IN THE MIDST OF A FASHION CRISIS
Last May 29, 2015, a new fashion documentary entitled “The True Cost” directed by Andrew Morgan became available for viewers around the world. The documentary goes behind the glitz and glamour of fashion runways and focuses on the effects of cheaply manufactured clothing in developing countries. CNN called the film “a sweeping, heartbreaking, and damning survey of the clothing economy” while the New York Times said that it is “affecting and upsetting, and will probably make some consumers think twice about where they buy clothes.”
Many people who will watch “The True Cost” will be quite upset – the visuals from the trailer alone are heartbreaking! But the documentary does more to the heart and mind than make an individual question where she or he should buy clothes. Its release is a few weeks after the second year anniversary of the collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh – considered to be the deadliest garment factory accident to date – and the recent fire that broke out in a slipper factory in Valenzuela, Philippines that killed seventy-two factory workers. The film, along with recent real-life “fashion disasters”, brings to mind questions about our labor laws, safety and health regulations in the workplace, and the feeling of helplessness.
As much as “The True Cost” captures emotions, some critics commented that it failed to provide viewers with a definite solution to solve the problem. The documentary leaves it up to the viewer to decide what action to take next. How do we respond to complex issues that extend to several continents, and involve a vast amount of money and a great number of people? We may decide to join a movement that pushes for a better industry. Or perhaps partner with entrepreneurs who believe in transparency. Or maybe work hand-in-hand with manufacturers.
In approaching matters that deeply affect us, we can take our cue from men and women of faith in the Bible who were constantly faced with conflict, disputes, and danger that usually concerned entire nations. Nehemiah, for example, was one of the individuals who let God guide his venture, and trusted Him for equipping.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes, the king of Persia (Neh. 1:11). Upon learning that Jerusalem’s wall was broken down and its gates were burned, he felt so heavily burdened that he wept and mourned (1:4). Each step he took toward rebuilding the city wall was accompanied with prayer – from the time he got the courage to ask the king for permission to rebuild the wall (2:4), and throughout the rebuilding process when he was faced with opposition, ridicule (4:4-5) and fear (6:9). His approach (a healthy combination of trust in the Lord, and first-rate organization and leadership skills) led toward finishing the wall in 52 days, and emphasized God’s presence even to Israel’s now-frightened enemies (6:15-16).
Prayer allows us to talk to God – the same God who provided the way and means for Nehemiah and the people of Israel to accomplish what looked like a totally hopeless task. Though we may not all have the skill set and unique abilities of Nehemiah, it should not dissuade us from keeping in touch with God. We too are encouraged to communicate with Him at any time and in any circumstance (1 Thess. 5:16-18). It ought to ease our mind knowing that when we pray, we entrust all things that deeply concern us under His care and control (Phil. 4:6-7).
The fashion industry is clearly not perfect – just like most workplaces and systems around the world. Despite the doubts that spring up once in a while, I believe that something good has come out from these fashion-related tragedies – particularly the realization that there are grave issues which should be taken more seriously, and everyone involved in the vicious cycle of mass produced clothes (consumers, included) need as much prayers as any other disaster victim. Should we stop praying or turn a blind eye to these injustices because “it’s just fashion”?
Writer’s Bio: Carissa Villanueva works in a start-up company that sells quality leather sneakers. God is her boss. Her blog, hellocarissav.wordpress.com, displays photos and stories about her most recent experiences around the Philippines and in different parts of the world.