Fast Fashion

The following essay was written as an assignment in Composition class; you will find it rather different from other blog posts. Originally it was entitled “Evicting the Demon of Fast Fashion.” I’ll be the first to say that I still shop at second-hand stores, but it has heightened my awareness and challenged me in my consumer habits and I present it as that.

Being consumed with fashion is not only dreadful stewardship, but also a stamp of a temporal worldview. The fast fashion industry mindlessly enslaves little, poor people (at least it is giving them a job) while polluting the world and consuming natural resources, nevertheless, the consumers are happy for a moment; entitled to look cool beside their neighbor. Buying into “fast fashion” with its throw-away mindset and self-obsession and its encouragement of child labor stands in direct violation to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“Fast Fashion,” a term coined in the last thirty years, is the rapid-paced industry of providing cheap clothing with the latest designs, and compelling people to buy constantly to reflect the modern style. This style does not change by the month or season as in ancient eras, but by “micro-seasons” (Azevedo 1).

Cheap and rapid ward-robe turnover only began one hundred fifty years ago, after the sewing machine was patented in the US in 1846. Before that, clothes were hand sewn and made to wear and last. A century after the fantastic invention of the sewing machine, in the 1960’s, Mary Quant invented a new custom—special styles of clothing for youth. Suddenly it became affordable to “keep up with the Jones”. Today, clothing can be made in mad bulk, which dramatically lowers costs, and in turn gives opportunity for a necessity to become an ego-statement.

Zara, a Spain-based retailer, hit America in the 1990’s with the revolutionary ability to take an article of clothing from an idea to jacket-on-the-rack within fifteen days. This bizarre whirl jazzed up sales and consumption; it has revolutionized the fast fashion industry, drowning teens and grandmas alike in a flurry of buying the latest and greatest.

The fast fashion industry has become so widely accepted that today only about 3% of the clothes worn in America are manufactured here; a wild difference from sixty years ago when 90% of the clothes were manufactured this side of the Atlantic. A 2019 New York Times article reports that fast fashion has pushed producers to the point where 60% of the clothing is made from synthetic fabric. Most of this clothing cannot be recycled; pollution has become the cry as landfills overflow and furnaces burn after hours to get rid of the excess.  

Europeans and Americans, the two world figures pushing fast fashion, are simply drowning in their own wealth. This incredible deluge of cheap clothing demanded by such selfish living has boomeranged to create dreadful waste. British MP Mary Creagh said, “We are sending 300,000 tonnes of clothes a year to incineration or landfill” (sic) (Liu 2). “According to the National Association of Charitable and Recycling Organizations, last year Australian charities paid $13 million a year to dispose of 60,000 tonnes of unusable donations” (sic) (Liu 2).

In response, new options have sprouted including Rent the Runway. For a set fee, one can rent a certain amount of clothing per month and thus be on the cutting edge of looks without overflowing the landfill. Efforts are also being made to recycle clothing. H&M, a company working towards global change, will pay 3c for every kilogram of returned clothing. “If this commitment was applied to the 6,000 kilograms of fast fashion dumped in Australian landfill every 10 minutes, it could add up to $180 every 10 minutes and $25,900 every 24 hours” (Liu 2). Liu argues that if nothing else, we should return clothes to the stores we bought them from and swamp our stores; piece by piece changing their buying policies.

The crisis alone is not only selfishness and waste, but child labor; a supporting pillar of fast fashion. When the US threatened to ban garments coming from Bangladesh, factory owners fired all children under 14, which forced them to find less profitable jobs and left one option for thousands of girls, prostitution.  Questions become volatile. Which is the worser of the two evils? In Bolivia, child labor has been legalized because poverty is the worser demon.

According to the National Labor Committee, “contractors making clothing for Wal-Mart pay only 12 cents an hour in China, 20 cents an hour in Bangladesh, and 43 cents an hour in Honduras” (The Free Library 2). I beg you ask, “Are my spending habits supporting child labor?”

I propose, that instead of closeting a Pinterest-perfect wardrobe, as followers of Jesus Christ in a naked world, we don the pants and shirt that is in our drawer, and establish schools for the impoverished, making education a feasible and affordable option. What if the $13 million poured into landfills last year, burying unworn clothes, were distributed one dollar at a time; freeing the prostitutes in Asia, clothing the freezing in Russia, and giving literacy to the impoverished in Mexico. In conclusion, will we be guilty of tracking red footprints to the judgement seat in Old Navy boots while wiping blood off our Forever 21 shirts?

References:

Azevedo, Andrea. “The Impact of the 52 Micro-Seasons on the Environment.” Blog. 2018. 31 Oct 2020. https://medium.com/@andreaazevedo_32670/the-effects-of-the-52-micro-seasons-on-the-environment-edd87951b74f.

