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Notorious fashionista, Ralph Nader, discusses the effects of “fast fashion” on the environment, the workers, and the consumers with British Vogue editor, Dana Thomas, author of “Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes,” and “Fashionopolis Young Readers Edition: The Secrets Behind the Clothes We Wear.”

Dana Thomas is the European Sustainability Editor for British Vogue, a regular contributor to the New York Times, and host of The Green Dream, a weekly podcast on sustainability. She is the author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, and Fashionopolis (Young Readers Edition): The Secrets Behind the Clothes We Wear.




[Fast fashion is] basically corporate colonialism, where we’re going into these countries, we’re taking all their resources, we’re making their workers work just one step up from slavery… And why? So, we can have cheap clothes.

Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis (Young Readers Edition): The Secrets Behind the Clothes We Wear

We can’t solve the climate issue until we solve poverty. We can’t solve the poverty issue until we deal with the labor issue. Every story today is a climate story. Every climate story is a Labor story.

Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis (Young Readers Edition): The Secrets Behind the Clothes We Wear


[Fashionopolis] is a spectacular book… Let me put it this way: about as universal appeal, listeners. If you wear clothes, this book is a must-read. Anybody who doesn’t wear clothes may not want to read this book.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 424 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Barbara Glasgow says:

    I am a regular and loyal listener to Ralph’s weekly podcast. I loved that he interviewed Dana Thomas about fast fashion and the toll it takes on people of other countries, the environment, the global economy, and the people/companies that are doing it better. However, it really bothered me that neither Dana nor Ralph mentioned the book Elizabeth L. Cline wrote called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. Her well-researched book was published 10 years ago in 2012. Elizabeth also traveled to southeast Asia and visited the sweatshops there, reporting on the horrors. I read this book when it first came out with my book club and it was eye-opening. Although Dana’s book has provided an update and more detail in some areas, Elizabeth Cline’s work really opened the door for Dana’s. I feel strongly that Overdressed get the recognition it rightly deserves.

  2. Kate Richardson says:

    I was hoping to hear something about all the ‘spandex’ going into clothing, including ‘organic’. What does that do to the recyclability/biodegradability of the textile? Maybe you can get a follow-up?

  3. Don Harris says:

    Haven’t listened yet, but I bet it turns out “Clothes make the man….. a lot of money.”

  4. Adriana says:

    I am also very frugal with clothes, wear them until they start falling off but I still rely too much on the cheap stuff. It is not only the price, it is convenient. I have to change a lot of my habits.
    One idea I had is to send this book to young people I know, I to libraries. I already started, just bought a couple. My generation is part of the generations that nearly destroyed the planet. The younger generation won’t stand a chance if they don’t start their self-education now. I also loved the idea of learning to use our hands. I keep telling my nieces, ages 11 and 14, to learn how to sew and, if possible, how to grow food.
    Thanks for this interview, it was great.

  5. Tina Jayroe says:

    “I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode by which men get their clothing. The condition of the operatives is becoming every day more like that of the English; and it cannot be wondered at, since, as far as I have heard or observed, the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestionably, that the corporations be enriched.”
    —Henry David Thoreau, 1854!!!

  6. Candace says:

    This is groundbreaking information. Wow. I’m going to stop investing into this madness. I try to patron US made when ever possible but it’s so exhausting to try and play detective when you’re barely able to survive this climate. If labels were more transparent and if laws or businesses were held accountable along with government/ dark money etc; making conscious ethical purchases seem impossible.

  7. David K Faubion says:

    Thank you, Dana Thomas. Your knowledge, analysis, and reporting give a new and absolute meaning to the phrase ‘kill for fashion.’ Looking forward to hearing your The Green Dream podcast, this evening.

    Not enough has changed since 1996 when the atrocities of the outsourced, offshore US garment industry gained international attention. The episode across borders starred Kathie Lee Gifford as the namesake label for her brand of spanking new ‘sweat-soaked clothing’ from semi-sovereign countries like Honduras. KL Gifford took too much of the heat as the power structure that allowed her to exploit still remains intact, regardless of its exposure.

    However, since those early days of ‘wild in the streets of the third world,’ deep fissures have surfaced in the global economy. The global recession starting in 2006 and the current, deepening production crisis must alarm us to the danger of an extreme neoliberal (transnational corporate liberation to the absurdly deregualted max) global economy. The impending doom of the GE is justice for its grossly inefficient energy use moving parts and pruducts to and fro, hither an yon.

    Bring it (the garmet industry) back (onshore in the USA) better. ‘Bring it Back Better,’ if you need a slogan. Let’s agree to pay the real price for our clothing, and trust in our ingenuity. High value clothing is, according to the ‘man of the hour,’ * already waiting to be worn with confidence, trust and justice.

