If Jesus were invited to the #FROW, would he go?
I had a chat about this with Simon Ward, the former COO of the British Fashion Council and the man responsible for running London Fashion Week. And in the thirty times he’s organised it, he invited Jesus every time.
Simon sees fashion as more than his career, but as his mission field. Since its inception, he’s been a leader in the organisation Fashion for Christ, which brings together Christians working in the fashion industry specifically to pray for it. To invite God in.
A front row seat for faith?
Hold on… Eating disorders. Revealing garments. Image glorification. Extreme price tags. How can this be a place for Christians?
Think about it… Creativity. Industry. People. Identity. Expression. How can this not be a place for Christians?
Almost no human remains untouched by the impact of all things fashion. So where do we, as a generation pursuing Jesus and justice, fit in?
Simon suggests that fashion, like everything else in life, is about tension. A prime battleground between good and evil. Exploitation vs expression. Identity vs a place to hide.
Freedom (should always be in fashion)
‘It’s the difference between setting people free from fashion and setting people free by fashion,’ he says.
He goes on to explain, ‘Fashion is a uniquely democratic industry. We all wear clothes and even the high street giants react to and revolve around consumers.’ This leaves us with a very clear responsibility. Every time we make a purchase, we make a choice – not just for what we want to wear, but how we want people and the environment to be treated. ‘We can’t just gullibly eat what the stylists, retailers and fashion mags feed us,’ says Simon. ‘We need to realise: “I’ve got work to do!”’
Our choices have a voice.
So what is your voice saying?
Does it matter that saying ‘yes’ to fast fashion, means that someone is working too hard for too little in unsafe and unhealthy conditions? Exploited with our implicit agreement through our buying habits?
Does it matter that rivers in China run with the colour of the season because of so much dye contaminating the water? Or that farming too much cotton is causing severe damage to the environment, even placing some of the people who farm it, and their families, at risk of going hungry.
Fashion gives us the power to provide someone with a job – or to exploit them. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate creativity – or puff ourselves up with pride. It offers us the means to express ourselves and our identity – or to hide behind an image and a mask. To draw people in – or to shut them out.
‘Fashion has this ability to veil things because it is so easy to manipulate,’ says Simon. So what will we do with the truth?
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
As we clothe ourselves, filled with compassion and kindness, what choices will we make?
To joyfully and creatively express ourselves through the limitless fashion outlets at our fingertips? Our freedom.
To protect the people (and environments) who provide our fashion, by buying ethically? Their freedom.
To notice those who may feel the need to hide behind an image – and love them into an understanding of the One in whose image they were created? Ultimate freedom.
Changing room (you have room to change things)
- 10,000 garments go to landfill every five minutes. Simon suggests starting with ‘The 30x Rule’ – if you’re not going to wear it 30 times… don’t buy it.
Uncover the truth:
- Ask questions
- Use your voice
Simon has written a whole book on this topic, called The Character of Fashion and explores what the industry might be like if God was boss. Here are some prayers from the book which you could join your voice to:
- Father God, inspire those working in fashion to use their talents to the full; to welcome those who have a different vision; to put people before profit; to show kindness to one another.
- Father God, open the eyes of consumers to the impact of their purchases on the sustainability of the planet and the fairness of reward to those who have made the clothes.
- Father God, help those who name you as Saviour and Lord, to be strong salt and bright light in the workplace: that their colleagues might see their motives are good, their work, excellent, their patience, steadfast and their love for all they work with, constant.
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