A world-renowned fashion designer starts out to make a "green" line of denim wear, using organic cotton, paying living wages to the growers, cutters, and seamstresses who all have a hand in bringing the product to market. Can it be done?
To answer that question author Rachel Louise Snyder travels everywhere from Azerbaijan to Guatemala and many places between examining the history and current state of the place of cotton in world culture.
While her writing isn't as incisive as John McPhee's, the style of the book reminds me of McPhee's because she approaches her subject most successfully by introducing us to the people whose lives are wrapped up in it. There's Rogan Gregory, the fashion designer with the dream of greening a very dirty and exploitative industry; Mehman Husseinov, the Azerbaijani cotton grader who can tell by feel what kind of quality cotton he's holding; and a host of others all made fully human through Snyder's deft narrative.
The facts about cotton - well footnoted, incidentally - never cease to inform and surprise. For instance, did you know that a foot of cotton thread may contain cotton fibers from as many as seven or eight different countries? No, neither did I.
You'll never think the same way about buying and wearing blue jeans again, and will come away with a new appreciation of the dumbfounding complexity of the global economy.
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