Liu, Mark. “Time to Make Fast Fashion a Problem For Its Makers, Not Charities.” Viewpoint Essay. 2020. online.

The Blood Behind Those Bargains. National Education Association of the United States: The Free Library, 1999. 31 Oct 2020 https://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+Blood+Behind+Those+Bargains.-a061995570.

 

Riding Waves

It’s rough. I gulp a breath

before they crash upon my head!

Ten toes touch sand, I push up, up, and out

to break above the swirl. I paddle for I

feel the current drag me back and out—

a rush for spaces wide and blue beyond,

away from tethered tide and timberline,

away from brownish boundaries of beach.

Then looking out I see another wave—

now gaining height, now curling tall, now cresting white.

I gasp for air and squish my eyes—

it crashes in a spray of salty brine.

I sputter, cough, then gag, and vomit lunch,

the salt, this brew, so playful, yet so swill.

Ten toes touch sand, I push up, up, and out.

The current rips from boundaries of the beach

Away from limitations of the shore.

A gulp of oxygen, a spray – more salt

To sand my face. The sun breaks

through, a fearsome blaze to warm this

watery child. Ten toes touch sand.

I push up, up, and out.

Sanctuary

Such habits of routine we tout;

We stir and stretch and wander out,

Then make the coffee, find our nook

And settle down to read the Book.

We pray God’s blood all sores assuage,

Then sketch our thoughts on secret page

While sipping slow and soft our drink

That nourishes like ancient ink.

And finally, when the sun has broke

The night’s last grasp on dawning folk

And vibrant crimson streaks the air,

We rise, content that God is there.

Clay

Cobalt and crisp she sat on the shelf

Pristine and painted and cold.

A vessel of value, of untarnished blue,

A vessel for eyes to behold.

Crack! The walls shook as the earth shifted plates,

The shelf tilted crazily south;

A blue brittle vessel felt gravity grip

And she tumbled headlong to the ground.

Smashed and crushed she lay on a heap

When the Potter shoved open the door,

He gathered the pieces and whistled a tune

Remembering a dream from before.

Next day found a Potter bent over His wheel;

His hands molding pieces of clay

Tears flowed down his beard and softened those shards

Oh, it proved to be Redemption Day.

Cheerful and charming she sits by the well

Smooth, yet porous deep down

A vessel lifegiving for watering, washing

Cracks zigzag up to her crown.

Chosen by One, The Humble Clay Potter—

He still hums a merry refrain—then

Dust wafts the air with wanderers astir.

Thirsty hearts drink and hope again.

Several of us are doing are doing a word prompt a day in July. “Clay” was yesterday’s prompt.

On Planting Perennials

When you begin your new perennial bed, find a wonderful neighbor like Lucy.

Step two. Wander around her yard and ask for a snippet of this and snappet of that. Of course, you have wandered around her yard before, oohing and aahing over greens and blooms and now finally it is your turn to try Russian sage, daisies, thyme, sedum, poppies, blue stars, a grass, and more.

Step three. Stuff roots and dirt and stems into grocery bags or black plastic pots—every garden shed has a stash of those in one spiderwebbed corner.

Step four. Transport via your one set of wheels that carries everything from the weed-eater to the bike to the kitchen chairs. If you are lucky enough to have a relative that lives on a farm, swing by their place and also transport home a bucket or two of rich black gold to enhance the orange clay in which you will be spading.

Step five. Borrow your neighbor’s spade and dig holes. Divvy out black gold accordingly.  

Step six. Empty trunk of assortment of sprigs and leaves and cuttings; arrange and plant to your hearts content.

Step seven. Water liberally. Weed as needed.

Observations: Occasional early morning chats with flowers boost one’s spirit, especially conversations with coffee cup in hand. If a sprig here or there perishes, just toss it. Perennials spread rapidly and fill small spaces quickly. It is wise to leave a few spots so that upon visiting another neighbor one can carry home peonies, chives, and lily of the valley, packing more happiness into another crevice. Or one may find wilted bulbs on the laundry room shelf or in a bucket in the shed. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize them or have no recollection as to where they came from. Plant them. They may turn out to be calla lilies as mine turned out to be. Surprise. The past years experience attests to plants from Lowe’s or other nursery’s costing a lot more and dying quicker than ones from the neighbor; possibly their fine roots aren’t attuned to orange clay or black gold.

Opinions: The first year coddling them along and watching them grow is fun. The second year is more fun, watching green shoots poke brave heads out of cold soil when March winds are still howling.

Warning: Worms may destroy more delicate plants like roses, of which I have no advice on how to deal with such varmints. On the other hand, however, one may receive exquisite happiness from simple green fronds that burst into bloom. Thirdly, one may glean insights into the Master Gardener’s tender planting and pruning which he so lovingly carries out in each fleshy garden.

