Book Review: Fugitive Denim

Rachel Louise Snyder’s Fugitive Denim comes with the tagline, “a moving story of people and pants in the borderless world of global trade” — and that’s exactly what it is. Having had no previous introduction to the ins and outs of things like global textile laws or the mechanics of a cotton gin, I was prepared for a book full of hard-to-follow facts and, although determined to learn, feared I might be in over my head. But Snyder (an author, journalist, and professor from Washington D.C.) takes this intimidating subject matter and makes it not just interesting, but relatable. Throughout the book, she shares the stories of people in five different countries: from cotton pickers in Azerbaijan to fashion designers in the United States, bridging our mental distance between the clothes on our bodies and where — and who — they come from.

Fugitive Denim begins by explaining the termination of the World Trade Organization’s Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA) in 2005 — an agreement that, in simplest terms, “set limits on the amount of textiles and apparel any one country could export to the United States.” According to Snyder, limiting exports to the United States meant that no single developing country could have a monopoly on the developed world’s market, giving many small nations (such as Cambodia, Laos, Peru, Nepal) a way of entering a market in which they otherwise might not have been able to compete. With the termination of the MFA, competition would increase and clothing prices would drop. Developing countries previously given access to large consumer markets would now have to compete against manufacturing giants like China and India without help. It’s the uncertainty and upheaval set into motion by dissolving these laws that Snyder addresses in Fugitive Denim. She puts names and stories to the people whose livelihoods are affected by the global textile industry and in doing so, makes readers aware of exactly what exists within every fibre of their pants.

There were moments where Snyder’s story felt disjointed. While the book is organized into four major parts, they have no title to indicate the section’s overlying theme, and the chapters have titles such as, “The Little Volcanoes we Carry,” and “The Ghosts in the Trees,” which are interesting and poetic, but give the reader little indication of what they’re getting into. In a book that attempts to address such a far-reaching and complicated topic, a little structural guidance would have gone a long way.

Most interesting to me was the writing itself. I expected a book about the intricacies of textile laws and their effects around the world to read more like a textbook than a good novel — but it doesn’t. Snyder presents facts with creativity, offering information to the reader through stories about people. One that stands out in my mind is a garment worker and former union leader in Cambodia who notes, after recounting being attacked on her way to protest for holiday pay, “We all die; I wasn’t afraid of dying. In living we lose control.” Along with effectively telling the story of globalized fashion, Fugitive Denim is full of these kinds of small and stirring observations, making it, truly, a moving story of people and pants.

Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade by Rachel Louise Snyder.
W. W. Norton & Company, 2009
review and photography by Hailey Siracky

LADY LUCK – Announcing the Winner of the Gambler Giveaway

Find more great pics of Kenny here.

Well, kittens, it looks as though the demand for high-waisted jeans is not yet at a fever pitch. Fair enough. To be entirely honest, choosing denim on the internet is risky business no matter what. But a few of you brave souls rose to the challenge and one of you is about to reap a chic reward…

Though there weren’t a ton of entries, it was still a tough call. I’m always impressed with a girl who knows how to throw a punch – real or faux – and I admit the idea of having some sassy lady actually singing “Lady” while wearing Lady jeans is almost too good to be true… But in the end I had to go with the girl who was not only chosen by fate (what are the odds you’d be listening to Kenny at the moment you read the post), but who also knew the name of Kenny’s backup band. I never could help being impressed by trivia.

Congratulations, unnamed girl from Victoire! Get in touch and let me know where (and to whom) I should address this fancy package and I’ll put it in the mail, toot sweet!


Playing in the Jean Pool (plus another fantastic giveaway)

In 1980, nothing came between Brooke Shields and her Calvin Kleins.
Of course, she was only 15 at the time, so a few people thought that might be TMI.

Not too long ago I stopped in at Dennis’ House of Vintage (1239 Queen St. West). I was very pleased to find that they had a really decent selection of awesome late 70s and early 80s designer jeans – brands like Sergio Valente and Jordache. You know, high waisted and practically painted on. Think Kate Jackson, Blair in The Facts of Life or Debbie Harry. Since then, I’ve been searching them out everywhere. My latest find, a pair of Cote d’Azur brand, came from a tiny thrift store outside of London, Ontario. The genius of these jeans is threefold: they never ride down when you sit or bend, they make your legs look about a mile long, and if they’re slightly unflattering, it’s actually charming. Beat that.

But don’t forget! These were made in the days before Lycra. I wore my new favourite skintight Jordache to work yesterday; it was tricky, to say the least. First, thinking I could sit in those things was a HUGE MISTAKE. Second, I’m pretty sure they actually bruised me all around the waist and hips. Heh, heh. You have been warned.

At the same time I found my sexy Cote d’Azur, I also found what may be the greatest jeans since Fancy Ass – and though they didn’t fit me, I felt it was my duty to find them a good home. Inspired by The Gambler, I now have in my possession a pair of gen-u-ine Kenny Rogers’ Lady jeans… and they could be yours.

Our denim model is a size 31 (modern sizing) and these jeans are a shade big.
She is also, at 5’3”, wearing four inch platform heels… These are loooong.

Remember last year’s shoe giveaway? Well, the rules are basically the same. Write us a note in the comments section describing why you are the Lady Kenny himself would want representing his particular brand of class and sass. The winner will be announced on the website in one week, on April 21. See below for exact sizing and fine print…

• Label sizing: 13/14 (but remember, that’s circa 1986 – probably closer to a 10 now)
• Waist: 29-30”
• Hip (at widest point): 38”
• Inseam: 33.5”
• Rise: 12” (holy crap!)

• Contestants from the US and Canada are elligible to win not only these fine denim pants, but they will receive their booty’s booty with shipping costs included (up to a maximum of $10, sent by regular post). If a winner is chosen outside of North America, they will be responsible for mailing/shipping costs. Once those costs are determined, they can be paid directly to WORN through Paypal.
WORN employees are welcome to enter. I would hate for any of you girls to be pantsless.
• Contest winner will be announced on the WORN website. It is up to the contestant to contact WORN with complete mailing details in order to redeem their prize at that time.