Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

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Until recently, Elizabeth Cline was a typical American consumer. She’d grown accustomed to shopping at outlet malls, discount stores like T.J. Maxx, and cheap but trendy retailers like Forever 21, Target, and H&M. She was buying a new item of clothing almost every week (the national average is sixty-four per year) but all she had to show for it was a closet and countless storage bins packed full of low-quality fads she barely wore—including the same sailor-stripe tops and fleece hoodies as a million other shoppers. When she found herself lugging home seven pairs of identical canvas flats from Kmart (a steal at $7 per pair, marked down from $15!), she realized that something was deeply wrong.


Cheap fashion has fundamentally changed the way most Americans dress. Stores ranging from discounters like Target to traditional chains like JCPenney now offer the newest trends at unprecedentedly low prices. Retailers are pro­ducing clothes at enormous volumes in order to drive prices down and profits up, and they’ve turned clothing into a disposable good. After all, we have little reason to keep wearing and repairing the clothes we already own when styles change so fast and it’s cheaper to just buy more.


But what are we doing with all these cheap clothes? And more important, what are they doing to us, our society, our environment, and our economic well-being?


In Overdressed, Cline sets out to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent retail­ers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to cheap-chic factories in China, follows the fashion industry as it chases even lower costs into Bangladesh, and looks at the impact (both here and abroad) of America’s drastic increase in imports. She even explores how cheap fashion harms the charity thrift shops and textile recyclers where our masses of cloth­ing castoffs end up.


Sewing, once a life skill for American women and a pathway from poverty to the middle class for workers, is now a dead-end sweatshop job. The pressures of cheap have forced retailers to drastically reduce detail and craftsmanship, making the clothes we wear more and more uniform, basic, and low quality. Creative inde­pendent designers struggle to produce good and sustainable clothes at affordable prices.


Cline shows how consumers can break the buy-and-toss cycle by supporting innovative and stylish sustainable designers and retailers, refash­ioning clothes throughout their lifetimes, and mending and even making clothes themselves.


Overdressed
will inspire you to vote with your dollars and find a path back to being well dressed and feeling good about what you wear.

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About the author

Elizabeth Cline has written for AMCtv.com, The Daily Beast, New York Magazine, Popular Science, The New Republic, The Village Voice, and seedmagazine.com. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit overdressedthebook.com.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Jun 14, 2012
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781101560587
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Consumer Behavior
Business & Economics / Green Business
Business & Economics / Industries / Fashion & Textile Industry
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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With sales of more than five hundred billion US dollars a year, the fashion industry is one of the most important sectors of the global economy, employing millions of men, women, and often children in the developing world. And yet its record is far from pretty. The collapse of Bangladesh's Rana Plaza with some thirty-five hundred desperately underpaid garment workers inside was a shocking example of what can go wrong when manufacturers ruthlessly cut costs while turning a blind eye to labor rights and workplace safety.

Written by an apparel industry insider, Fixing Fashion argues that the true legacy of Rana Plaza is increased awareness of how cheap, disposable clothing has led time and time again to serious community, environmental, and labor rights abuses. Ethical supply chain professional Michael Lavergne explores:

The birth of the global apparel trade, from colonialism and slavery to today's neoliberal trade agenda How the infamous race to the bottom has led to some of the worst social and environmental excesses in the global apparel industry The rise of a new breed of entrepreneurs and stakeholders driving change and transparency across international supply chains

By taking a hard look at the very real impacts of our consumer culture's addiction to disposable fashion, Fixing Fashion challenges each of us to take full responsibility for understanding the hidden cost of our clothes.

Michael Lavergne is an ethical supply chain professional committed to sustainable fashion industry and the protection of labor, environmental and human rights in the developing world.

Want to become a fashionista—for real? Get this book! Fun and entertaining, Creative Careers in Fashion reveals how the fashion industry works—and explores the vast range of career opportunities in the field. Focusing on the most creative jobs, including accessory, costume, and fashion design, as well as make-up artists, wardrobe consultants, textile designers, and colorists, this book showcases the practical information that will help readers find the perfect job and get it. Included are details on salary ranges, educational and experience requirements, where jobs are located, and new trends. Cameo interviews with real-life fashion professionals offer insider tips. Comprehensive, practical, and inspiring, Creative Careers in Fashion is the complete guide to finding a new career in an exciting industry. • Start a new career with help from industry insiders • Dozens of creative careers for students, career changers, anyone looking for their new parachute • Resources include detailed school and college listings

Allworth Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, publishes a broad range of books on the visual and performing arts, with emphasis on the business of art. Our titles cover subjects such as graphic design, theater, branding, fine art, photography, interior design, writing, acting, film, how to start careers, business and legal forms, business practices, and more. While we don't aspire to publish a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are deeply committed to quality books that help creative professionals succeed and thrive. We often publish in areas overlooked by other publishers and welcome the author whose expertise can help our audience of readers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average annual income of $69,270 for fashion designers. Opportunities in the fashion design industry are expected to rise about 10 to 12 percent through the next few years. Many designers also go into other areas of the fashion industry, including: fashion buyer, fashion coordinator, retail store manager, and many more. You do not need to live in New York City, and you can start out small or even part time.

Ralph Lauren's Polo empire was established on a small mens tie collection that he sold to Bloomingdale's. Demand for fashion designers should remain strong, as consumers hungry for new fashions and apparel styles will spur the creation of new clothing and accessory lines. This new book is a comprehensive and detailed study of the business side of the fashion, fashion design, and consulting business. You will learn everything from the initial design and creation to manufacturing and marketing.

