Updating your autumn wardrobe? Or perhaps, like me, you’re tempted by the latest 70%-off ASOS sale. Fast fashion beckons from every direction, promising style and swagger with a £7 shirt.
But the industry has come under fire once again following Stacey Dooley’s documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, which explores the global effects of cheap clothing consumption. Exposing fashion as one of the top five most-polluting industries, Dooley takes us from Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea (drained dry by cotton production) to the toxic chemical waste discarded in Indonesia.
Her conclusion? ‘The few pounds we spend for an item of clothing isn’t the true cost.’ When we also factor in the staggering human cost that cheap clothing often demands – sweatshops, exploitation, and slave labour – the picture is very bleak indeed.
So what might it look like to honour God, not only in our workplaces but also in our wardrobes?
God calls on his people to act justly. We need to work out what that means for us as greed takes its toll on the world’s poorest and their environments. As consumers, we can substantially reduce our buying, mend rather than discard, use charity shops, research the ethics and sustainability of brands before purchasing, and support new transparent labels (check out here (USA/UK), here (UK), here (men), and here (UK) if you’re unsure where to start). Discernment is needed to put God’s values above ‘good value’.
As Former COO for London Fashion Week, Simon Ward, remarked: ‘Fashion, if it’s your servant, can be great. If it’s your master it’s a real tyrant.’ Clothing lines can come and go within a week, demanding continuous buying to stay ahead. They drive insatiable appetites for more, when no earthly thing can offer lasting satisfaction.
And yet, as we are made in the image of a wonderful designer, we can still take a blessed delight in beautiful design. We can enjoy gorgeous patterns and colour, intricate embroidery and ingenious creativity that speak of fruitful work and point to the glory of our own Creator. In doing so, the gift of beautiful clothes allows us a glimpse of the giver of all good gifts.
While shops restock and trends shift, let’s seek to honour the eternal God in the what, when, and why of our clothes. And while we celebrate whatever is just and beautiful in fashion here on earth, with how much more joy do we await the day God will clothe us in the shining white of Jesus’ righteousness.
Katherine lives and works in London where she enjoys scoping out charity shops and borrowing her friends’ jazziest clothes. She recently began working for an MP.