Something that's been really interesting to see during Fashion Revolution week, is people sharing their story of their ethical fashion awakening - the point that they realised that their clothes also had a story, and it generally wasn't a good one. For some it was the full on epiphany moment, often after watching The True Cost movie (more on this later), for me it's much more gradual, and it's very much entwined with my faith.
For the majority of my customers who probably aren't Christians, I realise your 'religious nutter: prepare to unfollow' alarms might be going off now, but bear with me. In previous blog posts I've written about my student slippery slope from 2nd hand clothes to fairtrade activism, and how I never intended to start an ethical clothing company, but there's a moral bottom line that I take as a given - or, as I put it then, 'I wouldn't kick a tramp or mug a child'. But I haven't really spoken about what's behind that.
In my church at the moment we're looking at the New Testament book of James - it's a book that really resonates with me because it's all about the hollowness of a faith that isn't echoed by actions. I don't think you need much of a Christian education to know how central the command to love your neighbour is, but James takes it further as he challenges those early believers to go beyond words into real deeds (and you thought the Suffragettes started the Deeds Not Words thing!). I was looking at this a couple of years ago in preparation for a talk about ethical fashion I was doing in a church, trying to find an appropriate quote about looking after widows and orphans. Instead I was socked in the stomach by this one:
"Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence... You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you."*
I don't know how someone living nearly 2000 years ago managed to forecast so well the model that our 21st century clothing industry would be built on, but I see a lot of truth in this. We might not feel like we live in luxury and indulgence, but the reality for most of us is that we have more than we need, and we have been able to have this because we have failed to pay the workers what they deserved. We probably don't feel that we murdered the innocent one, but we only have to look at the Rana Plaza disaster to see 1130 innocent people who did die from this messed up system.
This isn't supposed to be a preach - although I'd love to challenge those who do share my faith but haven't yet made the connection with the way they consume, to look at these words less abstractly. But it's part of my WHY - why, although I only really set out to print nice designs on clothes, ethical principles have become so absolutely essential to the way Lost Shapes is run, and how I live out my faith.
If you live near Frome, Somerset, join Fairtrade Frome and me for a free viewing of The True Cost film this Wednesday 2nd May at Frome Town Hall. Doors open 7pm.
*The Bible, James 5 v4-6.
Irregular musings and pretty pictures from the heart of LOST SHAPES.