Conquered

The world tipped crazy that Friday night

When they captured the Teacher and

Bound him tight; with a straggling crew too weary

To pray, a disciple that betrayed him when caught

In the fray, alone and sinless, condemned to die.

The mob screamed “Blood!” in exchange for a thief

When the choice lay before them, they rebelled in

Disbelief that this Teacher was their Savior;

The Messiah, King of kings, so a sign was erected

To identify the Man in the middle, torn with grief.

The earth reeled violent; the veil split in two

When the Son of God fell silent, sacrificed

For me and you. Darkness mantled soldier, mother,

Night embraced each passerby, graveyards yielded

Saints long-sleeping, when the world’s Creator died.

The tomb sang “Empty!” that Sunday morn

When the women heavy-hearted ran with offerings

To out pour; not remembering Jesus’ teaching that

He’d rise and vanquish hell. Angels said, “Why

Do you seek the living Son among the dead?”

A Pandemic Virus

The world has gone mad, but

The finches still chirp at the feeder

So glad for a seed and some suet,

The sun shines today above cloudy

Gray skies, yet the fear and the tension

I sense in green eyes, on terse face

Makes mention of doubt. Have they no Father,

No God that is greater than pandemic

Viruses, rather self to trust. Have they

Not read in Psalm 46 the first verse that

The Lord stays the storm. He’s our refuge

And strength.

Be still and know.

Faith

It would be easier to wait till the story is written, till the final chapter is finished, till one knows. It is also nice to describe life from the mountain top; fantastic vistas, balmy breezes, blissful sunshine. But you know as well as I that a lot of life happens trundling through briary paths between stones and cacti or over blazing desert stretches; traversing winding mountain passes with frigid winds and fording swollen streams.

And so a question I’ve been pondering is, “What does it mean to worship in the dark?”

I haven’t got thunderous answers to my flood of questions. Only one still small assurance: “I am with you.” As these four words continue to settle in, they run like life-giving liquid deep deep down. A small assurance becomes a guiding star.

You see the preacher said Sunday that faith is not a leap in the dark but a walk in the light. Another quote I read recently said, ‘Patience with family is love. Patience with others is respect. Patience with self is confidence and patience with God is faith.’

Anchor Points

Anchor points—those specks of light that guide a ship into harbor, that’s what I’m thinking of. Even though your vision is 2020 at present and the new year spans before you like a perfect June morning, the storms will roll in. The tsunamis will hit. We haven’t passed through those pearly gates yet although some days we live like it.  Have you staked your anchor points? You may need them.

Job was anchored. In the utter fog of millionaire-becoming-childless-and-moneyless he declared, I know that my Redeemer lives and that he will stand in the latter day upon the earth. (19:25) Job also declared, He knows the way I take. When He has tried me, I will come forth as gold. (23:10)

Last fall a tsunami swept my craft out to sea, dumped it upside down, tossed it like a toothpick. On a breezy Saturday afternoon out stringing things on my wash line I contemplated my options: sink or swim. It became clear to me that letting go of the lifejacket and sinking was an option. I was drowning. I had a choice to make.

As the storm continued, I bobbed. Other days I swam. When my head burst through the waves and I gasped for air, I set my sight on a few glimmers along the shoreline of that inky night. One light gleamed from Isaiah 43:2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. Verse four paraphrased says, Because you are precious in my sight, I love you. I think God in his kindness empowers our feeble efforts. I kept swimming.

Psalm 121 was another anchor point. A beam of mercy. He will not allow your foot to be moved. When all you have energy for is to cry and sleep remember, He who keeps you doesn’t slumber. He will preserve you from all evil (depression).

There were also days when I said, ‘I can’t swim.’ Those were the days the Almighty carried me through. Ps. 51:17 A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. He only said one thing in all the darkness, “Come to me and rest.” I understand the temptation to want to throw up ones’ hands and slide silently down through a black hole into an abyss and sleep forever. That would be the option of least resistance.

Another anchor point came from Ps. 46. I paraphrase, God is with us. Be still and know! God is sovereign. He saw the tsunami sweeping in. It didn’t take Him by surprise. Be still and believe.

What are your anchor points? I would love to hear from you.

Advent

Oh shame, to raise your face and

say ‘Yes, Lord’ to will so wild, for one

would never dream of such

unwanted fate, be found with child, unwed,

betrothed, sure of your lover’s word. Now plans

lie shattered, scattered ‘neath a racing heart, a trembling lip; perhaps a

tear slipped silently as you surrendered.

Yet utter peace enfolds your gentle ‘yes’ and with that word

The Holy Spirit quickens, gives

new life and Comfort that defies the human mind; a

confidence despite the neighbor’s wandering eyes, that all is well

when answering to the Father’s will.