Top 20 Must Read Books On Ethical And Sustainable Fashion in 2018

, by Karima Arezo Popal-Akhzarati, 18 min reading time

Are you are looking for a good read about ethical and sustainable fashion that leaves you jaw open? Then read our article on the 20 most worth reading books about ethical and sustainable Fashion! This is part of our ongoing series “The Ultimate Guide to Ethical and Sustainable Fashion’’.                      

In this post, we will show you 20 highly recommended books from acknowledged authors such as Safia Minney, founder and CEO of Fair Trade and People Tree, and Kate Fletcher and Sandy Black, professors from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion.  At the end of this article, you will have a good insight about where to start, or to dive deeper into the world of ethical and sustainable fashion.

So let’s get staaarted and change the world by improving your world!


1. Eco Fashion by Sass Brown (2010)

Author Sass Brown’s book is a celebration of sustainability and eco fashion.

Through documenting how eco-fashion has achieved sophistication well beyond organic cotton t-shirts, she puts the case that for-profit companies can be a powerful force for good.

Particularly interesting is the focus she puts on independent designers, and how fast Eco fashion is set to grow.

Key Takeaway:

Eco fashion is stylish, fun, and available at many price points.



2. Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution by Safia Minney (2011)


In Naked Fashion, Safia Minney invites us to use our purchasing power to do good, and shows us how to do it. If you are looking to understand how your purchases may positively impact communities, the environment, and support some of those most in need, this is the book for you.

Be inspired to take action through interviews with innovators and designers. Get an inside look at what is being done to change one of the worlds most polluting, yet beloved, industries.

Key Takeaway:

Ethical Fashion brands are already positively impacting some of the most vulnerable communities around the world. Mamahuhu can attest to this :)



3. Magnifeco: Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-Toxic Beauty by Kate Black (2015)

An in-depth reference book for shopping ethically, matched with a guide on aligning your actions with your values. In addition to looking at the challenges of the fashion industry, this buyer’s guide shows us what to do about it! Covering not only shoes and footwear, but also hair and beauty products.   

 Key Takeaway: 

It is now possible to look truly fashionably while dressing ethically.



 4.) To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? By Lucy Siegle (2011)

As a journalist writing about ethical living in all sections of our lives (all her eco guides to… i.e. food, electronics, Christmas trees, sanitary product, etc.), it is no surprise that fashion is also a big topic for Lucy Siegle.

In “To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?” she reveals every ugly corner of the fast fashion industry, its unethical production at the cost of humans, animals and nature that are exploited at it worst. After opening the consumer’s mind for the unseen and malpractices of fast fashion and its consequences, Siegle shows us how to break out this vicious circle, so that after reading this book you want to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Key Takeaway:

Read - Understand – Take action. This book is for the doers



5.) Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline (2013)

"Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline is THE book on Ethical and Sustainable Fashion. No matter if you are new to the topic or a fashion design student or professor, this book is a must read.     What makes it so special is that it bases on the travels of the author to the regions of origin, i.e. China and Bangladesh and exposes the connections and interactions between the harmful production conditions ‘there’ and our consumption ‘here’: The far-away conditions and our actions on a daily basis are closer than you might imagine

Key Takeaways:

The costs of cheap and fast fashion are only possible at the high costs of our environment and inhuman labour conditions. So what are you willing to pay?



 6.) The Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black (2012)


 If you are looking for a scientific approach to ethical and  sustainable fashion this book is for you. “The Sustainable Fashion Handbook” is based on interviews with ethical working designers such as Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood, as well as case studies on regular textiles like jeans. We get to follow the research into production conditions, import, sale, and track the clothes up until their “end” in wasteful dumps or even harmful donations of clothes to Africa. In contrast to the dark side of fashion, Sandy also shows us case studies of smart textiles and fair trade projects.

Key Takeaways:

There is a scientific way to understand cheap and fast fashion, and there are also creative, innovative, fun and numerous green ways to take action against this vicious circle.



7.) Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy E. Hoskins (2014)  

Hoskins explains in “Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion” the interconnection between fashion and socio-economic structures such as the free-market model, racism, sexism, global poverty and environmental degradation. Not for the feint of heart, Hoskins analysis the fashion industry from a Marxist perspective, reveals the fashion industry in all its gory capitalist glory. She also considers the current state of our globe (exploited vs. affluent countries) against the background of industrialisation, colonialism, slavery, women’s right, social inequality, capitalism and the resistance and fights against them. Hoskins urges for radical change, which she sees in the resolution of capitalism as the only way we can organise and think of society. 

