Fast fashion, fast food and fast business: Sticking to your values in a fast world

September 5, 2023

Can you think back to a day where you had to hunt, forage and then prepare your dinner all on the same day?  Yeah, me neither.  We’re truly living in an age of convenience.  The things we used to have to work very hard for are now available at the tap of a button.  I’m guilty myself, I do most of my weekly groceries on an app that brings all the hunted, foraged and sometimes processed items right to my door.

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…But we all know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.  Where you used to be able to lean on your local, tight knit community for emotional support through hard times, you’ll now drop 2k on a celebrity coach that’ll have you better in just 4 masterclasses.  

Clothing that used to be tailored to you and truly taken care of to be able to preserve, are now worn for months and then thrown away with the vegetable scraps.

Food that used to be the result of your mum or aunties following grandma’s much loved recipe now comes individually wrapped up in planet destroying plastic that we throw out with those clothes and vegetable scraps.

Convenience has its pros and cons.  In this podcast episode, I’m not here to talk about reverting to a more natural lifestyle.  I’m actually here to discuss how we as the heads of brands that may be “fast businesses” can stick to the morals and principles that are important to us without getting carried away with “what everyone else does”, in the name of convenience.

Recently on social media, discussions were being had about Muslim owned modest fashionwear brands and their lack of ethics in the way they operate.  Many of them are running just like a typical fast fashion brand but with an extended hem on the shirts and dresses to appeal to Muslim consumers. (i.e. doing “what everyone else does” with cheaply sourced fabrics, sweatshop manufacturers  and no care for the environmental impact of their assembly line…).

The other side of the issue is that there are many Muslims that rely on affordable fashion choices to be able to clothe themselves and their families.  So, should we turn a blind eye to the harmful aspects in order to benefit the end customers?

Let’s reflect on one of the sayings of the prophet salallaahu alayhi wa sallam, reported by Anas ibn Malik that The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,

“None of you will have faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

Found in: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 13, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 45
The question of doing what we know is correct vs doing what’s always been done can be answered with this simple reflection.

Let me bring your attention to a brand that is doing this beautifully and has done for over a decade.

They are called SHUKR and they produce a wide range of modest fashionwear for men and women.  You’ve probably heard of them before, and even if you haven’t, SHUKR are very vocal about their brand values and how that guides their business practices.

On their website they have a page called “sweatshop free clothing” which lists their ethics and there is also an exclusive behind the scenes video that fully supports it.

SHUKR states that they are More Than Just Sweatshop Free Clothing.

“we see our workers as more than just cogs in a machine; they are beautiful human beings with feelings, hearts and souls. So we ensure that our employees are treated with dignity and work in superior working conditions where spiritual, as well as professional, growth is cultivated.”

I love this statement because not only does it tell us about what is important to them as a brand – it also clearly demonstrates how they realise this in their day to day business operations, and gives customers that feeling of security that through their own purchase, they are also supporting such noble ethics.

Back to the point about avoiding “what everyone else does” if it doesn’t align with your own values, which is a very important point to consider because as much as we can feel confident in who we are and our future aspirations, it is definitely easy to get sucked into another direction once you’re actively growing your brand.

On this, SHUKR also states on the same page,

“We believe that the beauty of women lies in the depth of their hearts and minds and that marketing shouldn’t exploit female physical beauty…. (skipping ahead) This was a conscious decision we took over 15 years ago  and we have stuck to our principles ever since, despite the commercial pressures to compromise.”

That last sentence says it all, and this is the purpose behind today’s episode.  There is a lot of pressure to grow at any expense, to market at any expense and to do your business at any expense.  

So, sticking to your values in a fast paced world.

It is absolutely do-able, and it requires us to take the time to define our ethics before we get into our business practices, and sometimes it may need you to pause, reflect and tweak your activities to align with what you get clearer on as you go along, because we are in a time where, like I mentioned earlier, we are more and more easily influenced against our ethics.

It is absolutely possible to run a successful business with a people-before-profits approach.  As a brand, you need to be clear on who you are, and what your ethics and values are.. And communicate these clearly to your audience.  But it’s not just the communication, its about living those values through your practices.

As Muslims, we know that every good deed will be recompensed, so never fear that, by striving to stick to the good way, you’d be slowing down or stopping yourself from succeeding.  Because, everything is in the hands of Allaah after all.

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode on sticking to our values in a fast paced world.  One question for you, what’s one thing that you’d love to change about your industry?  Leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond, in shaa Allaah.

Written by Ruqayyah
Ruqayyah is a brand strategist & digital marketer that has been growing brands since 2011. She is also a dedicated mama, baker, speaker, writer and event host that loves to educate & bring people together for the greater good.

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