I find it awkward now.
I find it awkward to listen to people around me talk about the deal they got on the clothes they’re wearing. I find it awkward when someone seeks affirmation on what a steal their new dress was.
I find it awkward, only knowing such little amounts about the fashion industry, celebrating those deals. Because in the little amounts I’ve learned, I have come to the understanding that these “deals” are truly steals, someone else has paid the price for our clothes to be at such a discounted price. I don’t know what to say when I’m in these moments, I certainly do not want to condemn those around me, but I also want people to know why I grow quiet. So I feel an awkward confliction, and often remain quiet and politely smile.
In Bangladesh on April 24, 2013, 1,138 people died and 2,500 people were injured from a building collapsing. This building was called the Rana Plaza and it was the hub of several garment factories. The building was in terrible conditions and the workers had complained and voiced several concerns but nonetheless they were forced to work that day. Rana Plaza produced garments for brands such as Joe Fresh, Mango and Primark. It is considered to be one of the worst and deadliest disasters in the fashion industry.
80% of clothes are made by women between 18-25 years old and so many of them work in conditions much like Rana Plaza before it collapsed. Many are paid little to no money for their efforts, and because the fashion industry has become so demanding with 52 micro-seasons(i.e. new styles and trends coming in every week), workers are forced to work even harder to keep up with the fast pace of consumerism. (This fast pace of consumerism also has an affect on our planet, which maybe I will go more in detail of at a later time.) Our desire to keep up with trends, get cheap deals, has its affects on people around the world. In fact, buying into fast fashion, is perpetuating poverty. Ignorance of all of this is bliss… but only for those on the consumer end of the deal.
This is only scratching the surface of why I find it awkward. There are so many more facts to be given, stories to be told, names of people who are under hardship and oppression because of the fast fashion industry and the lack of transparency in companies supply chain.
The word “sustainability” and “ethical” are becoming trending words. Unfortunately, these things shouldn’t be a trend. It should not be a passing fad to care about the human rights of others. So I buy into this world of sustainability and seek to persuade you, with a hint of caution. I don’t want to buy into yet another trend, nor do I want that for you. Instead, I want your hearts to align with God’s. I believe that God cares about the fast fashion industry and I believe as a human you should care, but especially as a Christian.
I believe this is an issue we are to care about as believers because God has called us to a life of justice, and what is happening in the fast fashion industry is utterly unjust.
“Learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow”
– Isaiah 1:17
We see throughout the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament that God cares about the marginalized and the oppressed. An aspect of His heart we ought to take on. James tells us in the first chapter of his letter that true religion is caring for the orphan and widow.
God cares about the helpless and oppressed, and we should too.
Friends, I know oh so little of the fast fashion problem and not enough about sustainability and ethical choices, but I’ve been exposed to enough to tell you this is an issue so dark and deep. Our purchases here, at High Street Mall from Old Navy or F21 or H&M is perpetuating the problem, our purchases have effects that reach all the way to Bangladesh or Mumbai, where women(and men, and even children) work in unsafe factories, with little to no breaks, little to no pay, and little to no freedom.
Do your research of brands and companies before you purchase from them. Check out their website. If they don’t mention anything about those on the other end of their supply chain, they most likely don’t have good things going on. Seek to purchase from companies that care about people in the chain more than their profit.
As a result, you will most likely need to pay more money for your clothes, to which may be a shock to your system (and bank account) if you are used to those $10.99 denim jeans from Forever 21. But the beauty of purchasing ethical and sustainable clothing is that it forces you to slow down. Slow fashion is such a great thing, you purchase fewer products that will last longer. You take better care of your clothes because you spent more money on them. You start looking at the garments your wearing as pieces that have had hard work poured into them, rather than pieces that are replaceable and disposable. Ethical and slow fashion go hand in hand. Don’t fall for the 52 micro-seasons of fast fashion. where new styles and trends come out each week and garments will last less than a year. Invest in good quality basics that will last you a long time. It is more money up front but one you are employing people with jobs that have fair wages, safe working conditions and where they are treated as humans should. And two, you are most likely investing in better quality pieces, and pieces you will take better care of.
Lately, I’ve received a few questions on where to begin with slow, sustainable and ethical fashion. To which my answer always remains, first watch The True Cost (it’s on Netflix). The simplest way to have just a taste of what really goes on in the fashion industry, and since it’s a documentary, it’s an easy way to learn lots in a short amount of time.
The 3 Best Ways to buy into Slow Fashion and boycott Fast Fashion:
1.Take care of what you already own.
Reduce the amount your purchase, clothes you get rid of, need to buy new clothes by mending and caring for what is already in your closet.
2. Buy second hand clothing.
This doesn’t just mean thrift stores, there are tons of groups on Facebook where people sell clothes they are sick of or haven’t even warn like this one for Aritzia Clothes , or bloggers who make Shop My Closet Instagram pages like this one, and cool vintage stores in Vancouver.
3. Purchase clothes from Ethical and Sustainable Brands.
Do your research on brands. Every store or company has a website, go on it, look around. Do they talk about about where the clothes are made or who made them? Usually, if a brand does not comment on this, it probably isn’t a good sign. You also might be surprised though, there are some well-known common brands out there that do have ethical standards for their suppliers and workers and don’t necessarily market themselves as ethical. Nonetheless, there are great companies that are proud of their ethics to not only pay fair wages but support communities, source locally, or offer education programs etc.
Fast fashion, unfair wages, hazardous working conditions and all the injustices that are in this industry, I have yet to fully grasp or research; I recognize I have much to learn. In the process of me growing in my understanding, I do feel this conviction growing so deep within me. Not only out of a love for people or a broken heart for injustice but also because I feel it is the heart of God. I believe the way the fast fashion industry is running, breaks God’s heart, I believe it contradicts scripture and I believe that we as believers have a call to be people blessed to be a blessing, to humanize not dehumanize, to live set apart, to care for the oppressed. I believe this is something we should care about as believers. There are people on the other end of the supply chain of your clothing, and I think it’s time we as believers as the question: Who made my clothes?