Opening our Eyes to Social Injustice in the Fashion Industry
IMAGINE you just got back from the mall. Your bed is loaded with shopping bags, and you’re getting ready to film your next YouTube haul video! Sure, your closet doesn’t hold a candle to Bethany Mota’s, but you’re still crazy excited to share your latest finds with whoever cares to listen.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, there’s a girl your age working at a sewing machine. The garment shop is hot, and stuffy, but these women working in Bangladesh are busy sewing thousands of copies of the top you just bought.
While you’re laying out each item to take pictures for Instagram, these women are fighting headaches, hunger, and heat exhaustion, due to chemicals and unsafe working conditions.
Do you ever think about who made your clothes?
It’s easy to forget that everything we wear is made by living, breathing, human beings. I grew up believing that my garments were made by some mass factory machine, blissfully forgetting about the hearts and hands that contributed to each item in my closet. How often do we look at our labels and ask, “Who made my clothes?”
At first mention, it may seem like that question is trival and unimportant. But the deeper you dig into the fashion industry, the more you learn that women’s rights, social justice, and basic needs of humanity are being ignored for these garment workers in third-world countries. Many of these women (and children) struggle to feed themselves and their families, and are being exploited in unsafe working conditions. The global fashion industry brings in 1.2 trillion dollars a year…yet many of these women are earning less than two dollars a day.
That kind of math, just doesn't add up.
As Christians, we're all about ending social injustice. Many of us have hearts to end human trafficking, the global orphan crisis, and systemic poverty. But I had no idea that the your everyday, average, run-of-the-mill clothing companies are contributing to these very issues.
The more I learn about this carefully covered up issue, the more my heart breaks. I can't help but feel awful over the fact that something I'm wearing was created by someone who struggles to feed their family. These workers are not being compensated fairy for their creative efforts and hard labor. My initial, knee-jerk reaction is to boycott every store who would dare try to sell me such a thing! But the answer isn't that simple. In fact, "61% of clothing companies don't know where their garments were made."
The clothing industry is such a massive, systematic, multi-faceted machine, that involves millions of people and trillions of dollars. Just because a clothing company claims to have virtue within their brand and promises their clothes are not made in sweat shops, doesn't mean that's necessarily the case. "76% of companies don't know where their fabric was woven, knitted, or dyed, and 93% don't know the origin of the raw fiber. Knowing the source is the only way to create a product with integrity." (Maxine Bedat)
In other words, there is a lot going on behind clothes doors on these foreign shores.
"Brands, retailers, and customers have all become fantastically adapt at divorcing fashion from the very fact that it's been made by an army of living, breathing, human beings." (Livia Firth)
Join the Revolution
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." (Proverbs 31:8)
The women (and children) who are making our clothes, are currently without a voice. I've heard stories of women in third-world-countries attempting to create workers unions, in efforts to raise their wadges and protect their rights, but instead have gotten violently beaten and abused for their desire to speak up.
Sisters, we can't be okay with this. I believe that as Christians, it is only normal and right that we care about the women who create our clothes. We must stand up and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We must give these women a voice until things begin to change!
This might feel like a big, messy, complicated, and completely overwhelming problem, but the truth is, in Christ there is always an answer. And the exciting part is that we can choose to partner with what God is doing, and be part of that answer! As consumers, the power truly is in our hands. We can make a difference.
So here are a few ideas as to how YOU can get involved and be a catalyst for change in the unfair treatment of women within the Fashion Industry...
1. Educate Yourself
It's hard to make any kind of change until we truly understand what is going on here. I would highly encourage you to educate yourself on this topic! If this is something you feel the Lord stirring your heart about with a heavy burden, don't hesitate to learn more! You can learn more about the social, economic, humanitarian, and environmental issues this industry is facing, and how they're all dangerously intertwined. Watch The True Cost on Netflix and visit Fashion Revolution.org
(Check out this amazing, free digital magazine issue which walks you through all the issues, step by step, and is totally eye opening!)
2. Support Fair Trade Clothing Brands
What are Fair Trade Clothing Brands? (Fair Trade means that the companies method of creating and producing clothes is ethical, honest, and full of integrity. These brands can all trace their clothes back to the original sources and know how their workers are being treated, paid, and cared for.)
Check out this amazing list of Fair Trade Clothing Brands! (Please note that this list isn't necessarily consisting of modest clothing, you'll have to do your own research and search for modest garments within these shops, but there is a nice variety of brands listed here. We just wanted to give you a starting point, something that will encourage and remind you that yes, there are fair trade brands out there!)
3. Raise Awareness
As you begin to educate yourself on this topic, you'll quickly discover that there are so many ways to share what you're learning with the world! I wanted to tell my friends about what was going on, right away! So share and get the word out!
Share this post with your friends, talk about these issues on social media, and encourage those you know to watch The True Cost documentary.
If you're a YouTuber or Fashion Blogger, why not consider making a video about this topic? Or, instead of filming your next Haul video, why not create an Upscale video and talk about how you're going to use some of your favorite items in your closet to recreate a brand new look?
Encourage your followers to resist the lie of commercialism, and remind them that their value is NOT found in what they wear. Remind them of the fact that there are real, living, breathing women creating their clothes, who need to be thought of and cared for. Instead of making fashion all about us, let's bring these women into the spotlight. Let's make our passion for fashion MATTER for something far, far greater!
"Now this was the sin of sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned: they did not help the poor and the needy." (Ezekiel 16:49)
4. Ask Your Favorite Brands 'Who Made My Clothes?'
As consumers, we really do hold so much power. Brands are all about placing their costumers first, and they really do want to listen to what we have to say It's important that we hold these brands accountable, reach out and ask, "Who made my clothes?"
So send an email. Make a phone call. Go to your favorite clothing website and drop them a line in the Contact Box. Let them know about your concern, and ask them if they know who created the raw materials, and who is putting these clothes together? You might be surprised by their answers. Remember, "61% of clothing companies don't know where their garments were made." And "76% of companies don't know where their fabric was woven, knitted, or dyed, and 93% don't know the origin of the raw fiber."
If enough of us are asking these questions, eventually they just might start to listen. Perhaps our questions will spark a desire for the company to research more thoroughly, in hopes of creating a purer, integrity-filled way of doing things.
And if that doesn't work, as this issue continues to grow in both awareness and passion, perhaps we'll begin choosing to spend our hard-earned money in places that only support Free Trade.
Perhaps if we can all join together, continuing to learn and raise our voices together, we can create real change for our sisters on the other side of the world.
Perhaps we can raise their wadges, protect their rights, make sure they're safe and cared for, end the dangerous working conditions, ban the chemicals that are making them sick, and give these women the freedom to be and become whatever beautiful thing it is that God has created them to do!
Perhaps, through simply asking "Who Made My Clothes?" we can free these women to have the financial and emotional freedom to pursue their God-given dreams and live out their destines!