New book shows how cheap clothes can mean a high price for mankind and the planet – archyde

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FABRIC: THE HIDDEN STORY OF THE WORLD OF MATERIALS by Victoria Finlay (profile £ 25,528pp)

Ever since Adam and Eve snapped fig leaves to clothe, we have relied on the natural world for food, shelter and clothing – and the damage is still being done to this world and people.

Take a look around your room – at cotton curtains, silk and velvet pillows, wool carpets – and ask yourself if you know where in the material world it all comes from.

As for the clothes … as I write this, wrapped in a pashmina shawl, I realize that I have never thought about its exact origin or its exact journey.

Now, Victoria Finlay offers a tightly knit chain and a shot of answers to questions we never thought we’d ask, and the images in her intricate tapestry are stunning. As an intrepid traveler whose bestselling books have already explored the magical world of colors and jewels, she now turns her infinitely curious mind to the subject.

Your globetrotter search (and we get five useful maps) for these stories requires an immersion in history, geography, geopolitics, mechanics, chemistry, trade, religion, magic, anthropology, mythology, fairy tales and also general human ingenuity – especially, when it comes to money.

Victoria Finlay offers answers to questions we never thought to ask, and the images in her intricate tapestry are stunning. As an intrepid traveler whose bestselling books have already explored the magical worlds of colors and jewels, she now turns her infinitely curious mind to the subject (stock photo)

As part of her hands-on research, Finlay tries to smash bark to make cloth in Papua New Guinea, spin it in Guatemala (it’s more of a failure), and put patchwork together in Alabama. There is something for every reader in this wonderfully filled haberdashery shop.

But there is also a personal story that is all the more touching when you hold back. The original idea for this book was approved by Finlay’s “healthy, vital mother”, who died unexpectedly only a few months later and was soon followed by her father.

All plans had to be put on hold as the grieving daughter felt “lost and broken into small pieces”. These “pieces” eventually became the elements of the patchwork that she and her mother had promised themselves that they would one day work together – and put them together to transform the beautifully written narrative of this book into a larger patchwork of healing.

Your journey begins with your quest to travel to where bark cloth is made. But there is one big catch: access. Oddly enough, the remote Omie tribe in Papua New Guinea had “a website and email address, an arts administrator, and a history of exhibitions abroad” – but they don’t respond to letters, emails, or phone calls.

Then Finlay is warned that someone who goes there regularly is taking “15 bodyguards” with them. Then it seems impossible to get there by air. Then it is cyclone season. So she does research in the Congo, but tribal fighting had escalated there, so that wouldn’t work.

Meanwhile (only 32 pages) this adventurous reader wished the intrepid author would put on her woolly slippers and give up.

But eventually the elders of another tribe in Papua New Guinea, the Maisin, say yes, so here we go, minus 15 bodyguards, but with a friend, a photographer. Scary? No, the Maisin are lovely and their painted bark cloth is beautiful.

Finlay’s adventures, which are clearly told, are exciting read – but with a sobering sub-text that lists the ongoing damage to wood in the mighty forests. Starting from the bark cloth, we travel on through the equally fascinating stories of cotton, wool, tweed, pashmina, sackcloth, linen, silk and (finally) man-made fabrics like nylon, which were discovered by chance or on purpose by scientists and which changed our lives.

We follow trade routes, torment ourselves from the unimaginable hardships of history, meet some of the extraordinary personalities who have developed production methods, as well as the “normal” men and women who are doers.

And we are always cool invited by Finlay (with a parallel career for an environmental organization) to reflect on the damage to nature that often goes hand in hand with the desire for fabrics. A notorious example is the ruthless exploitation of farmers by the powerful US chemical company Monsanto.

Finlay points out that the wool industry (especially merino wool) is often cruel – with live sheep being transported around the world, often in appalling conditions, and unwanted lambs being slaughtered and thrown overboard. Fertilizers and pesticides used in cotton production in India can cause cancer among workers.

Your journey begins with your quest to travel to where bark cloth is made. But there is one big catch: access. Oddly enough, the remote Omie tribe in Papua New Guinea had “a website and email address, an arts administrator, and a history of exhibitions abroad” – but they don’t respond to letters, emails, or phone calls.

Buddhist ceremonial cloths, like so many of our cheaper garments, pollute land and sea because the silk from which they were once made naturally rots, whereas today’s nylon or polyester … and lasts. It can also endanger wildlife. Man-made fabrics are useful, of course, but Finlay warns, “Making them and disposing of them harms the earth.”

My own wardrobe contains blouses and dresses made of pure silk. But I never paused to be grateful to little creatures whose lives ended up chewing on my back.

With her usual mix of intelligence and emotional insight, Finlay comments: ‘[The silkworm] begins to weave its future with small, conscious actions that it has always known how to do deep inside.

And then, after days of darkness and silence and within itself, it is ready to be reborn as a completely different kind of being. Other natural substances … come from a harvest, a growth event, a haircut. But silk? Silk is a miracle. ‘

Finlay’s ultimate message is that in the ideal world, just like with food, we know where our fabrics and clothing come from, “who made them where”.

This book is both inspiration and education.

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Reference-www.nach-welt.com

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