Yes, that time of the year it’s upon us. And lo and behold, it’s turning from one day into a whole season of discount and general unbridled deal-ramming down our throats. Yes, that includes the sewing community, I have already seen discount codes popping in my Instagram feeds or in my inbox.
So, as a minimalist and a sustainability-minded person, this is probably the time of the year where I get riled up and I just can’t keep it all in either. And it’s now making its way on my blog as well.
Plus, today I read a fantastic blog post by the godfather of environmentalism in the UK, the legend that is Jonathon Porritt about the campaign that has been making the rounds of the petition sites aiming to boycott palm oil.
And the combination of these things got me thinking about what is a sustainable sewing person meant to be doing about Black Friday and other major sales events. Shall they burn their bras on the altar of anti-consumerism and give the finger to the retail demon (even it’s just about a few metres of fabric)? Or shall they vote with their money and support the good people out there (and bag a bargain in the process)?
Let’s debate! Here is my two pennies’ worth…
Shall we Boycott?
Good ol’ Wikipedia tells us that a “boycott is an act of voluntary and intentional abstention from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for moral, social, political, or environmental reasons”. As an aside, check out the origin of the term, very interesting.
As Black Friday/Cyber Monday grows and grows around the world, and not least in the UK, there have been calls from all layers of society and economy to boycott this ‘Americanisation’ of the UK retail and well, save our spending for the other traditional mindless consumerism period of Christmas, as we used to. Still, we’re talking estimates of billions generated in sales over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And that’s in the US alone.
So, in a nutshell, in the context of consumerism, boycotting means punishing business, or even the entire retail sector, by not taking part in Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Just say no to spending money.
As a sustainability practitioner and minimalist, I can totally buy (oh, the irony!) into this approach. I stopped buying clothes from certain brands after the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 and then in 2015, I went on a total clothes-buying ban. But this is a very personal choice and I had a very high baseline to begin with.
But let’s look into what’s wrong with the concept of Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
Well, firstly, if you live anywhere else than that US, it makes no sense at all. It’s linked to a holiday that is only celebrated by Americans, because of clearly documented historical reasons. It’s like we had a big sale event linked to Bonfire Night (it’s a British celebration linked to the Gun Powder plot to blow up the British Parliament in the XVIIth century) that just got exported across the world.
Secondly, are those deals that get touted and floated in front of us even that good? Are they worth climbing over people and perhaps getting hurt in the process? I was just reading that people even get killed over the sales stampede. Many retailers now offer discounts in the build-up to Black Friday and November is becoming one of the biggest spending months of the year.
Thirdly, do you need all the things you end up buying over Black Friday? I was reading about the psychological forces at play during these kinds of events, with slogans like ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’ and the anticipation of getting a good, or better deal, pushing our brains to react to the fear of missing out. Speaking of FOMO, I recommend a really great blog post about the Fear of Missing Out and how it plays up in the sewing community. So basically, we are being manipulated into wanting things without weighing up the options.
From an environmental perspective, Black Friday/Cyber Mondays are extremely wasteful. People end up throwing items that perhaps still have a lot of life left in them just because they want a shiny new thing. Conversely, many products purchased never get used and end up in the bin eventually.
Or Should we Buycott instead?
A boycott is an opposite behaviour, where consumers reward good behaviour by voting with their money and rewarding companies by spending money with them.
In relation to Black Friday, this can apply to spending money with those brands that speak to you and that you want to support and invest in, that you were already planning on purchasing or that you were considering but maybe could not afford.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that your pounds or dollars have power and it’s up to you where you spend them and whom do you support or deny does matter. I know it’s so much harder to investigate and do research into brands and who they stand for, or who do they ultimately belong to. That’s why we can sometimes resort to shortcuts, like small and local is good, big multinationals are bad. But the truth is most of the time in the grey area.
While researching for this post I came across an app called Buycott that helps consumers identify the brands that contravene to their ethical and moral principles. You have to select the causes that you care about or your red lines and then just scan the barcode of a product. The app will let you know which one of your principle the particular product goes against, if any, and then you can decide if you still want to buy it. I found it really easy to use, but it feels very US focused, both in causes and products they cover. Having said that, I scanned the barcode of a random box of Swiss chocolate I had on my desk at work and they identified the company in their database. Worth having a look.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Sewing
Well, that’s all very interesting, Alex, but what does it have to do with sewing? I hear you ask.
As I was saying, my inbox is full of emails from sewing companies, as well as pattern and fabrics shops, sewing machines, you name it. So, in our sewing lives as well as our regular consumer lives, we are being called upon to spend this Black Friday/Cyber Monday (and hold on to your wallets, Christmas is just around the corner, as are Boxing Day sales).
So how do we manage this? Should be completely ignore them and look the other way? Or should we take advantage of the opportunity and grab a bargain? A third alternative could also be the buycott, looking to support companies that we like, but maybe could not afford before.
As a minimalist, my first instinct would be to just say no to spending more money on things just because they are on sale, but again, it’s not a black and white world.
Here are some thoughts for those embracing the grey lines.
Support companies that give back
Friday Pattern Company donates 5% of all proceeds to a rotating collection of the top-ranked charities in the world. Each pattern benefits a different charity. For more info on where they are donating for each pattern, click here.
Freesewing.org – This is a site with free customised patterns ran by the wonderful Joost, who also donates to Medecins Sans Frontieres every year any donations that the patrons make.
Please share if you know of any other sewing related business that donates to charity, I would love to list them here.
Instead of spending time browsing, use your stash and sew for charity (ok, you can even buy a few metres if you must)
Here are a few links to organisations that need people to get involved and sew for charity.
If you are buying Christmas presents early, buy handmade
Grace from Beyond Measure, has some lovely sewing tools that have got the sewing community swooning already.
You can also try the lovely Maker/Sewer necklaces from Closet Case, I am really drooling for one.
Again, please recommend other sewing related hand-made business to list them here.
Buy things you already have on your wish list, if you find them on sale
I must confess, I did buy a new (to me) camera lens for which I have been saving for ages in the Black Friday sale. I would have had to save for another 6 months or so, but the sale (and buying a used one), allowed me to get it a bit earlier.
PIN FOR LATER
So here were are, the Sunday after Black Friday (and before Cyber Monday), hopefully with the pockets not too empty and still feeling happy for not having indulged or having grabbed a bargain that made us very happy.
I WOULD LOVE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BOYCOTTS VS BUYCOTTS AND OTHER IDEAS ON SURVIVING BLACK FRIDAYS, BOXING DAY SALES AND OTHER TEMPTATIONS OF OVERCONSUMPTION.
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