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If You Don’t Watch The True Cost, Read This – A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison

By October 24, 2017 Ethical

I’ve covered quite a few books on my blog over the past year or two, all of them being related to ethical fashion on varying levels, however, I’ve never read or reviewed a fictional book until I discovered A Harvest of Thorns and realised that fiction could be another way to help people understand and come to terms with fast-fashion. (Please be aware that this book and my review covers topics such as rape and may give away mild spoilers.)

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison Book Review


A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison


Although I had the idea that the book covered the tale of a single garment worker, A Harvest of Thorns actually covers the tale of not only garment workers, but a journalist and the general counsel of the fictional retailer, ‘Presto‘ (you could compare it to the likes of Amazon).

Based on what the author Corban Addison discovered and experienced himself after the Tazreen Fashions factory fire in 2012, the story covers a similar tale and how it affects a major corporation, consumers and the future of the fashion industry.

It’s film-like, in the way the book is written; it’s descriptive and immersive and allows you to understand all of the different perspectives that you’re reading, whether that be from the perspective of a garment worker who is forced to work without pay; Joshua Griswold – the journalist battling with his struggling relationship, his cancer-ridden daughter and his career – or Cameron Alexander; the general counsel (chief lawyer) who recently lost his wife in a tragic car accident and is facing the possibility of his mother’s death.

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison Book Review

As you can probably tell, this isn’t an uplifting story but it isn’t supposed to be. Although all of the stories and characters are fictional, it all comes from reality – these stories and characters exist, whether we want them to or not.

The reason I suggest this book as an alternative to The True Cost in the title, is because I believe it’s just as hard-hitting, even if it’s not factual and can’t show you the honest and costly reality of the industry through video footage.

It also explores more than just the Rana Plaza – the only true story included within the main plot – and the realities of factory conditions. The fictional aspect allows you to understand and interpret each story in a way which you can empathise with yourself.

Although I judged Cameron at first for his corporate position, I came to understand that he emphasised easily with what was going on in front of him. There’s no excuse for not being able to take a step back and really understand what is going on from an emotional level but the parallels between his personal life and what he was finding out about the industry, reminded me of my post after my experiences with the Italian earthquakes in 2016 (you can’t prevent an earthquake but you can prevent people from getting hurt).

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison Book Review

Cameron was struggling with guilt over the death of his wife Olivia, which he believed could have been prevented by him taking a break from driving when he was tired.

The factory fire described in the book could have been prevented if Presto relieved some of its pressure off of suppliers (even when as the book explains, Presto’s customers wouldn’t notice the difference if they did) – therefore, he was able to really grasp the issue at hand as he was dealing with a similar personal issue.

You may notice that the two main characters are both men, but to me, this actually supports the book as a whole and adds something really important to certain stories. For example, the character Alya experiences sexual assault and rape from a factory supervisor and ends up pregnant, alone and unable to go back home when she’s made to leave her factory.

Sexual assault has been highlighted in the news recently and thankfully, a lot of good is coming from the bad, with more women and victims coming forward to show that this really is a pressing issue. However, Alya’s story in the book is one which is hardly ever spoken about due to the fact that women like her, aren’t able to speak out. It could jeopardise their whole life and risk worsening their position.

Cameron and Joshua are two men who are in positions of power and privilege (which they could easily abuse) and are able to help Alya out of her situation and begin the process of making sure it doesn’t happen again.

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison Book Review

If I’m to point out one major takeaway from the book, it’s that facing up to ignorance is a huge challenge in the fight for change within the fashion industry (and many other industries, too). Whether that’s from a government perspective, a company, an investor or more specifically, consumers.

In the book, it takes a video of one of the garment workers speaking out their story for somebody high up in Presto to really open their eyes, even when they’ve been faced by the press, activists and their own employees with stacks upon stacks of evidence as to why change needs to happen.

A lot of the time, we don’t want to hear it. We don’t want to watch films and documentaries like The True Cost because then we have to finally admit that we could be doing so much better. That’s why, once again, this book is a great alternative – you can read it as you wish, knowing it’s fictional, and take it into your own hands to apply your thoughts and feelings to how it affects you and your own shopping habits.

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison Book Review

My rough sketches of Cameron, Madison, Josh and Alya based upon my imagination.

What books have you read recently? Share your recommendations in the comments!

