Black Friday sales have already begun and it’s hard to resist the hype of hyper-discounting, but there’s a rising Alternative Black Friday movement.
While most of us are savvy to know that prices aren’t always as low as they seem, we’re not necessarily clued up on the true cost of these sales on the environment and people across the world.
The buzz of the unmissable bargain makes us swear this top will never be one of those worn only once before becoming one of the 10,000 items of clothes thrown to landfill every five minutes. And those trainers will be essential come January’s new fitness regime…
This all-too-familiar story is one of the reasons a Black Friday counter-culture taking shape, with cool, conscious fashion brands at the helm.
“Black Friday promotes hyperconsumption and discounting promotes over-production and waste,” says Kresse Wesling MBE, co-founder of Elvis & Kresse, who recycle fire hose pipes into accessories at their Kent based workshop.
“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,” she explains.
While some brands make headlines by donating all of their Black Friday profits to charity, Elvis & Kresse quietly donate 50 per cent of annual profits to charity – fostering a business built on a positive culture 365 days a year.
The likes of clothing brands Gung Ho, Vildnis and RiLEY are also making a stand by taking a stand at LDC’s brazenly named “Anti Black Friday” pop-up shop in Leicester Square. It’s already proving to be popular with shoppers and is open until Monday 26 November.
“If products were priced fairly and transparently in the first place we wouldn’t need to create an environment where consumers wait for discounts,” says Laura from gender-neutral brand RiLEY.
Black Friday’s heavy discounts are only possible because of the damaging fast-fashion cycle. A cycle that has contributed to six of the world’s top 20 richest people on Forbes’ list of billionaires being in retail while 75 million workers – mainly female – basically live in poverty.
Getting this message across is important so increasingly aware consumers know how to stand in solidarity with this exploited workforce – by resisting buying things we don’t really need just because they are on sale.
Designer and founder of Gung-Ho Sophie Dunster says: “By buying from brands during Black Friday you let them know that they will sell more in a fast fashion environment and they won’t make the change to be more ethical or sustainable – why would they when they make more money?”
Three years ago renowned knitwear 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 has been their policy ever since.
Ethical fashion store Know the Origin, which is currently popping up in Brighton, views Black Friday as an opportunity to share the stories of the positive impact their brand has on the people who make their clothes rather than discounting their stock.
Founder Charlotte Instone asks: “While we get incredible deals and brands are still making huge profit margins on Black Friday, who’s really paying the price?”
If you really can’t resist a sale, though, there are ethical brands who 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 are offering 30 per cent 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.
Ayten Gasson, based in Brighton, have created limited edition knickers from their excess materials, which is in-keeping with their commitment to sustainability while enabling new customers to be introduced to their luxury lingerie brand.
Po-Zu are championing an Alternative Black Friday by reducing their shoes by a mammoth 40 per cent until the end of November – so people have time to make more considered decisions rather than panic buy.
Kate Osbourne, Po-Zu’s PR and marketing manager says it wasn’t an easy decision, but they felt they needed to try to level the playing field.
“We want our customers to recognise the power they have to halt the damage fast fashion is doing to our planet today, simply by supporting ethical brands or buying locally – or even buying nothing at all,” says Osbourne.