We’ve come to the end of Fashion Revolution week which saw competing companies from the likes of H&M to People Tree rallying around the same cause: creating transparency within the clothing industry. It was promoted by the hashtag #whomademyclothes used by consumers, and #imadeyourclothes promoted by the labourers – the people employed to feed our consuming habits.
Coincidentally set during this week, some friends of mine organised a day together during which we would attempt to make simple t-shirts using organic and fair trade cotton. The idea came about through reflecting on Isaiah 58 – read it here. Isaiah talks about the Israelites who worship God in their prayer and fasting, but who still support systems of oppression within their community ignoring injustices against people who God had commanded that they honour, support and love.
From the clothing I wear, to the food I eat (like chocolate, watch here) to the smart phone I use (read here). When buying and using all of these products, its so easy to be disconnected from the systems of oppression that are necessary for their cheap and on mass production. In more apparent terms, I ignore suffering when I walk blindly past the homeless people around Birmingham city centre, whilst on my way to buy cheap goods….
Last week we made three t-shirts using fair trade cotton. By doing this we were able to extend our support to an ethical producer, but in the large scale, our actions have had no impact on the industry as a whole, other than make us individually aware as consumers when buying things.
Given this, its easy to see our power as consumers as being limited, it seems as thought there is little we can do as individuals to make change simply through our spending habits. In a similar vein to this questioning of consumer power, I watched a 4 minute, very american video, encouraging us to reconsider the ways in which we attempt to create impacts within the industrial economy we’re part of – its fairly interesting so you can watch here.
My main take away point from it was that the usual process by which activism is undertaken, still operates through the capitalist conceptualisations that pit us as merely consumers in a market. Because of this our activism becomes limited to choices of either consuming, or not consuming the products widely available to us. These small actions, while powerful in changing our individual consciousness, seem to have no major impact on production. (I feel this way for example, when I choose to buy soya products, or free range meats, but knowing fully that there is still a massive market for overproduction of cows milk and factory farmed animals).
All in all, it can seem as though our power to make change is limited. Though I do want to have a clear conscience, in the sense of choosing to spend the money in ways that honour God and the people I share this earth with, I also want to know that we can make bigger changes that simply our own spending habits.
-What is the biblical and practical answer to this? I’m still not sure, so let me know if you have an answer!
It was a good day; it has made me interested in trying to make more of my own clothing, and incredibly aware of the clothing I’m wearing and how it has been made which will change my future spending choices. Transparency is key, but so is challenging our desensitisation to suffering. It’s not enough to simply see and know about the suffering of others around us, we have to act on it.