Why Fashion Matters, Frances Corner – Book Review

Frances Corner was Head of the London College of Fashion when she wrote this book and inevitably some of the facts and figures may well have been updated since then. This does not, however, make the book any less significant in the world of sustainable fashion and some of her statements will still remain true – “Fashion matters. To the economy, to society and to each of us personally” for example.

What is more difficult to know today is whether fashion is still the second biggest worldwide economic activity or whether British people still spend £1.51 billion on 86 million pairs of jeans. Facts like these do matter but are very hard to keep up to date with and the important message of this book is wider and encourages us all to think about what we buy and wear. A strength of this book is the way it is presented – short bites with catchy headings but all designed to make us think about our own relationship with clothes, shoes and handbags.

Corner was perhaps a bit ahead of the game as many of her thoughts have been replicated elsewhere and are now familiar, such as: Spend more on less, need versus want, reduce/reuse/recycle. We now know that jeans and T shirts can use up vast quantities of water in their production. We now know that buying from charity shops or swapping clothes reduces landfill and that using natural fibres is good for the environment. We know that we need to be aware of the use of chemicals in garment production, the need to pay garment
workers adequately and to take into consideration the amount of transporting required per garment.

We now know, but it does not hurt to be reminded from time to time and reading this book made me take up her challenge of sorting my clothes into three groups – ones I wear regularly, ones I rarely wear and those kept for memories even if worn out. This left a significant pile for repurposing and a few to take to the Repair Café. This is definitely a book to read with a useful reference section for those of us who really do want up to date facts as well as encouragement and inspiration.

Jean Wilde, May 2024

Why Fashion Matters. Published by Thames and Hutton, reprinted 2016