Every so often a non fiction book will pique my interest. So it was with Disrobed by Syl Tang. TLC Book Tours sent me a copy at no charge for my honest review.
• Hardcover: 182 pages
• Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (October 16, 2017)
We may not often think of our clothes as having a function beyond covering our naked bodies and keeping us a little safer from the elements. But to discount the enormous influence of clothing on anything from economic cycles to the future of water scarcity is to ignore the greater meaning of the garments we put on our backs. Disrobed vividly considers the role that clothing plays in everything from natural disasters to climate change to terrorism to geopolitics to agribusiness. Chapter by chapter, Tang takes the reader on an unusual journey, telling stories and asking questions that most consumers have never considered about their clothing. Why do banker’s wives sell off their clothes and how does that presage a recession? How is clothing linked to ethanol and starvation on the African continent? Could RFID in clothing save the lives of millions of people in earthquakes around the world?
This book takes an everyday item and considers it in a way that readers may not have previously thought possible. It tackles topics relevant to today, everything from fakes in the museums to farm-to-table eating, and answers questions about how we can anticipate and change our world in areas as far-reaching as the environment, politics, and the clash of civilizations occurring between countries. Much like other pop economics books have done before, the stories are easily retold in water-cooler style, allowing them to be thoughtfully considered, argued, and discussed.
About the Author:
Syl Tang is CEO and founder of the 19-year old HipGuide Inc. A futurist, her focus is how and why we consume, with an eye towards world events such as natural disasters, geo-political clashes, and pandemics. She has written hundreds of articles on the confluence of world events and soft goods for the Financial Times, predicting and documenting trends such as the Apple watch and other smart wearables, lab-made diamonds, the Department of Defense’s funding of Afghan jewelry companies, the effects of global warming on South Sea pearls, and the unsolved murder of tanzanite speculator Campbell Bridges. Her brand consulting work focuses on helping companies including Diageo, Revlon and the State of Michigan. She is behind the launches of some of the most well-known beauty, beverage, automotive and urban development efforts including category changers such as frozen alcohol and mineral makeup. In addition to developing her site, in 1999 she created the first mobile lifestyle texting product in the market and predicted mobile couponing as it exists today. Her company HipGuide is a case study taught in universities around the world, from Dubai to Nova Scotia to Purdue, through a textbook series.
The title of the book is, Disrobed: How Clothing Predicts Economic Cycles, Saves Lives, and Determines the Future. I was most intrigued. Clothing is, of course big business in the United States and worldwide. Fashions change and people buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes. The toes of shoes go from pointy to square and all new shoes are needed. Fortunately there are some enduring classics for those who don’t feel defined by trends; some things that are truly timeless. But can clothing and the trends it inspires tell us where the world is going?
I don’t read a lot of non fiction but now and again a synopsis will come along that intrigues me. I have always had an interest in fashion – not a deep dive, but enough that reading this book called to me. Also, I was a banker in my old life so there is a bit of the analytical in my thinking.
There is a lot of information in this book, Ms. Tang knows her industry. She has written a lot of articles for years on many facets of the fashion industry; including the environmental impacts during manufacturing, to the effects of major weather catastrophes on the creation of faux materials, to why the purchase of lucky charms can presage a coming economic downturn. It all made for very fascinating reading. I learned quite a bit.
What I didn’t completely learn was How Clothing Predicts Economic Cycles, Saves Lives, and Determines the Future. The promise was there but at least to me, never delivered. There is a lot of information in this little volume and a few of my issues include a lot of the author referring to her writings. In fact, I was telling my hubby about the book and mentioning the references to “in an article I published in 2009” and the next paragraph started with just those words. It got a little old.
I’m not unhappy I read the book, I gleaned many interesting insights into an industry that fascinates me. I’ve already changed how I buy my clothes – I purchase 90% of my “new” items at thrift stores these days. If I hadn’t already made that change I suspect this book would have had me moving that direction. The environmental damage the industry does, not to mention the water impacts on the planet are downright frightening. It’s worth the read just to learn about that.