Category Archives: Lifestyle

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen

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This elegantly written book shows just how connected we all are.  Here in Thunder Bay, it’s common to discover you have something or someone in common to almost everyone you meet.  The “one degree of separation” phenomenon is understandable in a city the size of ours, but could it work in the metropolis of New York?  This book proves it can, and one incredible dress is the touchstone that unites a group of nine diverse women.  It’s appropriate that the dress at the centre of this book is an iconic little black dress.  The dress takes on a mantle of magic as it fills a specific need for each woman that wears it.   The dress is created by a pattern maker at the end of his career, so it’s special as soon as it’s made.  A fresh off the bus model has the privilege to wear it first, and is an instant star.  After that the dress becomes the main character of the story.  Rosen gives the nine women their own chapter and voice, as their lives intersect with the dress. The dress works its magic in the lives of a Bloomingdales sales girl, a private detective, and a personal assistant, among others.  Rosen’s writing is a delight to read, and helps keep all the stories straight.  Readers discussing this book online have shared their own stories of life-changing moments, revealing that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

 

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L Cline

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Up until recently, I didn’t really think about where my clothes originated from. I usually bought $5 shirts from Wal-Mart or other similar outlets, always looking for the best deals and not considering the longevity of my clothes. In short, I was your typical consumer. In Overdressed, Elizabeth L. Cline investigates how the current age of “fast fashion”-clothing that is in one week and falls apart the next- and its origins and what that means for the economy.

Cline described herself as being a typical consumer-not knowing much about fashion. She often frequented H&M, Forever 21, and other stores commonly found in North American shopping malls. She found our current state of fast fashion so perplexing it led her to going so far as to visiting China and Bangladesh in order to see just how our duds are made. She found it is quite a shift from two generations ago- in 1950, the average American household made $4237 annually and spent $437 on clothing (and much of it was still homemade). Nowadays, it is cheaper to buy ready-made clothing than to buy the raw materials and make them ourselves-a skill long lost with the boom of fast fashion.

Besides economic impact, Cline also looks at the environmental impact our clothing has. The textile industry is cited as the second most polluting industry in the world, yet it is not one that gets the most publicity. In many cities where fabrics are produced, the water is tinted various colours due to the lack of filtration. Commonly used fabrics like polyester are manufactured from oil, and take hundreds of years to break down in landfills. With the rise of fast-fashion, second hand clothing stores have an influx of clothing that they can barely keep up with, leading many of them to discard clothing that isn’t sold within a number of weeks.

All of these issues with fast fashion pose the question of “What are we as North Americans to do?”. Cline interviews various people and businesses who all have a different answer to that question. Some individuals have decided to make nearly all of their clothing themselves. Some companies have put ethical practices, good wages and sustainable fabrics at the heart of their business model. Whatever the answer is, the fact is the current model of fast-fashion is cannot continue: something must change. Overdressed will certainly make that fact very clear and show a new perspective.

 

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

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This is the story of how Phil Knight found his purpose in life, and grew one of the world’s best-known brands around it.  In addition to being the epitome of a successful entrepreneur, Phil Knight is a skilled writer.  I have read many biographies about fascinating people who just don’t have the gift of good writing, so it is a rare treat to get both in one book.

The story starts in the late 1950s when Phil is a fresh college graduate who likes to run.  He weaves a great deal of personal and social history in to the story of his business.  Knight talks about how running wasn’t the common leisure activity it has grown into today.  When he started in the shoe business his market was college, high school and serious track athletes.  He dreamed of a time when people would wear his shoes to the grocery store, or to take their kids to school.  If you own a pair of Nikes you know that dream has come true!

Another key part of the Nike story is Knight’s work networking and working with business people in China and Japan, and how shoe factories evolved. The history of the iconic Nike swoosh is included in this book, as well as the easy to spot bright orange shoe boxes.  One aspect of Knight’s story I found interesting was how he built his core team of trusted colleagues.  His former track coach, who he both admired and feared, was his first business partner.  This man had been tinkering with track shoes his whole life, and was fascinated with the developments that were possible to make his athletes run faster.  Knight engaged others who were keen marketers, savvy negotiators and tireless innovators.

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