Convincing, responsible, and motivational fashion industry reportage.

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FASHIONOPOLIS

THE PRICE OF FAST FASHION--AND THE FUTURE OF CLOTHES

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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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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