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Book Review: Talking Dress
Written by Priscilla Camargo - Saturday, 11 May 2013


Talking Dress picture kindly concede by Marieke Eyskoot

To talk about Talking Dress, the first Dutch book that “tells you everything about ethical fashion and lifestyle”, is to talk about the passions and motivations of its author - the co-founder of the first ethical fashion trade show in Benelux MINT - Marieke Eyskoot, an incredible professional owning over a decade of experience within ethical fashion and labor rights.  Being one of the greatest names in sustainability inside The Netherlands, she has been intensively acting against exploitation of garment workers, and against environmental damages caused by fashion companies. Initially through her work as national and international campaign manager in the Clean Clothes Campaign and afterward through her consultancy office and expert guidance.

Her touching sensibility combined with intrinsic strong ethical values has driven her to investigate the situation of women working in clothing factories closely. In her visits to Bangladesh, Thailand and other countries Marieke followed the routine of those women, getting to know their dreams, wishes and potential – she could then realize that their aspirations are very similar to those of other more privileged women around the world, however they suffer a disproportionate lack of opportunities.

It was this immense perceptiveness regarding the worth and yearnings of each single individual, together with the belief in positive changes through modifications in consumerism patterns, that lead this passionate woman, with a deep appreciation for fashion, to create her own bureau besides participating in workshops, lectures and talks. She is dedicated to providing information and know-how for all the consumers looking to improve their decisions towards more ethical choices in fashion and life style. 


Marieke Eyskoot photo by Janey van Ierland


In Talking Dress – the book - Marieke brings a very complete and pleasant read about all the main issues surrounding the current un-ethical aspects in the fashion industry, detailing all the challenges involved. Still, most importantly she brings a detailed step by step guide of initiatives that everyone can adopt in order to promote significant changes. 

In the first chapter, the reasons why it is so important to modify the current status of the fashion industry are presented together with the definitions and nomenclatures related to ethical fashion and its broad meaning. Another entire chapter is later dedicated to telling the story of the clothes through an examination of the supply chain and the social, economic and environmental impact of every decision, from the production of cotton and other raw materials to the point in which final garments reach the shelves.

Marieke keeps the dialogue open with the reader, inviting us to a continuous self analysis, always reflecting which actions we as consumers could take.  Short assignments are lovely proposed in the  format of daily habits lists.  They consist of questions recalling our attention to our own routine behaviors.  Personally, I did love to prepare my wardrobe inventory assignment. When I finally set my whole collection on paper, it became very clear which pieces I was over consuming, which ones I bought from impulse and haven't ever used, which shapes fit me better, which colors I do enjoy wearing and so forth. In this way, I could understand how I express myself through clothes and the way I consume.  This gave me a genuinely clear idea of a better shopping strategy, where I would not only help the environment and the garment workers while being a more conscious consumer,  but I would indeed also end up helping myself by saving money and buying items that make much more sense to me as an individual.

Talking Dress is all about how we consumers can promote a chain reaction of positive changes. Marieke shares great tips on how to buy fair fashion and also how to buy less -  one entire chapter is dedicated to DIY fashion projects, while the last chapter brings a complete guide of shops, brands, and companies offering ethical products in The Netherlands and beyond.

Interviews with inspiring women such as Safia Minney (founder of People Tree) reveal how Marieke points out the real bonds we have with our clothes. For all those interviewed, the question “Which piece of cloth is your favorite and what is the story behind it?” was asked, reminding us that our clothes can gain a much deeper meaning then just a piece of a well designed trendy fabric protecting our bodies.

Finally, Marieke shows that opting for ethical consumerism can represent a whole life style, then she discusses the questions we should keep asking ourselves in order to make better decisions in many other segments of our lives, such as, while buying wellness products, while choosing for a better and healthier diet, and even when deciding on a new computer.

Marieke strongly believes that every small action one takes towards ethical practices results in a big step towards a fairer future. She continuously emphasizes the relevance of the concept that the small acts done by everyone are collectively responsible for the biggest and most robust transformations. In her own words  “it is very much possible to look great and do good, and this is easy, instead of difficult. There are lots of things you can do, from fair fashion shopping, to washing in a different way, DIY-ing, swapping, mending, upcycling, raising your voice, getting informed, buying less and much more. There is something for everyone, and you don't have to do it all! Don't let the great be the enemy of the good, you don't have to become a saint. Choose the thing(s) that suit you and you enjoy, and small things lead to big changes, especially when we do it all together.”

Despite the book still being available only in the Dutch language, one could find a wonderful free app via the Talking Dress website containing the complete shopping guide. The application is very user friendly and any English reader could easily find the main tips from the book within it. Enjoy your tour within the world of fair fashion!




Priscilla Camargo is a scientist, conscious entrepreneur and blogger who is completely passionate about technology, arts and sustainability. Through her writing she shares her experiences on sustainable development and heritage both in fashion and design, always expressing her love of aesthetics created from the mix of different cultures and her commitment to social and environmental issues. You can find more about her work at her social media channels: Twitter, Facebook and Blog


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