Key Takeaways:

The fashion industry is one of the important and most influential sections of our society and it is interconnected to so many parts of our daily lives.



8.) Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change by Kate Fletcher and Lynda Grose (2012)

This book is all about change, change and change. Kate Fletcher and Lynda Grose demonstrate how to transform different sections of the fashion industry with the vision of positive change on the way to more sustainability. With that in mind the authors analyse the lifecycle of textiles, with the view to innovative materials and reorganisation of production, import and distribution of garments. The key message here is multiple approaches to sustainability including business models that decouple from selling more and more individual units of clothing. Fletcher and Grose highlight at the same time the responsibility of designers, trendsetters and activist in this revolution. So if you consider yourself a doer, this book brings you closer to the vision of a better fashion world.

Key Takeaway:

A grand overview of how many innovative, creative and eco-friendly ways there exists to fashion, many that are not yet fully used in the mainstream. 



9.) ReFashioned: Cutting Edge Clothing from Upcycled Materials by Sass Brown (2013)  

Sass Brown introduces 46 international fashion designers and their valuable and important work with reused and recycled materials and garments. This book gives us the basics of the slow-fashion movement in an easy to understand way. Focusing on the movement’s desire to produce each piece of fashion with love, thoughtfulness and respect to both the labour and the environment.

Key Takeaways:

Important insights to the perspectives and valuable work of innovative fashion designers.




10.) Slow Fashion: Aesthetics meets Ethics by Safia Minney (2016)

What are the global effects of fast fashion? What can I do in my everyday life for a more ethical lifestyle? How can ‘slow fashion’ be realised? What does sustainable fashion look like? These and more questions are answered from the perspectives of farmers, eco-models, photographers, shop and brand owners, and other protagonists of the fashion world. On top of this the book offers plenty of impressive photographs.


Key Takeaways:

Show me the practical way to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.



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11.) Wear No Evil: How to Change The World With Your Wardrobe by Greta Eagan (2014)

Greta Eagan brings fashion and ethics together in this book. First, she makes us aware of the ugly sides of fashion industry and why change is needed so badly now. Then she shows us where our power lies and that we can contribute to eco-friendliness and sustainability by providing roadmap for green shopping.

Key Takeayways:

Buying the “right” clothes is kind to yourself, to the earth and to the people who produce them



12.) Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Ist Luster by Dana Thomas

You think you know the difference between a Louis Vuitton or a Zara or H&M handbag? The investigative journalist Dana Thomas reveals for us that there is in fact no difference in production, its conditions and in most cases in materials, the only difference is the substantial price. She opens our eyes what is going on the world of luxury such as Prada, Gucci and Burberry. So, is really expensive better than or even a solution to cheap fashion considering the increasingly mass-consumption of overpriced "luxury"? If you are into luxury brands and fashion, this book is a must read.

Key Takeaway:

In a (fashion) world in which only profit is aimed, how can luxuary can be guaranteed? Luxury needs to go back to its roots as a lifestyle and (family) businesses that promise quality and are of integrity.



 13.) We Are What We Wear: Unravelling Fast Fashion and the Collapse of Rana Plaza (2014) by Lucy Siegle

If you are new to the field of ethical and sustainable fashion/lifestyle, Lucy Siegle and her books are a must-known in order to understand the fashion industry and its interconnections with our society and consumers behaviour. Her highly reviewed book “We Are What We Wear: Unravelling Fast Fashion and the Collapse of Rana Plaza” is like a deep introduction into the drastic consequences of fast fashion for humans, animals and environmental.

Key Takeaways:

With our buying decisions we all are part of what had happened in India on the Rana Plaza on the 24th April 2013.




14.) The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade by Pietra Rivoli (2005)

Business Professor Pietra Rivoli unfolds the dramatic and complex consequences of globalisation by using the example of a T-shirt: Starting at a cotton field in Texas, he takes us to a journey to the production factory in China and ending at the burial place from a majority of cheap fashion: in Africa as a used clothing Market. With an entertaining writing style Rivoli success to grab our attention from the first word until the end and leaves us surprised but well informed about the politics, ethics and economics of fashion business in a globalised world. 

