It’s just Black Friday, or is it?

person repairing a piece of clothing on a sewing machine
Christopher Raeburn – Repairs
Photographer: benbroomfield.com

There are many things that create great discussion and debate in our office, and Black Friday is definitely one of them. I think it’s fair to say that the annual marketing campaign, on the whole, goes against everything that we at CSF would like the fashion industry to be. We are actively working toward encouraging and supporting consumers to make conscious slow choices – on items that they’ll treasure and will care for, and mend so they last.  I think when most of us think of Black Friday, it conjures up images of crowds shoving and pushing their way into stores to get the ‘best bargains’, and get their hands on stuff that they don’t need, because…. well, just because they can.

“It’s a story about us, people being persuaded to spend money we don’t’ have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about.”

Tim Jackson

The UK’s creative industries are largely made up of micro and small businesses (MSEs), widely acknowledged as creative influencers on the world stage. At CSF, our project Fostering Sustainable Practices (FSP) is looking at the role that MSEs in fashion can play as potential drivers for change – providing the perfect lens through which to examine the future of a sustainable fashion industry.  Working with almost 50 MSE’s we’ve been interviewing them and exploring their design and business practice, as fashion designers.

So, when we were exploring how we felt about Black Friday, it seemed obvious to look to the FSP, MSEs for inspiration, and perhaps it’s just me but I found it fascinating. The response was so varied, from Raeburn’s ‘Buy Nothing Day’, which sees the brand close all stores for the day and invite people into the studio for a mending day.

To Birdsong’s ‘Transparent Friday’ offering customers the choice in what discount they apply to their purchases, yes you heard right, between 20-40%, but with the knowledge through the brands transparency in what the actual cost is to make their products and so the choice of where the compromise lies lands with the customer.

To Finisterre, who have chosen to take part in Black Friday, in the knowledge that their products are ethically and sustainably sourced and have minimum impact on people and planet.  The brand doesn’t engage in the practice of discounting their goods often but their honesty in acknowledging that this period is a critical time for the business is refreshing.

It got me thinking, all these brands are using the opportunity of Black Friday for good. For the good of their business, but not at the cost of their community, and it’s clear that small businesses do see their consumers as a community.

Though, it made me think – at what point, when a business is scaling up, does it lose sight of this?  With some big brands blatantly hiking up prices the weeks leading up to this weekend and then implying huge discounts, others offering sales for long periods and then claiming to be ‘boycotting Black Friday’ because of what it stands for, it brings the question of the importance of honesty and transparency. 

I hope through the work of FSP that we can promote the great work of these MSE brands and show the rest of the fashion industry – businesses big and small, a better way.

Find out more about Fostering Sustainable Practices