Fugitive Denim

Most garments carry labels with a single country but handprints from a multitude of nations, writes Rachel Louise Snyder. For her first book, the journalist traveled to a bunch of these nations to unravel the convoluted forces at work behind the production of a pair of jeans. Fugitive Denim -- which carries the arch but accurate subtitle A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade -- introduces readers to a cotton inspector in Azerbaijan, the struggling former Soviet republic that grows the crop but must send it elsewhere to be spun into thread; a denim designer in Italy, who worries about the relocation of his country?s manufacturing sector to Asia; a factory auditor in China, employed by the Gap to monitor overseas working conditions; and, most movingly, two female garment workers in Cambodia, a country that was offered a bigger piece of the U.S. textile market in exchange for working to eradicate sweatshops. Snyder is an amiable tour guide, elucidating the often dizzying contradictions of globalization with wry humor and compassion. And she manages to strike a hopeful tone (the book includes an admiring profile of Edun, the high-end and socially conscious fashion line backed by Bono), almost in spite of her stark portrayal of the environmental and human losses behind each pair of jeans. -

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

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