Key Takeaways:

Texas, Africa and China are not the only countries that are connected through our globalised and exploitative fashion world.




15.) Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys by Kate Fletcher (2007)

For getting into the field of sustainable fashion “Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys” by Design Activist Kate Fletcher is a great deal, since it provides a broad overview of the fashion industry and its role in a sustainable lifestyle. It provides us with important knowledge and interesting information about the fashion industry before showing us numerous sustainable alternatives that inspire to engage and support ethical fashion.

Key Takeaway:

I can protect our planet and a lot of people by using my passion and energy of design and fashion.



16.) Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes by Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen (2011)

More and more designers are becoming aware of the resource damaging textile production industry. Gwilt and Rissanen introduce in “Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes” designers and their strategies towards less waste and more durability and with that sustainability in fashion. The textual information are moreover extended with pictorial add-ons.

Key Takeaways:

My power as a consumer lies not only in my dollars but also in my way of living green, recycling and reusing materials.  



17.) Eco Chic: The Savvy Shopper’s Guide to ethical Fashion by Matilda Lee (2007)

If you are in the search for a quick read and a profound introduction to ecological and ethical fashion, “Eco Chic” by Matilda Lee is what you are looking for! The author sheds light upon the significance of the fashion industry in connection to pollution and environmental exploitation. Keeping her promise of being a Savvy Shopper’s Guide to ethical Fashion Lee describes extensive ways how to establish your own ethical and sustainable fashion by shopping eco-friendly and green.

Key Takeaways:

Fashion is beautiful, glamorous and nice – but it is also the cause for pollution and exploitation of human labour, animals and important resources. Finding a new way to green eco-friendly fashion is essential.



18.) Green is the New Black: How to Change the World with Style by Tamsin Blanchard (2007)

Almost ten years after publishing this book that shows us numerous tips and tricks to live an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle, it is everything else than out-dated. Its impact today is as important as it was then. Including sewing patterns, self-made recipes for body care and healthy recipes for enjoyable meals, Blanchard gives us practical and useful tips on how to live in a more sustainable and environmental friendly DIY-way. Just Great.

Key Take Aways:

Do It Yourself is the best way to go easy on your money, on the environment and our planet!



19.) Zero Waste Fashion Design by Timo Rissanen and Holly McQuillan (2016)

This book is for those who want to dig deeper and intensify their knowledge about sustainable fashion design and get to know techniques and strategies to a zero waste fashion design process. The authors - both industry leading pioneers - show us the astonishing results that a zero waste fashion design can produce. Via entertaining interviews with creative and innovative designers and beautiful garment patterns we learn how to use the included (online available) patterns.

Key Takeaways:

Making own clothes can be fun, it helps us developing our creativity and we do so much good to the world. 



20.) Made On Earth: What We Wear, Where it Comes From, and Where it Goes by Wolfgang Korn (2008)


Following the lifecycle of a red fleece jacket the journalist Wolfgang Korn illustrates the conditions of globalisation and the way the fast fashion industry works- aiming at a younger teen audience. On this journey we learn how fleece is made – from crude oil in Dubai – where and how it is produced - under inhuman labour conditions in Bangladesh- and where it is finally distributed – in a clothing company in Germany. The process reveals the environmental costs and exploitation in order to produce one fleece jacket.

After the author buys the jacket for himself, wears it several years, he then donates it to a clothes recycling company that exports the jacket to Africa. To close the lifecycle of the jacket, the author sees coincidently a refugee from Africa with his jacket- Korn is sure of it. That is where his idea started to write this book about the journey of the red fleece jacket – also for a younger audience. 

Key Takeaway:

Everything is connected to each other. A fleece jacket bought in Germany, oil in Dubai, labour conditions in Bangladesh and a clothes recycling company in Africa. Fashion is able to connect all these far away seeming areas.


Important Update: 

21.) 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe

                                                                    Summer Edwards runs successfully her ethical fashion and lifestyle blog Tortoise  Lady Grey. In this context her great workbook and guide 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe came into existence. In her book Summer first arises your awareness for your consume behavior and how it could be connected to the vicious circle of cheap fashion. After that she gives helpful advices on how to declutter, simplify and built new habits towards a sustainable and timeless wardrobe. This book gives you definitely a doable "how to" on committing to sustainable fashion and lifestyle.
One important book about ethical and sustainable fashion, that needed to be add to our list!






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