TANG UNCOVERS FASHION: With her new book “Disrobed: How Clothing Predicts Economic Cycles, Saves Lives and Determines the Future,” Syl Tang puts a lot of stock in clothing.
In the 12 years she freelanced for the Financial Times, she frequently touched upon a similar topic but didn’t have the time to explore it due to word count restrictions. For example, she once wrote a piece about jewelry in the Afghan world and how the department of defense funded some of these companies that were started by women. “But when I would talk to people about linking apparel, jewelry or wearables to other topics, I would see their eyes glaze over a little bit. They wouldn’t connect the dots so I knew I needed to write a book about it,” she explained.
The underlying theme is how “behind the clothing, there is this understanding of the world,” she said. To that point, the cover art for the Rowman & Littlefield book is an unzipped hoodie on a globe of the world. Through her writing, she explores the role that clothing plays in natural disasters, climate change, terrorism, geopolitics and agribusiness.
One element the author found most surprising was “how much research there is supporting a fairly global movement against women and the way that they dress.” Tang cited the burkini controversy or the no-sleeves Congressional dress code as two examples. Referring to the latter, she said, “I think that particular policy is sexist because men are required to wear suits. I’ve never seen a sleeveless men’s suit. I think it’s more of this preoccupation with women and what they’re wearing. It’s occurring all over.”
More often than not people think of the apparel industry as fashion and they have that “‘Devil Wears Prada’ concept of polka dots and hemlines,” she said. “Most people are aware that it’s a billion-dollar industry but they’re probably not that interested in the aspects of it.”
Earlier this fall she shared her insights with the nonprofit Creative Coalition. Tang also consults with a few companies including a digital fashion start-up that is trying to merge handmade with an app, a Los Angeles technology company that is trying to reinvent how clothing is resold and the third client is Silhouette International brand of eyeglasses and sunglasses.