By Sam Hill
There are days when I love to take my time and get dressed up, paying attention to every little detail. And then there are days where permanently living in my PJs seems to me to be the best idea ever. Most of the time I just throw on a t-shirt and jeans. Basically, I embrace the mantra of, ‘I’m a woman and it’s my prerogative’. Sometimes what we choose to wear can be a message about who we want people to perceive us to be. What I wear often reflects what I’m feeling as I’m sure it does for most people but lately, for me, this has shifted rather significantly.
Over the last 6 years I’ve become increasingly aware of injustice and have started looking for ways of fighting it. A particular area of this injustice that I am unwaveringly passionate about is that of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. It was only early in 2016, however, that I started thinking more consciously about my shopping habits and particularly, fashion. This is a little of my story birthed out of a deep conviction of wanting to see people set free.
When I allowed myself to really consider it, I realized that I was fueling the very industry I detested – slavery! The people in the supply chains of the majority of high street fashion and top end fashion brands are not paid a fair wage, sometimes not even paid at all. They work overtime in awful conditions. They are slaves and it’s all in the name of our fashion! An excellent article on some of this can be found here.
As I read more widely (I’ve included some great material below) I started to understand that our shopping habits drive this very industry that concedes to keeping people, some of whom are children, trapped in slavery; vulnerable to predators and those whose goal is to exploit human beings for the benefit of their bank accounts. Some of these ‘predators’ wear white collars and ties and sit in air-conditioned offices and so aren’t as likely to be seen as such.
Then of course, on the other side of the coin, there’s the dilemma of being seen in the same thing more than once. Oh the shame of it! We’ve become so engrossed with what we wear. I am just as much a slave to this as anybody. Thinking I can’t dare to wear the same thing too often because I have been seen by too many people wearing it or – travesty of travesties – I’ve been in too many Instagram posts wearing the same thing. My following will be affected as people get bored of seeing me in the same clothes… because I am THAT important!
Never mind that the majority of this world’s population has only one or at the most, two, outfits and that’s it.
Now I’m not suggesting that we quit enjoying getting dressed up, it’s one of the joys of life and I love it as much as the next person. But in the words of an uncle of one of our wonderful superheroes, Spiderman, ‘with great privilege comes great responsibility’. Okay, so I substituted power for privilege but they are inter-changeable. I’m starting to see the need to move passed the issue thrust upon me by an over commercialised society that tells me I should be seen in new things as often as possible. It’s just all too traumatic for my already busy life not to mention completely unrealistic for my wallet and now, my conscience. It’s also just silly! Yes, I said silly!
Before, the high street stores that sell us fast cheap fashion seemed like candy land… but soon it became a bitter taste in my mouth. The bargain £12 shirt that I would brag about getting for such a steal – well yes, it is a steal but from whom was I stealing? From the family who’s mother, father or child made that top for less than the pennies in my purse. In fact, the wage that many garment workers earn doesn’t even allow them to feed themselves or their families and the terrible working conditions of the factory in which they’ve made all these ‘bargains’ are often health or even life risks. 86% of fashion brands – in other words pretty much everyone – are not even trying to pay a living wage to the workers in their supply chains**
And here’s something you may not be aware of – these bargain buys are actually designed to only last a short while so that we buy more. Then of course because it didn’t cost much and we get bored of it we either dump it at the charity shop (which would be the better option) or more commonly, because it’s developed holes or tears, we throw it out. An estimated 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year!** Just let that sink in a little. This is tons of waste… non-biodegradable waste… and that’s just in the UK. We’re an island, so I wonder how long until all that waste starts to encroach on our lovely fluffy high polished lifestyles.
The more I thought about it the more I felt like I was being made a fool of! The fat cat at the top of the fashion food chain is sitting happy in his or her 5 homes across the globe (probably at different times since they’re most likely not omnipresent) having a good fat cackle at me, the wally who keeps buying things I don’t need to impress people who, in the grand scheme of things, don’t even notice if I have the same dress on as I did last week!
For me this issue is closely linked to my faith. There’s a verse in the Bible which I love which talks about how the whole of creation is waiting for a time when God’s people – you and me! – will take back the world from decay***. That’s why this is important for me – as a child of God I have a role to play in rising up and making choices which fight death, destruction and decay.
Now of course, my shopping habits alone aren’t funding the multi-billion dollar industries of fashion, food and slavery but I realised that I had within my choices the power to make a difference. My hope is that as you read this, you will open your heart and mind to a better option – then, as you join me in changing the way you shop, we will start to shift the numbers and maybe, just maybe these corporations will wake up and listen. Consumer markets are driven by consumer choices after all. It’s actually not that difficult to deduce that if we truly want to see a difference in this world the power lies with us and our choices.
‘Demand quality, not just in the products you buy, but in the lives of people who made it.’ – Orsola de Castro
**Slow Fashion, Safia Miney
The Character of Fashion, Simon Ward
Overdressed, Elizabeth Cline
About the author: An everyday girl who said ‘yes’ to an invitation to a greater life, one that lasts far past our current days. English born, South African raised and educated by travels of the world. I’m a lover of fun, adventure, spontaneity and authentic genuine people. I seek to do great things with ordinary people and an extraordinary God. Laughter is my exercise, G&T is my drink and Jesus is my safe place. I also don’t share chocolate!
Image from pixabay.com