    * Ralph Nader

  8. Robert Magyar says:

    Our beloved and sacred capitalist factory farming approach to all production of foods, goods and services is destroying us in front of very eyes and we are too vain and arrogant to realize it.

  9. James says:

    Great interview with a lot of great information. I was confused on one major point and a minor one. The major one: Ms. Thomas mentioned too many goats in Mongolia causing desertification, saying that if the Himalayas became a desert, we would be in trouble. Yes, but the Himalayas are not in Mongolia, not anywhere near Mongolia. I’m hoping that Ms. Thomas somehow was saying that what happens in Mongolia might somehow affect the Himalayas. But that’s not what it sounded like. Sounded like she was saying the Himalayas are in Mongolia. (Goats in Mongolia “were ripping up all the grass by the roots and desertification started setting in. It is becoming a desert. And I’m telling you, if the Himalayas become a desert, we’re all doomed.”) Minor point. She mentioned the Atacama Desert being in southern Chile. It’s in Northern Chile.

  10. Rebecca Santos Troyer says:

    Dana Thomas mentioned Ms. Chanin from Alabama who sells t-shirts for around $70. I looked up her website – – because I thought, maybe, I could afford one. Ha! I saw no t-shirts for $70, but I saw a skirt for $1,498, a dress for $4,498, a torn sweatshirt for $368, and the cheapest item was a rib crew shirt for $158. That’s disgusting! There are poor people all over the world, and the rich don’t feel guilty buying such expensive clothing? I know you have to pay more for better clothing, but I can’t afford them, and no one I know can…and we aren’t poor – or maybe we are, compared to the rich.
    Ms. Thomas said Ms. Chanin calls workers when orders come in to sew the garments. Does that mean that those workers are paid by the piece and not guaranteed a wage? Do they have benefits? How well are they paid? Who gets the profits from a $4,498 skirt? That’s a lot of money. How much profit does Ms. Chanin get? I agree with Ms. Thomas that every labor story is a climate story and every climate story is a labor story. I’d like to know how much of the profits goes to the workers. I looked at and some workers did not seem happy working at Alabama Chanin (1.8 out of 5).
    There is a company I buy from – Their organic cotton t-shirts are around $20. I once talked to a manager to ask if they had a union for the workers. He said they didn’t, but the workers were treated well. Who knows for sure? Ms. Thomas should look into their company, for an alternative for us poorer folks.
    I’m 65 years old, and I have watched the movie stars normalize the extremely high cost of clothing so much that the little people get googly eyes for them, and long to be just like them, instead of just “living simply so others can simply live” (Gandhi).

  11. Martin says:

    I commented when TRNRH hit its low (John McWhorter), so I should then comment when the TRNRH interview was at its uppermost top-shelf, and Ms. Thomas was scintillating. For an author/researcher she was Hollywood talk-show great in her speaking performance – a rare double-threat in content and delivery.

  12. Wendyyona NooN says:

    I remember the days when we had a Semester
    of “Sewing”, “Cooking”, & Workshop with TooLS called “Home Mechanics”. That taught us “Hands 0n”. We learned the Geometry & Patternjng of Filling Spaces Artistically.

    That gave us “$ellable $kill$” and what a Wonderfully Fulfilling that one (1) year in 4th Grade was. I have begged the Board of Education here to add Home Mechanics to
    the Academic Schedule again, but to no avail.
    I even suggested the Home Mech Room Be
    Opened to the Adults in each Community so
    they can Make & Repair Furniture, etc., &
    Follow this uP by Opening a “Weekend Flea Market in the School’s Parking Lot, thus giving the SchooL $10/ per table weekly.
    The MoraL to this story is not one of us became “Homeless” because we had $kill$.

    Note: Board sold all the Home Mech Machinery & Furniture behind our backs.The push is to buy Land & Let them play repetitive computer war games. Now war instead of arbitration become
    their New Muscle Memory.

  13. Barb says:

    Why didn’t you ask this social register fashion plate where her family got their money from? The people who dress in super pricey organic rags — how do they get to be among the world’s richest and elitist except that somewhere along the line they benefit from corporate monies and lots of it. How dare she wear her $70 tee shirt and look upon the people slaving away in sweat shops! The upper middle class, rich and uber rich are in a world unto themselves. How dare she make money off of the people who are already corporate slaves! More chutzpah than I can handle.

    • Martin says:

      Everybody’s money is tainted, even yours.
      Ms. Thomas had no control over who her family was before she was born, but at least she is using her mind and time to try to make a coherent attempt to go to see the actual world of clothing manufacturing. Why shouldn’t she be allowed to “look upon the people slaving in sweat shops”? Would you rather she didn’t look?
      You can’t live in the world by always feigning to be holier-than-thou. We’re all living in a highly corrupt world getting worse by the minute, so I’m all for a durable $70 T-shirt. sorry.