  Lots of Love… Tolly Dolly Posh xx

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5 Lessons I Learned from Reading Vivienne Westwood’s Memoir

By September 10, 2016 Fashion

I promised a while ago that I would do a write-up of Vivienne Westwood’s latest memoir, written by herself and Ian Kelly, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do today! The book has been available for a fair amount of time now (…I received it at Christmas…), but that doesn’t take away from some of the powerful messages within it. I’m going to be sharing with you, five of the lessons I learned from the 400 or so pages…

vivienne westwood ian kelly memoir book review

vivienne westwood ian kelly memoir book review

#1 – You have to just go for it…


Apart from the ambition to prove something to myself, there was also, for me, a kind of duty. A duty that I owed to fashion or to myself. That something I could do, I somehow ought to do. Because if I don’t do it, nobody else would. Just like my politics really. Just like me as a little girl, ‘It was me’. I don’t know, so that’s why I did it, and although it was at times a chore, I don’t regret it. Just the opposite. I proved what I wanted to prove and I have found real satisfaction in it, as well as a voice. But if somebody had come along to me in 1979 and said, “Look, Vivienne, you’re really good but I’m as good as you are and I can do that job for you. You go off to university.”, I probably would have said, “Oh, all right, ok I will.

Page 240

I’m a big believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’ and the whole ‘we’re on a journey’ way of looking at life, so this really resonated with me. I’ve always known in my mind what I’m here for, so knowing that she had a vision in her mind and didn’t let other people stop her, is really empowering. You can’t let people who are doing similar things get you down because there is only one version of you. You are the only person who can create something unique and unique, even if it’s similar or someone is capable of doing the same thing.

My goal in fashion combines numerous different factors, a couple of which weren’t yet in my mind a few years ago, but that’s okay; it’s all adding up to what will be my end goal. Nobody else can achieve that but me.

vivienne westwood ian kelly memoir book review

#2 – Comfortable is just an idea…


The convention that comfortable clothes should be loose-fitting is a convention of our time. I feel comfortable when I think I look great, and I couldn’t bear to put on shapeless, stamped-out mass-manufactured clothes. I design clothes in the hope of breaking convention. Comfort is to do also with completing a mental image of what you want to look like. What you are and who you are.

Page 306

I’m also a big believer in being yourself and the concept of being comfortable meaning being comfortable within yourself before anything else. I actually wrote a piece on a similar topic, but this little segment really solidifies the idea. It also gives me motivation for my own fashion design career, because I too, want to design clothes that break convention and redefine it.

Comfort is whatever feels normal for you. It’s an idea that was created to keep us feeling safe… but in my opinion, you can only really feel safe and content when you are doing exactly what you need to be doing, and exactly what you believe in.

As you will read in that blog post of mine, for me, comfort is wearing what I want even if it’s not the norm. It’s wearing leather jackets instead of floral dresses and having memories to look back on where I’m wearing Dr Martens instead of sandals. Plus – I definitely don’t want to be wearing mass-manufactured clothes anymore, which brings me on to my next lesson learned…

vivienne westwood ian kelly memoir book review

#3 – Becoming more ethical and sustainable really does take time…


“Guilty”, Vivienne tends to say, sometimes even literally holding up her hands. “One answer is that you have to start from where you are. Another is that I reach people – people who read fashion magazines for instance – who would never have heard about some of this otherwise.”

Page 381

Reading yet another ethical fashion icon talk about how they’re not even perfect themselves truly does make you feel like you can breathe. I’ve discussed this before, but you really do have to look at it all from the situation you are in. If you can help spread the message at the same time, then that’s just as important to take into account. You’re doing twice as much if you’re being conscious as well as spreading the same ideals. Yet another lesson that nicely ties in with a recent blog post of mine, where I spoke about why influencers need to use their influence.

vivienne westwood ian kelly memoir book review

#4 – …and educating yourself on the topics matter.


Johnny Rotten’s songs really were very clever, weren’t they? ‘No future. Your future dream is a shopping scheme.’ We need to stop educating people to be consumers and educate them so they are capable of thinking with their own minds.

Page 213

I don’t care how many times I’ve reiterated this fact, or how many times I’ve stated I don’t care how many times I’ve reiterated this fact, but it really is important to educate yourself on topics if you want to fully understand them. Reading news articles is all well and good, but as soon as you dig a little deeper, you’ll start to realise how significant these matters really are. And Vivienne is right – Johnny Rotten’s lyrics are clever and they work just as well as they did within the heart of the punk era, as they do now.

