With London Fashion Week in full thrust, I decided to spend a little of my time blogging about some of the issues facing this beautiful industry so many of us have a love affair with. And you know, despite the darkness and perversion that has penetrated the fashion world, ultimately it’s a gorgeous reflection of God’s incredible creativity…a stunning art form of awe-inspiring craftsmanship, flair and beauty. I loved reading an article titled Where is God in the Fashion Industry, that I came across recently in Christian Today talking about this very thing. It’s a refreshing perspective of someone who works smack bang in the centre of the fashion industry and it wholeheartedly encourages us to constantly see God in fashion.
Yet fashion, we all know is certainly not without its soul destroying pitfalls. Funny enough Christian Today, also featured another intensely sobering article about girls in India that are trafficked on the regular in order to produce Cotton, for OUR clothes. And that’s kind of what I want to talk about today…about the stuff we need to consider when engaging in fashion because whether we like it or not it concerns us and we have a role to play.
You see if you are anything like I was, the only factors you consider important when purchasing a fashion product is how good it looks, how often you intend to wear it and whether you can afford it! Therefore perhaps you are equally as unaware, as I used to be, concerning the impact our buying decisions are having upon millions of lives beyond our own.
Until recent years I was rather sheltered in my understanding of exactly where the clothing that I bought on the High Street actually came from. Keeping it real though, back in the day I wouldn’t even have cared. But recent media coverage as well as my own research into this dark area has changed my heart dramatically. Not only that, but the revelation that the industry is actually full of literal “fashion victims” that I have some sort of connection with totally compelled me to change the way I shop. You see I came to the realisation that contrary to my fondness for fashion, I absolutely do care if High Street brands use manufacturers in the developing world in order to stay competitive. I deeply care that retailers allow manufacturers to pay their garment workers (many of whom are underage) a fraction of the minimum wage - and expect them to work up to 17 hours a day, in unhygienic, unbearable and exploitative working conditions. I care like crazy that God has created these precious souls and they are living lives of abuse and poverty...that instead of living a life of abundance and fruitfulness they are being violated and victimised.
I most certainly care that, in order for me to buy a cheap garment in the high street – someone else has had to pay the price. Sometimes at a detrimental cost. For example, in the manufacture of Cotton – also known as “White Gold” – vast amounts of water are needed, often depriving entire villages of their water supply and annulated the economy. The Aral Sea in the Middle East has shrunk to just 15% of its original volume, due to the vast quantity of water required for Cotton production and dyeing in this area. (Ethical Fashion Forum). Any remaining water used by locals is contaminated due to the insecticides and pesticides used in Cotton manufacture which is not only detrimental to the environment but also toxic for the farmers who grow it. (Growing Cotton uses 22.5% of the world's insecticides and 10% of the world's pesticides). Farmers can be as young as seven, as children are forced to work in the Cotton fields. The lethal water supply has not only killed all life in the rivers and sea but has affected food, agriculture and health - often leading to death.
Closer to home, toxic chemicals such as Lead, Nickel and Chromium IV used in textile production can be transferred to the skin of wearers. (Greenpeace). Vast amounts of pollution is produced every day in the manufacture and transportation of fashion products in order to reach our High Streets. Cheap clothing bought on the high street is often deemed disposable and is as such discarded without a second thought - the UK alone throws away 1 million tonnes of clothing every year. (Waste Online). Discarded clothing and footwear ends up on landfill sites where manmade synthetic fabrics are unable to discompose. Natural fabrics such as wool do decompose but contribute towards global warming as they produce methane when decomposing.
The dark reality of unethical fashion must become something we all care about. It must move us to change our buying decisions so that precious lives can be saved and livelihoods can be improved. So how can we make a difference? Here are some suggestions for ethically improved alternatives:
- Recycle your clothing – consider ways in which you could resurrect an existing garment in your wardrobe rather than opting to buy a new product
- Take your unwanted clothing to a second hand shop rather than discarding it. Or have a swap party – get all your friends over, have a fun night and swap all your unwanted items with one another over a few drinks.
- As much as you can buy organically produced Cotton – Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. (Organic Trade Association)
- Buy your fashion items from retailers you can trust – brands using manufacturers that pay fair wages, limits its environmental impact, use sustainable fabrics, used fair trade. To find out more visit the Good Shopping Guide.
- Try and buy your products from small retailers that demonstrate an ethos of ethical and environmental principles.
- Search company websites to explore their Sourcing Policy. If you shop from a brand that does not offer ethically produced products contact the Head Office and ask what they are doing about their current sourcing policy and when they are going to stock ethical fashion.
The thing that we of course can always do with confidence and with compassion is pray. We can pray for strength and mercy upon all these broken souls who are being trafficked and abused for the sake of fashion. We can pray that owners of the factories would have mercy on the workers and would become so convicted that they would want to treat their employees with dignity, love and integrity. We can pray that the hold of riches and profit would lose it's grip upon the manufacturers and retailers. We can pray for shoppers to become more aware of such issues and for them to have a sincere desire to want to help.
We can also pray for better living conditions for the workers and for their families to find support and welfare so they could have better prospects which could in turn help them escape such abusive working conditions. We could also pray for laws to be passed which force all factories in developing countries to provide working conditions and better pay. We could also pray for good health, joy, hope and comfort over all those working in these conditions. We could speak life and solution into their destinies. We can pray against sickness, depression and death.
of course, when we consider such crazy mad global scale problems like this we may feel intimidated with the vast scale of them...we may wonder how our measly support can even make a difference...but it will...refraining from buying something because it's a product of child labour is surely a powerful step in the right direction....or not purchasing something because it will only be shortly disposed of and you already have two in your wardrobe trust me is wisdom...intentionally buying fair trade demonstrates empathy...not throwing away stuff so easily helps the environment...spending time praying for someone on the other end of the globe changes lives...so however small or irrelevant it may seem...come on fashionista's let's do whatever we can to help the real fashion victims in the industry. xx