Quartz Weekend Brief—Fashion weeks, guar gum, accent quiz, climate-change bucket list

It’s New York Fashion Week: the eight-day extravaganza of runway shows, parties, and social media mayhem surrounding designers’ debuts of their Spring 2015 collections. After New York, the circus will travel to London, Milan, and Paris—then New Delhi, Sydney, Istanbul, Tokyo, Toronto, and Moscow, bringing to mind the adage, “it’s always happy hour somewhere.”

Even if the fashion industry makes you roll your eyes, none of us is exempt from it. As Meryl Streep icily spelled out in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada, high-end fashion trends inevitably make their way into the mainstream. Five years ago, sweatpants on the runway seemed novel. Now, exercise clothing for everyday is a commonplace, $14.5 billion business.

Aside from the fashion industry’s $1.5 trillion contribution to the global economy, there’s a simple fact: We all have to get dressed. What we wear is a choice about how to present ourselves to the world. Comedian Joan Rivers, who passed away on Thursday morning, made a raucous sport of interpreting what on earth celebrities were trying to say with their clothing choices on her E! series Fashion Police. And lest you believe such analyses are limited to Hollywood, remember the Twittersphere—and at least one Republican politician—attacking Barack Obama’s decision to brief the world on the Islamic State and Ukraine last week in a tan suit.

Clothes, like food, are an essential part of our lives and also—as I wrote this week—a way to indulge our creativity, express our identities and connect with people. If the designers showing at New York Fashion Week do their jobs right, some of their collections may end up doing just that.—Jenni Avins

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

The unexpected link between US shale gas and Rajasthani farmers. America’s shale-gas boom caused a spike in demand for guar gam, which is used in fracking. John Samuel Raja relates how the boom brought untold riches to Indian guar gum farmers—then took them away again as spiking prices drove the industry to cheaper synthetic sources.

Al-Qaeda’s desperate marketing ploy. The group’s new franchise in the Indian subcontinent may look just like further evidence of the spread of global jihad, but Bobby Ghosh sees in it a panicky attempt to win back market share from al-Qaeda’s upstart rivals, the Islamic State and Boko Haram.

How Russia buys influence in US politics. After the news that Gazprombank hired two prominent US ex-politicians to campaign against the US-imposed sanctions, Tim Fernholz takes a look at some of the other lobbyists involved in pushing Russia’s case in Washington and elsewhere.

Get ready for Texan extra-virgin. Americans are consuming ever more olive oil—and they’ve suddenly started producing a lot more of it too. Svati Narula explains how growing demand, coupled with quality problems in Europe, could turn the US into an unexpected olive-oil powerhouse.

Take the Quartz accent quiz. You’re a worldly person. Can you tell a Somali accent from a Moroccan one or distinguish a Croatian from a Bosnian? Nikhil Sonnad created this game based on a crowd-sourced database of accented English. Warning: It’s a little bit addictive.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

How Apple runs the media. Ahead of the publicity-fest that will be the iPhone 6 launch this week, it’s worth reading at least the first three sections of Mark Gurman’s dissection on 9to5mac of how the famously secretive company controls tech journalists’ access to information as a way of building hype for its products.

The making of an Islamic State fighter. 100 Danes have joined radical Islamist groups in Syria—the population equivalent of over 6,000 Americans. For, Louise Stigsgaard Nissen got to know one of them, and probes what is motivating so many young men from Europe to join the radical cause.

We will all have to deal with Alzheimer’s. Whether as sufferers or caregivers, few of us these days will not be touched by the disease, writes Kent Russell in the New Republic, in a powerful, painful story about trying to find a dignified way to care for an afflicted father.

Thirty-three things to eat, drink, see, and do before climate change ruins them. Part bucket list, part illustrated guide to global doom, Kurt McRobert and Rich Petrucci’s rundown of the wonders threatened by climate change is at once entertaining, sobering, and a very practical way to prioritize your travel plans.

What’s the point of an intellectual in a democracy? Re-reading the historian Richard Hofstadter’s classic work Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Nicholas Lemann at CJR says no one should be surprised by the Tea Party or anti-vaccination activists; the real question may be whether intellectuals can thrive as anything more than bohemians rejecting the culture or as experts serving state power.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Apple press releases, and bucket lists to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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