Who are you wearing?
Have you ever watched ‘Live from the Red Carpet’? If not, I’ll quickly fill you in. At any major awards event such as The Oscars or The Grammys, there will be loads of journalists lined up along the red carpet, patiently waiting to ask one important question to the celebrities – ‘Who are you wearing?’.
Brands capitalise on this opportunity to use famous people, because you are almost guaranteed for a sell-out item if someone popular is seen wearing your design. Recently, there has been shift away from high-end brands to high-street stores, shown through celebrities choosing to endorse them (Beyonce for Topshop, Rihanna for River Island). The high street is great for consumers as it allows them to change their image constantly, and the latest styles ultimately impact upon their identity.
Beyonce’s Ivy Park [i] collection in Topshop recently caused a stir when it was released – it was a sell out!! However, an article was released shortly afterwards, claiming that it is “reportedly made by Sri Lankan factory workers earning just £4.30 a day… less than half the average Sri Lankan wage” [ii]. The most expensive item Beyonce has to offer is £160, so why are the workers earning so little?! This raises some serious questions about our response as Christians. Should we be buying clothing like this and supporting it, what does the Bible say, and should we become involved?
I will look at Stephen Bevans countercultural model in order to reach an appropriate response. Bevans (1992:117) states that the countercultural model “takes context (experience, culture, social location, and social change) with utmost seriousness. If the gospel is to truly take root within a people’s context, it needs to challenge and purify that context”.
When applying this model to the Fashion Retail Industry, Christians must be willing to not abandon the industry but seek for ways in which to transform it from within – possibly by working with companies to improve working conditions and pay in all aspects of the brand. If this is done correctly, it will allow for the gospel to change the context. It could be said that this industry has nothing to do with the gospel; rather the industry appears to be about exploitation and money making. However, the gospel has the ability to challenge any culture through its ‘liberation and healing power’ (Bevans, 1992:118). Newbigin (1989:141) highlights that the gospel must use the language of the culture it is trying to transform and use the tools the culture provides. In order for the gospel to effectively use the language of the fashion retail industry, Christians must be prepared to interact with the industry at all levels, using biblical principles as a basis for decision making. Newbigin (1989:142) continues stating: ‘But of course the truth is that every communication of the gospel is already conditioned’, making it easier for the Christian to respond to this industry.
We have the tools, let’s use them. Next month I will explore this in more depth.
Former student president
Bevans SB, 1992, Models of Contextual Theology, New York: Orbis
Newbigin L, 1989, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans