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Fall 2021

The Future of Clothing

We buy 60 percent more clothes these days than we did a decade ago, and we keep them half as long. To feed this demand, polyester and other synthetics have become almost ubiquitous, leaving a trail of pollutants that’s almost impossible to clean up. This has created a fashion and textile industry that’s become increasingly unsustainable—both for the environment and for the animals and humans who live in it. But there is still hope. As the articles in this issue make clear, a lot of mistakes could be fixed if we revived some old production methods that have been nearly forgotten, while adding in a few very promising innovations.

The Secret to Vintage Jeans

In November, 2017, the doors closed in North Carolina on Cone Denim’s White Oak plant, one of the first, and (for a while) the last, big textile mill in the U.S. to make vintage-style denim. When our correspondent first visited, he discovered that the secret to classic jeans has long come from a strange mix of obsolete machinery and American mythology. Now, after following other companies that moved manufacturing overseas, traditional Made-in-USA jeans might be coming back.

By BRIAN HOWE, with updated reporting by TODD OPPENHEIMER

The Human Cost of Recycled Cotton

Everyone in the fashion world wants to find a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way to make cotton clothing—or a benign (and equally comfy) alternative to it. In Scandinavia, an enterprising cadre of materials scientists is on the brink of succeeding. But almost no one appreciates these innovations’ social costs.

Story and photography by ALDEN WICKER

Argentina’s Textile Crusader

Amidst the fashion world’s growing interest in the luxuriously soft fabric that can be made from South American camelids like alpaca, one member of this family with uncommonly fine fleece has been largely ignored: the guanaco, the alpaca’s feisty cousin. Enter Adriana Marina, who is fighting for the guanaco’s place on the commercial stage.

By ALDEN WICKER

The Norwegian Sweater Detective

In southern Norway, in a small workshop at the bottom of a verdant, postcard-perfect valley, Annemor Sundbø gathers remnants, paintings, and authentic reproductions of traditional Norwegian sweaters. Her collections—along with her seven books on the subject—provide a window into the myths and meaning that were long woven into this legendary Nordic craft. Now she’s trying to bring back the sheep that grew Viking Norway’s unusually hardy wool.

Story by SARAH POLLOCK
Photography by MIKKEL AALAND

Italy’s Ancient Textile-Printing Mangle

Only a handful of artisans still practice the centuries-old craft of rust printing on fabric. Of those who do, even fewer use the traditional stone mangle, or press, on handwoven, raw hemp fabric, yielding textiles that can last for centuries. The Marchi family printworks, in Italy’s Romagna region, may well be the only place left in the world that still produces authentic, rust-printed textiles that are fully handmade.

Story and Film by LUISA GROSSO

Eco-Fashion’s Animal Rights Delusion

When you put on a stylish jacket made of rayon, vegan leather, or even recycled plastic, are you sure you’re helping the planet more than if you had bought one made of animal leather? In this journey down a very twisted rabbit hole, sustainable fashion expert Alden Wicker, founder and editor-in-chief of EcoCult, finds answers that may not be particularly comfortable for the animal rights movement.

By ALDEN WICKER

Other Topics In This Issue

Can the U.S. Bring its Supply Chain Back Home?

Most economic experts say the pandemic didn’t cause today’s supply chain disruptions; it simply brought them to the surface—and made them worse. Meanwhile, Harry Moser has been quietly working, for more than a decade, to bring manufacturing back home, with some stunning successes. Could COVID have finally created “reshoring’s” moment?

By TODD OPPENHEIMER

The Kayak’s Cultural Journey

For millennia, indigenous peoples across the world have built and used wooden skin boats to fish and hunt, for sport and travel, even for warfare. Skin kayaks are the unique product of Arctic peoples, but nonindigenous admirers of the craft are making them, too. Does that matter?

By SIMON MORRIS

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