I don’t know about you, but Fairtrade clothes shopping is something I put off thinking about for a really long time. I came to Glasgow from a place where charity shops were terrible, and having `cool` clothes was actually quite important. (I cringe – so much Jack Wills!) Fitting in was really important, so even though I knew my clothes were made in a sweatshop, I just kept on buying them. And then I would buy new ones when the fashions changed two weeks later. The way I shopped felt so distant from my faith. And finding out the ethical policies of shops involved so much research and would probably mean I couldn’t buy the nice trainers I wanted. And at least a sweatshop job is a job, right? I was asked the question, “would you prefer a pair of really good jeans, or to buy a goat for a family who really, really need it?” Of course I said I’d buy a goat, only to realise that my life displayed different priorities. And my jeans actually perpetrated exploitative working standards. Thus, my problems with shopping were twofold: I was too lazy to pray through and implement a kingdom-focused attitude to money, and I searched for approval and identity through what I wore.
Yet, God wasn’t satisfied with this! My life became populated with people living differently. I remember going shopping for a dress to wear for a wedding and being amazed when my friend somehow found hers in the Salvation Army shop on Dumbarton Road. She looked beautiful in the dress, but most attractive was the fact that she wanted to bring God’s kingdom in the way she shopped for clothes. I started to realise that following God meant giving every single part of my life to him – including my worries about what I wear, and which businesses I support with my money. Capitalism isn’t going to satisfy. I started reading through the gospels and kept being struck by Matthew 6, where it’s pretty clear about not worrying about clothes, and Luke 16:13’s famous statement:`You cannot serve both God and money’. I wish I could say that this was it, and I had a sudden and dramatic revelation of how to use my money for God, and got my identity solely from the cross. But in reality, like everything, it’s a process that I am still figuring out and letting God into. I buy fewer clothes in general and try to hold them lightly. God told me to give my coat away the other day which was less painful that I thought it would be. Now, much more than I did, I know that I’m His and that is it – battle won! The rest is white noise. But, I still buy my jeans from ASOS because they’re the only ones that fit. And I don’t think you could buy second hand underwear. And researching ethical policies is still my least favourite thing, even though I do do it.
So, my attitude to myself, money and the working conditions of my fellow humans who make my clothes is radically different to what it was. I am not there yet, but I want to be a part of God’s mad, counter cultural, far-reaching plan for freedom in this world.
Words: Lydia Fried