Convincing, responsible, and motivational fashion industry reportage.



An educated update on the current state of fashion, how it got there, and a prognostication on its precarious future.

Paris-based fashion journalist Thomas (Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, 2014, etc.) offers informed, fair-minded, passionate, and cautiously optimistic scrutiny of “fast fashion,” which entails “the production of trendy, inexpensive garments in vast amounts at lightning speed in subcontracted factories, to be touted in thousands of chain stores.” The author focuses on the negative ramifications of this rampant consumerism, which gives little regard to garment quality or manufacturing origins. Among the “casualties” of this trend are underpaid, exploited, and often underage factory workers in developing countries; labor forces in developed economies; and the environment, as microfiber-shedding synthetic fabrics and fertilizers commingle to pollute water supplies. Thomas interweaves details on sartorial workmanship, designer profiles, and fashion history into her discourse, creating a distressing yet intriguing story of the textile industry and how the global explosion of “furious fashion” hijacked a uniquely creative economic market. She reveals how this grand-scale industry seized control over impulsive buyers and greedy profiteers, setting in motion a “hamster-wheel cycle” of overmanufactured garments, indifferent consumers, and billions of pounds of waste. In her travels to Bangladesh, five years after the deadly Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, she uncovered somewhat improved working conditions, but there still remained a sweatshop subculture rife with sexual and physical abuse. But Thomas isn’t hopeless, and her engrossing report is leavened with uplifting accounts of brands using organic indigo for blue jeans and a force of designers, merchants, and manufacturers eager to revolutionize the garment industry’s aggressive tide of overproduction through “slow fashion.” In her conclusion, Thomas notes the evergreen conundrum (and “epic-sized mess”) that exists regarding high fashion’s rubric of seasonal production and the recyclers and eco-engineers aiming to recalibrate its production output and repurpose its leftovers.

Convincing, responsible, and motivational fashion industry reportage.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2401-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.



A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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