How to Do Black Friday (ethically) from 9 Ethical Fashion Experts
update: the Ethical Fashion Retailer’s Network and many of these ethical shops have closed or closed their retail offerings - including Bead & Reel - since this original posting, however I hope you still find these thoughts helpful and will continue to support small ethical businesses in hopes that more will remain open.
Black Friday is tricky subject for those of us in the conscious fashion space. Realistically, in order to sustain our businesses we have to sell products, and of course we want to delight our customer with deals, but we also are built on honoring ethical and sustainable manufacturing and committed to promoting slow fashion as the antidote to over-consumption. So, how do we balance all of this?
As part of the Ethical Fashion Retailer's Network, we have discussed this at great length and have varying solutions and ideas of how to stick to our values while also being a retailer. We ask our members, Do you shop ethically on black Friday, and if so, how?
Founder of Bead & Reel
“I started working in retail at a young age and so Black Friday has always had negative connotations for me of early mornings, long days, missed family opportunities, and panicked customers. I have avoided shopping on Black Friday ever since. However, this year I am actually very excited about Black Friday since Bead & Reel will be partnering with MadeFAIR for our first #ethicalblackfriday initiative, a statement about exploitation in fashion and an opportunity to offer a different way to participate in the day.
As for me, I will be spending Black Friday offline and away from malls to celebrate the true meaning of November 25th: my mom’s birthday!”
Founder of IMBY
“Black Friday tends to bring out my formally-shopaholic tendencies, so I avoid shopping altogether. It’s hard to be mindful when you are inundated with deals! I shop ethically every day (and have for 3 years!) and Black Friday is no different. Instead, I focus on how I want to support local businesses on the following day, Small Business Saturday. I remind myself of how having a minimal, capsule wardrobe saves me time and stress, and allows me to focus on adding pieces that I truly love, not just a great deal, to my wardrobe. Those pieces are always more fun to wear anyway.”
Founder of Noble Native
“I try to avoid Black Friday, in favor for Cyber Monday. It’s “biggly” difficult to stick to my sustainability goals in the face of sales, so it’s really helpful when items emphasize where they are made or who made them, to snap me back to reality.”
Founder of Ash & Rose
"I totally understand the ethical consumer’s resistance to the concept of Black Friday. In the conscious community, we embrace the idea of paying a higher price in exchange for better quality, fair labor practices, and environmental stewardship. We all know that Big Box stores are artificially inflating prices leading up to Black Friday, so that their "markdowns" can bring in the most profitable day of the year.
That said, I still think there is a place for bargain hunting in the ethical retail space. No designer or retail buyer is perfect, and not every product is going to sell through at full price. This is especially true with small fashion startups. Most ethical businesses have some discontinued items that they genuinely need to move, and they slash prices (often at a financial loss) in order to keep business rolling and make improvements for next season. Black Friday can be a wonderful opportunity to support an ethical business by relieving them of excess inventory - a natural and important part of doing business. It's also a great time for people who have resisted ethical shopping for budget reasons to jump in and give it a try!"
Founder of Hazel & Rose
“When it comes to Black Friday, or any holiday shopping, the same buying rules apply for me: items must be ethically made and I must be thoughtful about my purchases. I don’t let myself get caught up in the hype or the sale. If it’s not ethically made and I don’t absolutely LOVE it, I don’t buy it, period. Part of the beauty of buying fewer and better items means I don’t need a bargain because there’s no goal to maximize the number of ‘things’.
“That said, I come from a mass retail background where part of my job was shopping and understanding the insanity that is Black Friday, so now that that’s behind me, I very much look forward to NOT shopping on Black Friday and instead relaxing with my family.”