Another mini lesson I suppose is that we really do owe everything to Vivienne when it comes to punk, whether that’s in terms of music or fashion.

vivienne westwood ian kelly memoir book review

#5 – Perhaps there’s a reason that designers are only wearing simple clothes on the catwalk…


I nearly missed the [Pirate] show, and Malcolm made me go on stage, saying ‘They want to see you as you are, they want to see that you’ve been working.

Page 239

The fifth and final lesson is a bit of an odd one, and more of a realisation to be honest as I’ve always been curious as to why designers don’t seem to express themselves when it comes to taking their bow and applaud on the catwalk. Most designers tend to be wearing all black, or monochromatic outfits and it’s always seemed bizarre to me when the clothes they’re showcasing are so creative and individual.

This line makes a lot of sense to me now (even if that wasn’t its intent), and is something I’ll take into account the next time I’m watching the shows. After all, designing isn’t an easy job, so if they feel comfortable in what they work in, then that’s all that should matter, and that’s all that we should expect to see – it’s a form of realism.


There’s so much more to her book than all of that, though. It’s really opened my eyes up to how a career can drastically change and how creating long lasting relationships are so vital to achieving that. It’s also opened my eyes up to how much influence Vivienne has really made and how she too, travelled and experienced part of her journey in Italy.

I’m definitely going to learn more about topics mentioned in the book, specifically Climate Revolution and how I can make my mark in the world of sustainability. I’d highly recommend picking up a copy!

I’m now off to read some more of To Die For by Lucy Siegle, and check the post box to see if my copy of Threadbare has arrived; it’s a book all about the fashion industry and sex trafficking, in comic book form! What’s next on your reading list? Lots of Love… Tolly Dolly Posh xx

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Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy E. Hoskins

By August 3, 2016 Ethical

I’m not meaning to fill up my blog with book reviews, but I’m back again today with just that! I’ve been dropping notes here and there that I’d be reviewing “Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion” by Tansy E. Hoskins, so that’s exactly what I’m going to be doing. It’s another book based around ethical and sustainable fashion, as well as the effects of fast fashion, as that’s what I’ve been researching and wanting to learn more about recently…

Stitched Up The Anti Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy Hoskins book review

Stitched Up is a book opening up about the world of fashion and what’s behind the clothes we wear. It flicks between brands and labels like Primark to Karl Lagerfeld as it explores consumerism, class and advertising, to reveal the interests which benefit from exploitation. Tansy delves into the relationship with the planet and with our bodies to uncover what makes the industry so damaging.

Along with advertising, it takes a look at racism and beauty standards and why they exist, as well as what could happen if the industry starts to adapt and change to better itself. It’s filled with accurate information and true insights and truly opens your eyes to why we shouldn’t just be blaming the high street for the effects and disasters happening – we should really be blaming capitalism.

I wasn’t quite sure how to start this review, so I’m going to note down some of the topics that came up and how I responded to them and how I am still reacting to them.

Stitched Up The Anti Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy Hoskins book review

I’ll begin with one of the most interesting and eye opening chapters for me – ‘Stitching it’. In this chapter, Tansy talks about garment production and the arguments as to ‘why sweatshops have benefits’. There’s one argument in particular which is based upon the idea that manufacturers would flee from developing countries where the sweatshops are based, if there was a wage increase to help and support the workers. Yet the logic fails when you take a look at the statistics and facts, which are all clearly marked out on Page 87…

“The wages of garment workers could be doubled without there being a noticeable impact on the price of clothing. The wages of garment workers account for 1-3 per cent of the cost of clothing – 1.8 per cent in a 2002 study by the economist Robert Pollin. According to experts: ‘for a typical sportswear garment, doubling labour costs (by doubling wages) would result in retail price increases of roughly 1-3 per cent; tripling wages would result in price increases of 2-6 per cent.'”


There’s then an example of a dress Kate Middleton wore by Reiss. Female workers in the Romanian sweatshop producing the dress, were paid only £168 a month (or, 99p an hour). The dress originally retailed at £175, so if their wages had been doubled, the dress would have cost just £178.15. That’s £3.15 more. That’s the price of a coffee in a Starbucks or a Costa. It’s a price that anyone shopping at Reiss would be able to afford, and a small difference that the brand could easily work with. If we’re paying the same amount as one worker’s monthly income for a dress, then surely, something’s not right?

