“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” -Matthew 25:40
Today I was searching the internet for fair trade boots. It’s fall in Minnesota and soon winter will be upon us. I’m currently sporting tennis shoes with every outfit because they are comfortable and all I really have at the moment. Lately, I’ve been enviously eyeing up all the adorable leather boots blowing up TV ads and walking past me on the street. But, I’ve held off on purchasing because of my growing conviction that consumerism and fast fashion is killing…
That might sound extreme, but let me explain.
Not only is fast fashion literally killing people around the world through harsh chemicals released into the environment, unregulated pollutants flowing into water sources and dangerous working conditions, but I think it’s also killing us in America.
We have been sedated into celebrating low costs and sales above all else. It’s terrifying to me.
At one time, when I was growing up, good deals were to be celebrated. Finding sales was a surprise. These days, cheap clothing is the norm. It’s not hard to get a good deal… just walk into any mall and you can find clothes on trend that are incredibly affordable. When I was growing up, that wasn’t always the case. We would shop thrift stores to try to find name brand clothing at a reasonable price. Now, there are so many more options when it comes to “cool” brands. Of course, there are still the luxury brands – but those are less common for the average person to have or need. If you look the part, that’s all that matters and the fast fashion industry is capitalizing on this fact.
My growing, illuminating, overwhelming desire is that culture would change. And change starts with me and you. The crazy thing is, you don’t have to change your beliefs…
If I asked you, “Do you think it’s important to treat others the way you would like to be treated?” What would you say?
I bet it’d be an overwhelming, yes.
Secondly, do you think everyone should have access to clean water?
What about a working environment that meets safety regulation codes?
If that doesn’t put the issue of fast fashion and consumerism front and center, check out this 3 minute clip and think about if you worked in a clothing factory or if your children were living in a pollutant infested city.
The issue isn’t just buying more fair trade products – I believe it’s about our hearts. If you have forever been uninformed about where our fashion comes from, then clearly the issue is simply education. Those profiting from our consumerism would love for us to stay in the dark. But, once you know that our clothes are made in unsafe factories, which I think most of us do but try to ignore or blissfully hope are fine, then you have a decision to make. Will you continue to condone fashion by any means necessary at any cost to others, or will you stand up for who some consider the least of these?
As I’ve stated in previous articles, it’s overwhelming when you begin seeing that cheap goods and exploited labor is widespread across industries. However, we have to start somewhere and I believe fashion is an important place to begin. Committing to buying less, repurposing what you already have, and buying fair trade when you are going to shop are a few ideas.
One store, MadeFAIR, says it well:
We have an uncommon business model based on common decency.
We live and die by Tim Gunn’s words: “Craft, not crafty.” Handemade, upcycled, fair trade, organic yada yada yada. These words can evoke several images that range from failed Pinterest DIY projects to the smell of patchouli in import stores. There’s none of that here, guys. Our store is packed with upcycled items that embrace their origins without compromising design. Expert craftsmanship and a discerning eye ensure our products won’t be found at a school craft fair. We love organic cotton because it doesn’t leak harmful pesticides into drinking water. And, let’s face it, fair trade should be industry standard.
Fair trade should definitely be industry standard. It’s crazy that we’ve settled for so much less.
“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” -Jim Rohn