Co-Founder of Ethica
“I understand why the naked consumerism on display on Black Friday can be a turnoff for anyone who prefers a more mindful approach to shopping. On the other hand, I think as long as you take an intentional approach to your Black Friday shopping and apply the same standards that you normally would, it can be an opportunity to save on expensive items. I’m having a baby soon, which means I have a fairly long list of things that I need to buy, several of which are big-ticket items. For anything that I will not be buying secondhand, I intend to do most of my shopping on Black Friday weekend. I’ve put thought and research into my shopping list, and I’ll be supporting sustainable and independent brands, so I think I’ll still be able to feel good about my purchases. Though if you would, cross your fingers that no one elbows me in the stomach on the way to a deal!”
Co-Founder of MadeFAIR
“As a business, I don’t participate in anything that I, as a consumer, would find harmful or manipulative. Black Friday is every marketing manipulation tactic (scarcity, urgency, upselling) compounded into a single day. So, I keep an ear out for brands like Everlane that use the buzz around Black Friday to do some good. Last year, we did a Black Fridaycampaign and found 100 like-minded people. This year, we’re doing it again (with a bit more planning), along with Bead & Reel. Besides, I’m a holiday shopping procrastinator who, like most people, waits to buy gifts until the 10 days before Christmas. It helps me avoid impulse buying and buyer’s remorse because I put thought into gifts for my sister and brother, rather than buying whatever is on sale and hoping they’ll use it.”
Founder of Good Cloth
"No, I don't shop on Black Friday (or at least not outside of what I would purchase on a typical Friday), but I do participate in my own way. When I do mental word association with the term Black Friday, I think excess and quantity over quality, which is basically like the rest of the year, except on steroids. At the same time, I realize that it's an excellent opportunity to reach shoppers—both frequent shoppers and once-a-year shoppers heading into stores (and online)—to find a good deal. I take the day to share with consumers that they can actually make a difference in the fashion industry; in fact, they drive the industry. If consumers begin to demand ethical-sourcing and transparency by shopping where that is provided, brands will listen—even if they don't care about sustainability. The shopper's dollar is his/her vote and that starts to add up and push the pendulum in the fashion industry as a whole toward fair rights for laborers, ethical sourcing and transparency. My Black Friday is spent talking with shoppers about ethical fashion and what we are doing to make the fashion industry a better place for shoppers, the planet, and workers—often women artisans from marginalized populations, and women entrepreneurs (many of us pioneering the sustainable fashion world are women). Ethical fashion is about aesthetic, quality and equality."
Founder of Bhoomki
"As an ethical fashion retailer and a businesswoman, I regularly find myself in the peculiar place of encouraging my customers to buy less. I tell them, “buy what you love, buy what you need, but buy less.” I truly believe that less is more, and this belief opposes the reckless consumerism represented by Black Friday. In recent years, we’ve seen “big box” retailers cut their employees’ time with their families short, beckoning them to work so they can start Black Friday sales earlier and earlier, often on Thanksgiving Day itself. We’ve seen stampedes of customer mobs breaking down the barricades of store entrances, injuring and fighting with fellow shoppers, suffocating-to-death workers for a deeply discounted coveted widescreen television. Is it really worth it? Black Friday represents American consumerism at its worst. We abandon any good feelings of gratitude shared at our Thanksgiving tables, for the belief that a good deal will bring us greater happiness. In our household, there is a long-standing boycott of Black Friday.
However, as a retailer, I cannot ignore the biggest shopping weekend of the year, and am happy that the business of retail has stretched its shopping fever into Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Fair Tuesday that can support smaller retailers humanely. If we can stay away from the big box retailers, and choose instead to support small businesses on Small Business Saturday, we can help the businesses that provide character to our communities. If you can’t Shop Small on Main Street, support them online on Cyber Monday, where you can find great deals online. A few years ago, the Fair Trade business community launched a new initiative called Fair Tuesday that encourages consumers to support businesses here and abroad, committed to providing a fair trade or living wage to their employees and artisans. On Black Friday, my salespeople and I look forward to encouraging our customers to “shop small, shop online, shop fair, and shop less!"
Looking to do something different? Join us in #ethicalblackfriday