Stitched Up The Anti Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy Hoskins book review

On the same vein of sweatshops is the quality of garment factories and workshops. After the Rana Plaza disaster, it’s obvious that things need to change, but what’s quite shocking is how easy it would be to do it; Tansy explains on Page 77…

“According to the Workers Rights Consortium, the cost of implementing decent standards in Bangladesh’s 4500 factories would be $3 billion spent over five years. Consider that the five siblings of the Walton family, which controls Walmart, each have personal fortunes of £18 billion. Just 3.5 per cent of their wealth would ensure that the people who slave for them do not die horribly in the process.


Like a lot of these statements that are featured in the book, there are many reasons why these changes aren’t happening, even if the opportunities to do so are there. The main reason is capitalism (hence the name of the book) and how corporations work together to keep profits high and to keep things ticking along in a cycle (more on that in a moment); but that doesn’t make it seem any less simple.

My initial thought was – ‘Imagine that? Imagine if a brand really did that. Imagine if they used what they have, and what they don’t necessarily need, to help what they know is a problem? It would not only be a benefit to the people receiving the help, but it would also be a benefit to their brand and how they’re perceived – no?’ – until another chapter popped up and got me thinking about using change for promotional benefits.

Stitched Up The Anti Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy Hoskins book review

So many brands these days start up campaigns just for the name of their brand. For example, Marks & Spencer’s have their ‘Shwopping‘ campaign which promotes the idea of donating old and unwanted clothes, yet it becomes totally hypocritical when they start giving out vouchers and membership points for doing so. They’re promoting the idea of out with the old, in with more new. On the surface, it gives their brand a good name for being green and sustainable, yet the actual idea is the total opposite of that. ASOS are also a brand promoting the ‘swapping clothes’ idea; they may not be giving away vouchers in exchange, but the selling point is having more space in your wardrobe – out with the old, in with the ASOS!

We need more brands to be genuinely interested in change and learning more. We need more powerful voices to genuinely take charge, rather than have their PR and Marketing departments decide it would be great to support ‘Green Week’ so that they have a good voice, temporarily. It’s all an illusion, when really, they’re the ones creating the damage in the first place.

I’m going to jump back to the ticking along of the cycle I mentioned earlier with this Marx quote from Page 55 which I’ve already mentioned in my blog post about emotional sustainability to make things a little clearer…

“Fashion is more than just clothes; it is a commodity cycle of newness that makes clothes go out-of-date and keeps retailers in business. This makes consumption the final stage in the production of fashion: ‘A product becomes a real product only by being consumed,’ wrote Marx. ‘A garment becomes a real garment only in the act of being worn.'”


The industry is a cycle which starts with a trend that is produced on mass at low costs. Profits are made and the cycle starts again once that trend has fizzled out, or once the brands and companies have decided it needs to fizzle out so they can start making money from the next big thing. It’s unsustainable. I believe the number is roughly 52 collections per year for a high street brand. That’s 52 different cycles of clothes that are based around temporary ideas.

Just going into a store the other day and immersing myself within the summer to autumn transitional sales made me realise how true this is. It’s only just August and there are already autumnal pieces being sold, with summer pieces starting from €3.99 on discount.

Stitched Up The Anti Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy Hoskins book review

Not included in the book, but something I recently discovered through The JUST Project (possibly the best ethical directory there is), is that H&M-owned brand COS is running things slightly differently with two collections per year, each designed 18 months before they go on sale. Unfortunately that doesn’t guarantee perfect working conditions, but at least the sustainable base is being built upon.

Overall, Tansy has really given me some food for thought and has already made me purchase Lucy Siegle’s “To Die For” book for my next bit of research. I’m also taking a deeper look into Karl Marx and his views on capitalism, which I know might seem quite controversial, but when you read and listen to the beginnings of his ideas and ideologies, you can see where he was heading and how his opinions can be taken upon in current times.

I haven’t even touched on the beauty standards and racism side of things, so if you’d like me to talk a little about what I took from that, then please do let me know… or of course, buy a copy of the book yourself so you can have a read! It’s definitely worth it.

Look out for a review of Lucy Siegle’s book once it’s arrived and been read, as well as a review of Vivienne Westwood’s book in the not so distant future.

  Lots of Love… Tolly Dolly Posh xx

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Slow Fashion by Safia Minney

By July 2, 2016 Ethical

I’m going to say something for the 1000th time when it comes to ethical and sustainable fashion; it’s really important to educate yourself.

Slow Fashion by Safia Minney Book Review


SLOW FASHION by Safia Minney


You might be aware of some of the issues surrounding the fashion industry these days, but how much do you really know about what’s being done to make changes? How many real life stories have you listened to? How do you know what to do as a consumer?

