Books in my DNA? Yes, books kind of run in my blood. My Grandparents ran a book publishing house and book shop in Zurich. They published political books, papers and religious books. My Mother and her sisters studied librarianship. Before the days of computers they were expected to have read every book in the shop and were expected to make recommendations to customers from memory.
I remember as a child spending hours in my Gran’s book shop cellar where specialist titles and stock was kept. Of course, I couldn’t read German so many of the books were closed to me, but there were a few children’s illustrated books which I loved and lots of different sized German/ English dictionaries to dip into. Books were wrapped with gorgeous wrapping paper as presents and brown paper and string for your own use – there were no plastic bags in sight.
I became, like many happy kids, an avid reader at seven, but then my dad died suddenly of stomach cancer, and the shock burst my childhood bubble. I was the eldest and I felt I had to help my Mum. I stopped reading and fell behind at school. I started to dream about going out to work and earn money, so I could look after my family. I left school at 17 and oddly started as a production assistant at a publishing company working on a magazine. I loved co-ordinating the artwork for ads, and learning how a magazine is put together. I wanted to understand how it worked as a business so I studied advertising, communications and PR in the evenings and tried different business ideas to test my skills, renting a desk in a nearby office and starting a gorilla gram company in my lunch hour and around work. I became a pretty good marketeer and associate publisher, but I still didn’t have the confidence to write.
I began to write when I started People Tree in Japan. I would research human rights and environmental issues and write articles in English, and then check the nuance of translations in Japanese with the help of patient friends and colleagues reading in Japanese to me. Having a baby helped me get over two decades of ‘writer’s block’. With as little as 30 minutes to myself between my son, Jerome’s naps, I just had to stop over-thinking and ‘get it down’.
My first books, By Hand, Naked Fashion, etc, started as a huge wall-paper like flat-plan taking up half my sitting room, I would take photographs with my friend Miki Alcalde in countries like Bangladesh, Kenya, India. I would interview people as I travelled at our Fair Trade producers and started doing investigative journalism to find out the true cost of fast fashion. Once I had decided on the structure of the book, I would write page by page, racing rather, as I had two companies to run, as well as my family. My first book, was sari covered and hand typeset by Professor Lal in Kolkata, India and told the stories of Fair Trade activists and artisans, then came By Hand, Naked Fashion, Slow Fashion and Slave to Fashion and an autobiography in between – some in Japanese and all in English. Even my son wrote a book called; Fair Trade for kids based on his experience of kids working in Indonesia.
- SLOW FASHION – AESTHETICS MEETS ETHICS – Buy it here
- NAKED FASHION – THE NEW SUSTAINABLE FASHION REVOLUTION –Buy it here
- BY HAND – THE FAIR TRADE FASHION AGENDA – Buy it here
- SLAVE to FASHION – Buy it here
I always say that I will NEVER write another book or take on another book project. But you never know…some stories are just bursting to be told…
Shining a light on modern slavery in the fashion industry – follow Slave to Fashion on instagram, share our book to raise awareness – – question fashion supply chain practices, talk about this at school, at work…on social media #SlaveToFash and not just on World Book Day…