If you pay attention to any sustainable fashion Instagram or social media, you’ve probably heard of Consumed, the first book by Aja Barber.
The book is a pretty recent release (Oct 2021). I think I’m the first person to read the copy from the library since it was in spotless condition. Which doesn’t effect my review, I’m just happy it happened.
Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism is the full title of the book and the book’s thesis statement. Aja Barber covers a lot of ground in a relatively short book and I think she does really well.
The book is spilt into two parts. I’ll just use the description on Aja’s website since it’s more concise than anything I could write:
Part one: I expose you to the endemic injustices in our consumer industries and the uncomfortable history of the textile industry; one which brokered slavery, racism and today’s wealth inequality.
Part two: In the second ‘unlearning’ half of the book, I will help you to understand the uncomfortable truth behind why you consume the way you do.
Aja’s writing style is really inviting and it feels like a friend talking about something they’re super passion about. Like instead of a researcher/journalism trying to lecture you. There were so many moments I wanted to Snapchat or post what I was reading of my Instagram. I was really connecting with what was written and wanted to share it with people!
As mentioned earlier, the book covers a lot of ground and deals with many difficult topics. Such as the condition of garment factories, destruction of the environment, racism in the fashion industry and more.
I think she covers all the topics really well and sensitively. Although, one criticism I have: there were spots I wish she went a bit deeper. I’ve read some of the books referenced and I think it would have strengthen her points if she included more info from those books here.
One example being the Bangladesh factory fires. I think it would have benefited with more details for people that didn’t know that happened or forgot about it. Like a couple more sentences just explaining the impacts. Like how the doors were chained. Or that a lot of the survivors or families didn’t get any compensation from the fund raising or government. Would have helped really shine a light on how shit these manufacturing conditions can be.
I believe Aja was trying not to be too much of a downer. I also think she assumes the reader may know more about some of these topics before picking up the book. So I understand why some topics were kept on the shorter side.
The second half of the book is about unlearning and the actionable steps a consumer can take. The main one she mentioned is writing to law makers. And there’s an example letter! Additionally, introductions is open letter Aja wrote to fast fashion companies. That one isn’t one you can copy since it was specific to her. But between the two of them, you got a good starting point to help you write your own letter.
I love example letters!
This book is one of the few new releases that mention Covid and didn’t annoy me the heck out of me. Fast fashion companies have fucked over so many garment workers over the past few years. It really drives home about what she’s been writing that took place before 2020. Fast fashion will take any opportunity, including a pandemic to be…
If/when this book gets a second edition it would be interesting to see what the updates will be. So far, they are pretty depressing… I believe there are some lost wage class actions that have been filed since publication.
Update since writing the draft review: there’s been a few wins. See below:
Apart for the normal, write to the government, and stop buying crap from Shein, she does include other tips. I think that her approach is very nuanced. Aja Barber seems aware that for the regular person, fully quitting fast fashion is a marathon, not a race. Additionally, the tips aren’t the same as once I’ve read in other books or online.
Overall, I loved the book and I’ve been recommending it to all my friends! I recommend it to you too. It was really eye opening without being too overwhelming.