Longlisted for the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
A groundbreaking chronicle of the birth--and death--of a pair of jeans, that exposes the fractures in our global supply chains, and our relationships to each other, ourselves, and the planet
Take a look at your favorite pair of jeans. Maybe you bought them on Amazon or the Gap; maybe the tag says "Made in Bangladesh" or "Made in Sri Lanka." But do you know where they really came from, how many thousands of miles they crossed, or the number of hands who picked, spun, wove, dyed, packaged, shipped, and sold them to get to you? The fashion industry operates with radical opacity, and it's only getting worse to disguise countless environmental and labor abuses. It epitomizes the ravages inherent in the global economy, and all in the name of ensuring that we keep buying more while thinking less about its real cost.
In U nraveled, entrepreneur, researcher, and advocate Maxine Bédat follows the life of an American icon--a pair of jeans--to reveal what really happens to give us our clothes. We visit a Texas cotton farm figuring out how to thrive without relying on fertilizers that poison the earth. Inside dyeing and weaving factories in China, where chemicals that are banned in the West slosh on factory floors and drain into waterways used to irrigate local family farms. Sewing floors in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are crammed with women working for illegally low wages to produce garments as efficiently as machines. Back in America, our jeans get stowed, picked, and shipped out by Amazon warehouse workers pressed to be as quick as the robots primed to replace them. Finally, those jeans we had to have get sent to landfills--or, if they've been "donated," shipped back around the world to Africa, where they're sold for pennies in secondhand markets or buried and burned in mountains of garbage.
A sprawling, deeply researched, and provocative tour-de-force, Unraveled is not just the story of a pair of pants, but also the story of our global economy and our role in it. Told with piercing insight and unprecedented reporting, Unraveled challenges us to use our relationship with our jeans--and all that we wear--to reclaim our central role as citizens to refashion a society in which all people can thrive and preserve the planet for generations to come.
"Required reading for the conscientious."
BILL MCKIBBEN, AUTHOR OF THE END OF NATURE AND NEW YORKER WRITER
“ Unraveled is at once fascinating and disturbing. Read it before you buy a new pair of jeans, or anything else, for that matter. It will forever change the way you look at fashion.”
ELIZABETH KOLBERT, AUTHOR OF THE SIXTH EXTINCTION AND NEW YORKER WRITER
“ Unraveled is a book for our times. Impeccably researched, with vivid storytelling, it eloquently uses the fashion industry as a metaphor for a new system of moral capitalism that putspeople and planet first.”
PAUL POLMAN, FORMER CEO OF UNILEVER, VICE-CHAIR OF UN GLOBAL COMPACT
“ Unraveled is fantastic and important. This book will open your eyes to how the fashion industry perpetuates inequality and introduce you to ways we can all rise—together.”
AJA BARBER, WRITER AND CONSULTANT
“For anyone who cares about the well-being of people and planet, this book should be on your reading list. Bédat illustrates the very real complexities that exist within the apparel supply chain that contribute to why our current efforts to achieve ‘sustainability’ continue tofall short but offers practical suggestions that give us hope for positive change.”
EILEEN FISHER, FOUNDER AND CEO OF EILEEN FISHER, INC.
“Breathtaking insights into the inner workings of our contemporary world. In charting the unsavory consequences of our consumption, Bédat’s gripping narrative introduces us to a world of textile production that is both socially unsustainable and hazardous to the environment.A powerful and deeply disturbing book, an urgent call to action.”
SVEN BECKERT, LAIRD BELL PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR OF EMPIRE OF COTTON
“ Unraveled forces us to confront the history of our connection to our wardrobes in language that is at once easy to grasp and necessary to confront. Bédat provides the framework for us to balance a personal reckoning with the systemic shifts that must occur to save the fashion industry from the worst parts of itself. Whether you are an avid shopper or a critic of consumerism, this book holds truth for you.”
TABITHA ST. BERNARD-JACOBS, WOMEN’S MARCH ORGANIZER
“A clear-eyed story of unchecked corporate power, rampant consumerism, and unregulated industry that goes far beyond fashion. This is a blueprint to change all that’s wrong with our unequal and unsustainable modern world.”
ELIZABETH CLINE, AUTHOR OF OVERDRESSED
“An absolute must read, particularly for those of us who take so much joy in getting dressed.”
EMILY FARRA, SENIOR FASHION NEWS WRITER AT VOGUE
Maxine Bédat is the founder and director of New Standard Institute, a think-and-do tank dedicated to turning industry into a force for good. She is a former lawyer and the cofounder of ethical fashion brand Zady. She is an ambassador at the Rainforest Alliance and has spoken at the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, and the Clinton Global Initiative.