These are all questions you should be able to answer easily, but for a lot of people, it’s hard to answer them without saying, “I don’t know” or perhaps, “I don’t know enough to give you an answer”. So yes, I may have said it several times by now, but it really is important. We all need to learn more, so that we’re open and aware about what needs to change… a big emphasis on need, because it really does need to.

So, as a way to educate yourself, I’m going to introduce you to a book that I’ve just finished reading – “Slow Fashion” by founder and CEO of People Tree, Safia Minney. “Slow Fashion” is a book which explores the work which is being done to make the fashion industry more ethical and sustainable, as well inspiring entrepreneurs, creatives and consumers, to think differently and start to make change, no matter how big or small.

Safia has been running People Tree, a leading ethical and sustainable fashion brand for the past 25 years, working alongside designers like Zandra Rhodes to create exciting and ethical collections which not only help the people making them, but the environment and the earth.

Slow Fashion by Safia Minney Book Review

Slow Fashion by Safia Minney Book Review

One of the main themes throughout the book is something that I wanted to share with you, and is something that emphasises my point about educating yourself; small steps lead to bigger things. One of the best ways to explain this is through a quote (from the book) by actress and model, Lily Cole…

“Whenever I am given a choice, I try to make the right one.”

When you learn about some of the issues in the industry, you can be taken aback. For me personally, it was like something clicked and suddenly I had this whole new mind-set (thanks to the wonderful movie which is, The True Cost)… but there are cons to that happening. I ended up putting pressure on myself and started to rush things and try and reevaluate everything I knew before. Although now I see this as a pro, I basically stopped shopping altogether. I felt guilty whenever I wore clothes I knew were unethical, and I tried to change too much of what I could all at one time.

The reason I’m explaining this, is because Lily’s quote uses one specific word; try.

When we learn about all of these issues, for most of us, it’s hard to suddenly change everything. It’s hard to step out of what we can afford or what we are able to do immediately. But it is possible to do in the long run (though of course, the faster the better, as I said; things need to change) and that’s something we mustn’t forget.

Slow Fashion by Safia Minney Book Review

Slow Fashion by Safia Minney Book Review

It’s reassuring to read that even people who are making changes, aren’t always perfect. Sometimes it’s impossible. Not everyone has the freedom and privilege to purchase specifically ethical clothing due to the fact that it’s usually higher in price than normal run of the mill, high-street fashion (don’t forget though, second-hand and vintage clothing is an option). But being aware that there is a choice, is very valuable.

Walking into a shop and asking yourself whether you need an item, or whether you could find a better, more high quality option that will be more sustainable, is so important. And to loop it all back; being aware, means educating yourself, which is why I’m recommending this book.

At the same time as learning more about the issues and effects of fast-fashion and mass consumption, you can discover new brands and labels to shop from, some of which include: Goodsociety, Miss Green, Braintree, Armed Angels, MADE, LeJu, Joanna Cave and Quazi Design.

Slow Fashion by Safia Minney Book Review


Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy E. Hoskins


You can also discover other books including the one photographed in this post, “Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion”. I’m only into Chapter 2 and it’s already highly insightful. It not only looks into fast-fashion (both on the high-street and on the catwalk), but it also covers topics like racism and body image. It’s a one of a kind book to add to your reading list! (I’ll be sure to review it when I’m finished).

Also through this book, I’ve discovered the film, “Udita” by Rainbow Collective. It’s an extraordinary and raw insight into the lives of the female factory workers in Bangladesh, most of whom were affected by the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013. One of the most touching moments in the film for me, is when one of the workers is explaining their desires and wishes for the future…

I wish people would buy clothes with a conscience. My desire is that what’s happening now will never be repeated. That people who are buying clothes abroad stop and think about how much they buy for it and how much is the true cost for us here.”

If the workers themselves are saying they wish we could shop with a conscience, then surely that’s enough for us all to implement change, no matter how big or small? The majority of us have a choice. We all have the ability to learn about our choices. Learning is all part of the process, and really, at the most, it can take an hour out of your day to do so.

When you next sit down to binge watch your favourite Netflix show, why not click onto The True Cost (which is on Netflix anyway) or go onto Amazon and order yourself a book, instead? Small steps lead to bigger things, and we can all make them if we try.


What are you going to do to learn more? Have you read Slow Fashion already? Let me know in the comments!

Lots of Love… Tolly Dolly Posh xx

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