Slowing down fast fashion

November 11, 2015

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This coat is 56% cotton, 44% virgin wool and made in the USA. Classic, chic and timeless and presumably long-lasting, it’s the kind of coat I’d buy, it costs $3,950. The sticker shock took me back for a moment, $3,950… so if I had a full-time job -which I don’t, paying $12 an hour (though I have a Master’s degree so here’s hoping I’d be making a bit more when I do get a job) and saved half of each weekly paycheck towards getting this coat I would be able to buy said coat in 4 1/2 months, interesting. As cringe worthy as such a feat would’ve seemed to me in the past I now look at that figure and think, not bad. Four months after all is a bit more than a season and do we really need to buy new clothes more than seasonally? In reality I would probably look for a similar less expensive coat -this coat is also name brand from The Row, maybe a place like Everlane would have a less expensive version.

But in potentially buying a coat like this I’d be buying in to one system and turning my back on another. What this coat or a coat from Everlane or Hackwith Design House and a myriad of new emerging brands have in common is ethics and quality. They’re not making high volumes of throw away clothes, they’re being transparent about their factories and they’re making clothing out of natural long-lasting materials.

When we buy cheap inexpensive clothes what are we actually buying and supporting? One of our teachers told us there is a certain degree of zuhud (minimalism) we need to have a liberated heart. So how liberated can our hearts be when the average American buys 67 items of clothing per year that’s an average of one new item of clothing every single day and on some days two? We shop whenever we want, we shop for enjoyment, we shop for fun, we shop to fill a void, we shop because we’re bored. And we pay for it slowly (detriment to our environment of over consumption) but others pay immediately. Your cheap clothes -our cheap clothes, are made by near- slave labourers. People -including children, are paid pennies for a days work, perform their labour in unimaginable circumstances and give their life to a company that wouldn’t dream of giving them the things we as Americans take for granted -like sick leave and health care. And the clothes themselves aren’t in reality cheap, if it takes $.01 to make and they’re selling it for $15 we’re in reality we’re being ripped off. And let’s be honest with ourselves -we don’t need 67 new clothing items a year!

There’s Hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace to him) that haunts me because it seems almost unescapable without great effort in our times to not fall in to this damned state:

“God the Almighty is good and accepts only that which is good. And verily God has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. So the Almighty has said: “O (you) Messengers! Eat of the tayyibat (good things), and perform righteous deeds” [23:51] and the Almighty has said: “O you who believe! Eat of the lawful things that We have provided you” [2:172]. Then he (peace be upon him) mentioned a man who, having journeyed far, is dishevelled and dusty, and who spreads out his hands to the sky saying, “O Lord! O Lord!” while his food is indecent (haram, lit. impermissible in Islamic law), his drink is indecent, his clothing is indecent, and he has been nourished with an indecent nourishment, so how can [his supplication] be answered?”

It is incredibly difficult in our times to not be in the state of this man, the animals we eat are abused and drugged, the workers are underpaid and taken advantage of by big companies, the same is true for our clothes. But as we gain more insight in to the clothing and food industry (Food Inc and Forks Over Knives are two good docs about food) we can’t continue to pretend we don’t know. When we buy an OMG! $15 shirt we are buying in to an unjust system. May God help us.

 

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