Black Friday ethics: to buy or not to buy?

Black Friday Ethics: Vildnis

Black Friday looms: time to slog it out on the high street and online, fingers itching to spend, spend, spend. We all say we’re buying gifts for friends and family, but we all know it’s also an excuse to buy stuff for ourselves. And who can blame us, it’s almost Christmas, right?

But, before you excitedly splash a load of cash on a 65″ TV or a pair of five-inch heels in hot pink with black-and-white stripes you’ll never wear (yes, that’s a real example), take a moment to consider Black Friday ethics.

Is it really a chance to save (you have to speculate to accumulate) hard-earned dosh? Or is it just a weekend of buying things in the whirl of the high, before the crashing low?

Most of us are savvy enough to know that prices aren’t always as low as they appear. In fact, Which? found that  87% of products were the same price or cheaper than their Black Friday price at other sale times in the year.

But, most people get caught up in this bizarrely addictive weekend without realising the true cost of these sales on the environment, people and small businesses across the world.

So what’s the deal, then? Pun completely intended.

Here’s everything you need to know about Black Friday ethics and the conscious fashion brands who are going against the grain. Plus, details of a couple of Black Friday Rebellion pop-ups.

Black Friday ethics: what’s the problem? 

Black Friday’s heavy discounts are only possible because of the damaging consumer culture and fast-fashion cycles. A cycle that has contributed to six of the world’s top 20 richest people on Forbes’ list of billionaires being in retail while around 75 million workers – mainly female – barely earn a living wage.

It massively impacts small businesses. Ethical businesses, who pay their works fairly across the supply chain, don’t operate with the same margins, and just can’t compete.

Fashion Revolution are calling for citizens take a stand for Black Friday ethics and against mindless consumption. They are also asking retailers not to discount between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

They explain: “Black Friday represents a sore spot in an industry that runs on overproduction. When we buy into the seemingly good deals, we send a message to brands that it’s okay for them to thoughtlessly produce, at the cost of people and the planet, because we’ll help them get rid of their stockpiles as long as they are discounted steeply.”


Birdsong Anti Black Friday
Birdsong made a point of not discounting on Black Friday for five years. Their customers loved that they made a stand and supported their decision by buying anyway. This year they’re launching an education campaign.

The ethical brands rebelling against Black Friday 

This year, sustainable brands Vildnis and Gung-Ho are joining LDC’s Anti Black Friday concept store on 130 Shoreditch High Street.

Vildnis founder Ulla Vitting Richards says: “Instead of encouraging overconsumption and driving prices down to unhealthy levels, we believe that the best way forward to fight climate change and inequality is realistic prices and responsible consumption levels year round.”

All profits on sales through their website during the Black Friday weekend are donated to Friends of the Earth.

Founder of The Natural Edition, Nicky Roughan says: “Black Friday has become one of the biggest sales periods for brands and these discounts are being factored in pricing. We don’t price excessively the rest of the year so we can reduce for Black Friday. Our designs are seasonless and built to last, and our lower mark up means better value all year round.”

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This is a policy that Elvis & Kresse, who recycle fire hose pipes into accessories, also stand by.

“Black Friday promotes hyperconsumption and discounting promotes over-production and waste,” says Kresse Wesling MBE.

“We don’t do seasons and we make everything in limited runs, so we don’t ever discount. We are already selling these items at the best prices we can.”

They donate 50 per cent of annual profits to charity – fostering a business built on a positive culture 365 days a year.

Instead of offering discounts, Ethical Market are donating the days profits from Black Friday shoppers to the Starlight Children’s Foundation, who are brightening the lives of seriously and terminally ill children.

And this year sustainable fashion brand mi apparel is part of a Virtual High Street event hosted on the Ethical Hour Facebook page. Each day of the week in the run up to Black Friday, there will be a livestream, with independent ethical brands telling their stories and showcasing their products.

Black Friday ethics: is there such a thing? 

A few ethical brands are using Black Friday as a way make sustainable fashion more accessible to cash-strapped buyers who want to use their purchasing power for good.

Pioneering ethical fashion brand People Tree, for example, are offering 30% off everything. They make it clear this does not negatively impact their producers, factory workers, artisans or farmers as they build this into their model and place orders months in advance.

The sales allow People Tree to generate extra revenue, which means they can make advance payments so their producers have access the working capital they need to buy materials and pay their workers before clothes are shipped.

Five years ago ethical fashion brand Birdsong sent an email to their customers saying: “We’re sorry. We’re not slashing our prices. But you can be sure we’ll always pay a living wage to the women who make our clothes,” and it was so well-received it remained their policy – until now.

This year, they are launching an education campaign about the true cost of a garment, to break through the noise. They are giving customers an optional discount and also the choice to donate more.

Happy guilt-free shopping!



“To revolutionise the way we feel about the fashion industry; and the clothes we already own and choose to wear. Generating thought-provoking imaginative anti-fast-fashion creations.”

Where: Night Tales, 14 Bohemia Place, London, E8 1DU
When: Saturday 30 November, 11am – 6pm
Who: WhiP boutique hairdressers, barbers and music lounge; Fashion label West Carolina; Craft centre/haberdashery Make Town
Tickets: £6 (children) £10 (adults), buy here

What: Take an “old” item – t-shirt, jeans, bag shoes, pretty much anything – and VAMP IT into a shiny new masterpiece. This immersive up-cycling event will help you rework old clothes to new creations. It also offers design and craft workshops. Plus, there will be a full programme of music, art and fashion performances. All accompanied by cocktails and food.

All proceeds are donated to homeless charity, Crisis.

Main image: Vildnis

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