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Shopping in the year 2022 is about as convenient and mindless as it can get. With a quick scroll or double-tap, you’re able to buy virtually anything, anywhere, at any time. The fashion industry is especially notorious for churning out new products in rapid fire — and the rise of fast fashion over the last 20 years has given consumers an insatiable appetite for new clothes at every turn. Corporations, eager to cash in on ever-increasing demand, have been more than willing to produce en masse. But at what cost?
That’s one of the fundamental questions Alyssa Hardy answers in her new book, “Worn Out: How Our Clothes Cover Up Fashion’s Sins,” out now. The book, she explains, is the byproduct of two elements: her natural curiosity about the lesser-discussed side of fashion, and a series of personal reflections that began during her tenure as a Teen Vogue editor.
“I was writing so much about brands and shopping, obviously for young readers, and I started to see the bigger picture of the way fashion is impacting people,” Hardy, 33, tells POPSUGAR. “I’ve always been drawn to stories about women, and women make up most of the garment industry. They’re the global majority. That was such an interesting piece of the fashion industry that I wasn’t talking about in my work.”
“. . . you can marry this love of dress with the understanding that there is somebody behind [it] helping you feel that way.”
With “Worn Out,” Hardy has stepped into a natural extension of her journalistic work. It’s the ultimate deep dive into how our clothes are really made, and Hardy takes great care to center the voices of those who keep the industry running — and who are often left to suffer the most dire consequences. But fashion, Hardy argues, is not an individual problem. Throughout the book, via a mix of original reporting and personal anecdotes, she makes the case that fashion’s sustainability issue must be reconciled at the corporate level.
“Within fashion, it’s an issue of where the money is,” Hardy says. “The consumption is being pushed by these extremely clever marketing campaigns. Even when they seem so stupid, as they often do, they’re still working. And they’re researched. These fashion brands really know how to wiggle their way out of anything.”
Retailers can tout so-called sustainability efforts that fall dramatically short. One recent example is Boohoo’s collaboration with Kourtney Kardashian Barker, who was named the brand’s “sustainability ambassador.” The reality-TV star defended her decision to take on the role, promising to reveal how garments in her collection are supposedly more sustainable than Boohoo’s typical offerings. She has yet to do so.
“When I look at the fast-fashion hauls and stuff like that, obviously, people are chasing trends, but at the end of the day, what these people want is cute clothes,” Hardy says. “It’s all about loving clothes. And my belief is that if we can pull that out of everybody — to make them understand that you can marry this love of dress with the understanding that there is somebody behind [it] helping you feel that way — then maybe we can make some shifts in mindset.”
Ahead, read through a conversation between Hardy and Mekita Rivas, POPSUGAR contributing senior fashion editor, that touches on the downside of the logomania trend, the surprising role subcontracting plays in the fashion supply chain, and more.