If you are investigating opportunities in this type of business, you should begin by reading this book, hopefully picturing yourself producing the perfect dress worn by one of Hollywood's elite. If you enjoy working with people and keeping up on the latest trends, this may be the perfect business for you. Keep in mind this business looks easy but, as with any business, looks can be deceiving.

This complete manual will arm you with everything you need, including sample business forms; contracts; worksheets and checklists for planning, opening, and running day-to-day operations; lists; plans and layouts; and dozens of other valuable, time-saving tools of the trade that no designer should be without. While providing detailed instruction and examples, the author leads you through every detail that will bring success. You will learn how to draw up a winning business plan and about basic cost control systems, copyright and trademark issues, branding, management, legal concerns, sales and marketing techniques, and pricing formulas.

You will learn how to set up computer systems to save time and money, how to hire and keep a qualified professional staff, how to meet IRS requirements, how to manage and train employees, how to generate high profile public relations and publicity, and how to implement low cost internal marketing ideas. You will learn how to build your business by using low and no cost ways to satisfy customers, as well as ways to increase sales, have customers refer others to you, and thousands of great tips and useful guidelines. This manual delivers innovative ways to streamline your business.

Learn new ways to make your operation run smoother and increase performance. Successful designers will appreciate this valuable resource and reference it in their daily activities as a source of ready-to-use forms, Web sites, operating and cost cutting ideas, and mathematical formulas that can easily be applied to their operations. The companion CD-ROM is included with the print version of this book; however is not available for download with the electronic version. It may be obtained separately by contacting Atlantic Publishing Group at sales@atlantic-pub.com

Atlantic Publishing is a small, independent publishing company based in Ocala, Florida. Founded over twenty years ago in the company president's garage, Atlantic Publishing has grown to become a renowned resource for non-fiction books. Today, over 450 titles are in print covering subjects such as small business, healthy living, management, finance, careers, and real estate. Atlantic Publishing prides itself on producing award winning, high-quality manuals that give readers up-to-date, pertinent information, real-world examples, and case studies with expert advice. Every book has resources, contact information, and web sites of the products or companies discussed.

From journalist, fashionista, and clothing resale expert Elizabeth L. Cline, “the Michael Pollan of fashion,”* comes the definitive guide to building an ethical, sustainable wardrobe you'll love.

Clothing is one of the most personal expressions of who we are. In her landmark investigation Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth L. Cline first revealed fast fashion’s hidden toll on the environment, garment workers, and even our own satisfaction with our clothes. The Conscious Closet shows exactly what we can do about it.

Whether your goal is to build an effortless capsule wardrobe, keep up with trends without harming the environment, buy better quality, seek out ethical brands, or all of the above, The Conscious Closet is packed with the vital tools you need. Elizabeth delves into fresh research on fashion’s impacts and shows how we can leverage our everyday fashion choices to change the world through style. Inspired by her own revelatory journey getting off the fast-fashion treadmill, Elizabeth shares exactly how to build a more ethical wardrobe, starting with a mindful closet clean-out and donating, swapping, or selling the clothes you don't love to make way for the closet of your dreams.

The Conscious Closet is not just a style guide. It is a call to action to transform one of the most polluting industries on earth—fashion—into a force for good. Readers will learn where our clothes are made and how they’re made, before connecting to a global and impassioned community of stylish fashion revolutionaries. In The Conscious Closet, Elizabeth shows us how we can start to truly love and understand our clothes again—without sacrificing the environment, our morals, or our style in the process.

*Michelle Goldberg, Newsweek/The Daily Beast
More than two decades ago, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen arrived on the fashions scene when the business was in an artistic and economic rut. Both wanted to revolutionize fashion in a way no one had in decades. They shook the establishment out of its bourgeois, minimalist stupor with daring, sexy designs. They turned out landmark collections in mesmerizing, theatrical shows that retailers and critics still gush about and designers continue to reference.

Their approach to fashion was wildly different—Galliano began as an illustrator, McQueen as a Savile Row tailor. Galliano led the way with his sensual bias-cut gowns and his voluptuous hourglass tailoring, which he presented in romantic storybook-like settings. McQueen, though nearly ten years younger than Galliano, was a brilliant technician and a visionary artist who brought a new reality to fashion, as well as an otherworldly beauty. For his first official collection at the tender age of twenty-three, McQueen did what few in fashion ever achieve: he invented a new silhouette, the Bumster.

They had similar backgrounds: sensitive, shy gay men raised in tough London neighborhoods, their love of fashion nurtured by their doting mothers. Both struggled to get their businesses off the ground, despite early critical success. But by 1997, each had landed a job as creative director for couture houses owned by French tycoon Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH.
 
Galliano’s and McQueen’s work for Dior and Givenchy and beyond not only influenced fashion; their distinct styles were also reflected across the media landscape. With their help, luxury fashion evolved from a clutch of small, family-owned businesses into a $280 billion-a-year global corporate industry. Executives pushed the designers to meet increasingly rapid deadlines. For both Galliano and McQueen, the pace was unsustainable. In 2010, McQueen took his own life three weeks before his womens' wear show.

The same week that Galliano was fired, Forbes named Arnault the fourth richest man in the world. Two months later, Kate Middleton wore a McQueen wedding gown, instantly making the house the world’s most famous fashion brand, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a wildly successful McQueen retrospective, cosponsored by the corporate owners of the McQueen brand. The corporations had won and the artists had lost.

In her groundbreaking work Gods and Kings, acclaimed journalist Dana Thomas tells the true story of McQueen and Galliano. In so doing, she reveals the revolution in high fashion in the last two decades—and the price it demanded of the very ones who saved it.
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