Citizens of Hope: The World Refashioned
By Yasmin Jones-Henry
The world is losing sight of hope. Whatever corner of the planet you choose to call home, everywhere you turn, on every news channel, in every newspaper you will read stories of heartbreak, desolation and death. I grew up in London during the mid 2000’s when knife crime and gang violence were such that it left most of us fearful every time we ventured outside, waited at a bus stop, boarded a train or wandered into a postcode that was not our area. I was heartbroken to see that having fled the capital aged 18 to attend university far away from home, I had returned to find the state of my hometown in a far worse condition than when I left.
With the added threat of terrorism, the challenges of economic uncertainty and the fragility of global peace – the government loses efficiency with the ever mounting battles it has to fight. Hate crimes have risen. Violent crimes are on the rise. Homelessness is also on the rise. It is impossible to walk anywhere in central London and not see some poor soul stooped in a doorway. The literal action of having step over the homeless sat on the steps of London Bridge station on my way into work at the Financial Times every morning, where I would then analyse global banks and the general wealth circulating the planet was a deeply disturbing experience. It forced me to ask – why? Why does a city that has so much wealth, contain such poverty.
Why do we wait for the government to solve our social problems? Surely their priority is to maintain law and order. Surely – if we the people care – that should be sufficient. London is one of the wealthiest cities on the planet. Despite Brexit and multiple political meltdowns, London remains the financial capital of the world. So with so much wealth in our city, why do we not do more? Wherever hope has been abandoned, throughout history we have seen a correlation between hopelessness, crime, exploitation and suffering.
As more young lives are lost – it is clear that not all victims of crime are gang members or criminals. Mental health has had some positive PR in the media recently, but with suicide rates on the rise, the loss of hope is the epidemic that poses the biggest threat to human life. Our society is under siege. Dark forces are at work. I simply wish to ask, who is ready to stand up and safeguard our freedoms? Who is willing to be an ambassador for hope?
#Wedress, #Wework, #Wewin
I built @WorkinFashion.me to talk about hope. As some of you will know, I came up with the idea and the name for ‘WorkinFashion’ while sitting in the canteen on 6th floor of the Financial Times during a lunch break. I was at a crossroads in my life, where for the first time in over 3 years, I was beginning to see daylight. A lengthy battle with depression, anorexia and bulimia meant that the first four years of my twenties had been an uphill struggle and were the ultimate test of endurance. The feeling of overwhelming gratitude that consumed me, as I looked out of the window at London’s haphazard skyline, brought me close to tears. For the first time in a long time, I began to hope for the future. I began to believe in my future. I had genuinely forgotten until that moment, what hope actually felt like.
You see, when you have been locked in a prison, be it physical, psychological or spiritual, for an extended period of time, the first moments that you taste freedom, are the sweetest moments in life. You get to see and feel the raw beauty that is in life before it turns grey with the monotony of stress, work and worry. Now that I had found it, I refused to let it go. My mission is not only to savour it, but to find multiple ways to bottle it and share that hope with as many people as I can.
My parents taught me as a child that, ‘those who know better – must do better.’ Aged 25, I can now testify that I understand what they mean. The internet has bred a colony of trolls and armchair critics who have mistaken posting a comment – with activism. To genuinely effect change, we have to actually ‘do’ something about it. Complaining about crime rates won’t change the statistics. Healing the wounds in our society using our humanity is the only cure.
What I am talking about is divorced entirely from politics. It transcends political divides. Kindness, decency and fairness can never be monopolised by a political party, no matter what they put in their party manifesto. The only people that can effect real and genuine change in any community – is the community itself. The subtitle: ‘#Wedress, #Wework, #Wewin’ speaks of a collective assembled and mobilised, actively seeking to improve their world and succeeding in their quest for success not only in their own lives but in the lives of their peers.
BuildYourBrand : CreateYourLegacy
Whenever I talk about ‘fashion’, I always revert to the word in its Latin form. ‘Facere’, when translated means ‘to do or to make’. From it we have words such as ‘manufacture’, ‘factor’, ‘facility’ and ‘facilitate’ all addressing the underlying principle that resides at the heart of creative power. Hope inspires creativity and creative power produces hope. The endless possibility that creative power combined with faith and imagination secures is worth celebrating.
No matter how dire your circumstance, the knowledge that in some way, somehow, you posses the power to create a solution is where hope begins and never ends. The principle that you may not always control your ‘circle’ but you can always control your ‘stance’ was a lesson my father taught me aged 14 during his many lectures on the journey home from school. When dealing with circumstance, the power, he explained, ultimately rests with you. Irrespective of what goes on around you or what others think or others do, you must always retain control of your thoughts and your attitude. Attitudes shape a person’s outlook – the perspective they choose to adopt can change everything. What was a problem becomes an opportunity. What was once deemed as failure becomes valuable life knowledge. It’s all about Perspective. Hope and perspective live side by side.
@WorkinFashion.me was not simply built to change the way people perceive fashion, but to change the way they perceive themselves, their own personal abilities and what they think they are able to achieve. We all have our own unique narrative. As a millennial, I can testify that we live in a society where we have been conditioned to abandon independent thought while looking at ourselves, measuring ourselves and moulding ourselves through the prism of public opinion. Whether it’s likes on Instagram, comments on Facebook or retweets on Twitter – an entire generation has been deceived into seeking validation outside of themselves. They have become actors on someone else’s stage, reciting lines from someone else’s script: a tragedy for the modern age.
Functionality & The Aesthestic
I am a genuine lover of art and all things involving the aesthetic, so I believe that human life itself is a work of art and a thing of beauty. It is up to us to decide what compositions we will create. This is what excites me. This is what gives me hope. The realisation that in some way we have a duty to leave behind some beauty in this world, is an invitation to believe in hope and to believe in your own creative power. You want to win at life? All confidence is borne out of hope. Faith is borne out of hope. Imagination is the brainchild of hope. Hope makes everything possible.
I have always maintained that fashion is also a form of self advertisement and self-expression. With this in mind, this website provides a service in its purpose in provoking the reader to reconsider, revise and reclaim control of their own compositions and their own style but also to be mindful of what values they wish to uphold. These are the elements that form the narrative in a person’s life. This is what creates a person’s legacy.
I am under no illusion. Hope saved my life. If it saved me, then I am certain that it will save others. I am a passionate advocate of ethical fashion and I have been since childhood. As the child of artistic parents, I have seen firsthand the suffering that occurs when a person’s labour and creativity have been exploited. For me, ethical fashion is about so much more than conversations about organic cotton. Ethical fashion represents the physical manifestation of a set of values that guarantees that people will not be exploited, that the workers’ lives are worth more than the cost of their labour. It reflects an ideology that facilitates and manufactures a world where everyone works and everybody wins.
But, in a world that is currently being ravaged by wars and self interest, having conversations about the aesthetic, and using fashion as a vehicle to promote ethical living, is not enough. I realise that I must respond in kind. To this end, I am launching an initiative called Citizens of Hope. It is more than a brand. It represents a collective of people that are not defined by anything other than their shared belief in the power of hope. Race, religion, class or creed – none of these have any bearing on a person’s citizenship. Hope is not a utopia. It is real and it is necessary. 2018 will see the official launch, but the discussion about hope begins here, and it begins now.
My name is Yasmin Jones-Henry and I am a Citizen of Hope.
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