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Clothed with compassion

Tuesday 30th December

Becky Campbell

"Mary said..."

Luke 1:46

The bold opening proclamation from Mary’s song, or Magnificat.

Her reverent response to the angel-delivered prophecy: God’s divine plan for the world would blossom within her. A vulnerable baby. A teenage mother.

Reading Luke’s advent account, the singular meek and mild Mary archetype is turned on its head. Instead, a courageous young woman displays unswerving faith and active acceptance of the unknown to come.

Mary’s song illustrates a woman who understood her role in history, in the unfolding of God’s kingdom on earth as prophesied in scripture:

“He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors…” Luke 54-55

Mary continues, declaring uninhibited that God has chosen to side not with the powerful, but the humble; with the poor and marginalised. Not with the mighty and proud, but with her - a teenager. The whole advent story is one of women who change the course of human history as they choose God’s path of justice and love.

“He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

and exalted those of humble estate;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.” Luke 51-53

With this in mind, and with Mary’s “My soul magnifies the Lord” proclamation echoing, I want to explore ways in which God’s love, hope and peace might be magnified in one of the most powerful sectors driving injustice today - the fashion industry.

Fast Fashion - a culture of disposability for people, environment and apparel

During the March 2020 lockdown, I had a baby and in nap times worked on starting a sustainable clothing business for women and children. Through a lengthy process of research and development, my eyes were opened wide to the stark realities of the fashion and textiles industries - the devastation to the environment and the heartbreaking exploitation to those employed as garment workers.

Around the world, primarily in the global south, the people who make UK high street clothing live in poverty. No living wage, no option to negotiate working conditions. It is estimated that 98% of workers in the fashion industry are likely being held in systemic poverty and cannot meet their basic needs (source: The True Cost). 75% of these workers are young women aged 18-24. In fact, the garment industry is the second most predominant sector driving modern slavery.

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord”

The fast fashion machine feeds off of a consumption rate that continues to gain pace unsustainably, relying on a ‘throwaway’ culture. Amazingly, fashion brands are now producing almost twice the amount of clothing today compared with before the year 2000.

The good news is that we as consumers have access to a huge variety of ethical, sustainable, beautiful and fairly-priced brands for fashion. With a little research we can vote with our money to magnify brands engaged in fair collaborations with garment workers and producers, and who make long-term choices for the environment.

With each and every purchase, we have the chance to clothe ourselves in compassion and side with the marginalised and those forced into poverty.

Resources for a slow fashion lifestyle

With this is mind, I wanted to share some of the resources and companies that are helping me rethink my approach to clothing. I hope you find inspiration here and enjoy discovering some beautiful brands or creative alternatives to buying new this advent.

  • The True Cost by Untold Films - eye-opening documentary on the impact of fashion on people and planet

  • Ethical consumer - a list of ethical brands and high street fashion brand ratings

  • 20 ideas for alternatives to buying new clothing - Guardian article by Lauren Bravo, author of How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

  • Good on You - ethical shopping app and leading source for fashion brand ratings

  • Slave to Fashion - a powerful book by Safia Minney, ethical fashion pioneer and founder of women’s clothing brand People Tree. This book is compiled of interviews with the men, women and children caught up in slavery, and illustrates how it can be eradicated by business and consumers.

  • Fashion Revolution - global slow-fashion movement catalysed by the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013.

Becky Campbell lives in Edinburgh and is the owner/maker at Aurora - a handmade clothing company creating organic and sustainable clothing primarily for children, with fabrics that celebrate the Scottish wilderness. Read more about Aurora and the underpinning values here.

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