siegle writes prolifically on sustainability issues, and was an Executive Producer for 2014 fast fashion documentary, True Cost. In To Die For, Siegle hits on all of the injustices rife in the fashion industry — environmental degradation, exploitative and unsafe labor practices, animal rights, and more. Siegle provides the reader with a comprehensive look at the ills of the industry, as well as “a very plausible vision of how green could really be the new black.”
For the innovator: Fashionopolis
Dana Thomas’ 2019 book, Fashionopolis, weaves the evils of the fashion industry with examples of how individuals and companies are creating innovative solutions to wastefulness and environmental degradation. Throughout the book, you may feel both overwhelmed at the scale of the problem, (Thomas notes that Americans filled landfills with 14 million tons of garments in 2018), and a sense of possibility as Thomas highlights how innovators are exploring new ideas and technologies (such as Aquafil, a company that produces swimsuits from recycled materials such as old fishing nets and carpets).
For the memoir-lover: How to Break Up with Fast Fashion
Fashionista Lauren Bravo shares her experiences from her personal year-long break from purchasing fast fashion in the aptly-titled, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion, published in early 2020. One reviewer points out that Bravo shares how “we can learn to buy in ways that create less harm for the environment, our bank accounts, our mental wellbeing, and the distant garment workers who make the clothes.” Some of the biggest takeaway tips from the book include shopping alone, going shopping when you’re feeling great and well-dressed, and identifying at least three items in your existing wardrobe that will match with a new garment you are potentially going to purchase.
For the beginner: The Future of Fashion
In his 2018 book, Tyler Little “discusses the current trends happening right now in sustainable fashion combined with the most cutting edge research available.” Some reviewers note that this book reads more like a college essay, while others praise the comprehensive overview that the author provides throughout the text. While the book has received mixed reviews from readers, it is noted as a decent primer for those looking to begin exploring sustainable fashion.
For the practical: The Conscious Closet
A “how-to” follow-up to Overdressed, Elizabeth Cline provides consumers with practical ways to develop a more ethical and sustainable approach to clothing in The Conscious Closet. Published in 2019, Cline covers topics such as consumption habits, clothing construction, sustainable clothing, and environmentally-friendly laundry techniques. One reviewer wrote that “I learned the many resources which the public can access, and the various techniques one can learn when they want to make their clothes last longer. Most importantly, however, I learned how we can all enjoy clothes and experiment with our styles guilt-free.”
For the eco-warrior: Drawdown
Drawdown is a 2017 publication that came out of the nonprofit Project Drawdown, an organization working to bring greenhouse gases to a decline. The book compiles research and information from a range of climate specialists, offering techniques and ideas to reduce (“drawdown”) greenhouse gas emission. The organization states that “the material contained within the pages of Drawdown has influenced university curricula, city climate plans, commitments by businesses, community action, philanthropic strategy, and more.” The book has various reviews, but many readers finish the book inspired, and praise the breadth of information provided.
For the recommendation-seeker: A Life Less Throwaway
In A Life Less Throwaway, published in 2018, Tara Button of Buy Me Once, a company dedicated to providing consumers with long-lasting products, shares her ideas about mindful consumption. One reviewer writes that “Button provides step-by-step instructions for building small, long-lasting wardrobes for the different contexts of your life — like work and weekend — and offers a massive directory on how to select lifetime goods, as well as how to care for those goods.”
For the justice-seeker: Slave to Fashion
Sustainable fashion expert Safia Minney writes about the intersection of fashion and modern-day human slavery, while sharing the experiences of individuals who are exploited by the industry. According to the author’s website, “the book profiles best practice of brands and designers within the fashion industry to prove that slave-free fashion is achievable and fashion can be used to empower workers – whilst creating beautiful, competitive and accessible fashion.”
For the economist: Stitched Up
Want to explore fashion from an economic model lens? Stitched Up is for you. Tansy Hoskins’ 2014 book explores a variety of topics and issues in the fashion industry, including capitalism and Marxism. One reviewer notes that Hoskins’ book not only “focuses on the social consequences of the industry, from the conditions of workers to its disastrous environmental costs,” but it also “disapproves of the idea of fashion itself.” Stitched Up leaves the reader with much to consider about the overall implications of fashion on society, and the undeniable impact of this two billion dollar industry.
For the aesthetic-minded: Naked Fashion
Safia Minney is a social entrepreneur, CEO, consultant, and author. Her 2014 book, Naked Fashion, has a bit of everything — interviews of celebrity sustainable fashion advocates, tips on how to curate a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe, and discussions with fashion professionals about how they are working for a more just and green fashion industry. According to the author’s website, “this is one of few books to analyze fair trade, ethical fashion and entrepreneurship, written by one of the most respected women in the industry.”
For the stylish: Wear No Evil
According to its publisher, Wear No Evil is “the style guide with sustainability built in that we’ve all been waiting for.” Greta Egan brings her experiences as a stylist, writer, and a sustainable-living expert to her 2014 book. With sections on fashion industry facts, how to edit your wardrobe for sustainability, and a directory of sustainable brands, the book helps readers answer the question: “What should I wear today?”