Thoughtfully Approaching Black Friday
80% of the hands making the clothes we wear every day are the hands of young women. The vast majority are between 18-24 years old, and these women go home with an average of $3 a day. This is, by definition, exploitation: “The action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.” We would not blink an eye at buying a shirt on sale for $13, much less $3, and yet for thousands of women, they are ill-treated and forced to live on amounts we cannot fathom.
This harrowing reality is a result of fast fashion.
The concept of fast fashion and the damage we cause by unethical fashion consumption became more widely known when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed five years ago. 1,127 laborers were killed due to unsafe and unfair work conditions, and worldwide movements began as consumers demanded to know where and how their clothing was truly made. The question of ethics in shopping trickled from national news broadcasts to fashion bloggers on social media. Fast fashion and thoughtless consumerism needs to reach us on a personal level, as it leaves human beings abused, used and thrown away in its wake.
Shopping this Black Friday season should not happen at the expense of human beings. By making conscious choices as you finish Thanksgiving dinner and plan out your all-night escapade at the mall should not have to be a decision between a new shirt and the exploitation of women. Sadly, this choice exists. As an ethical shopper, take time to consider where you spend your money and how. Let your shopping be spurred by thought and care, not a mindless way to fill an afternoon.
1. Do Your Research
Not all companies are created equally. Some companies do not even know where their clothing is being made - the process of creating the garment so far removed from the rack you pick it from. Research clothing companies which choose to treat their workers in ethical ways and pay their employees fair wages. Some wonderful options as you begin your search are: Everlane, The Root Collective, Poppy Barley, Synergy Clothing and Patagonia.
Move into Black Friday knowledgeable and empowered, instead of easily succumbing to the marketing schemes which encourage thoughtless consumerism. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and walk away from unethical purchases with courage. There are humans behind every garment you wear and they deserve to be treated with dignity in their workplace.
2. Respond Instead of Reacting
Stores have a lot of faith that you will be out on Friday, see an unbeatable sale price, and purchase items that you many never have bought. These purchases can be very reactive in the moment, which may mean you are supporting companies with unethical practices and, in the process, supporting them as they to continue to exploit people. Respond rather than reacting. Take deep breaths as you shop. Consider your wardrobe needs, consider the company’s policies, and choose your garments with a purpose in mind.
3. Opt Out of Traditional Sales Completely
Not shopping at all may seem counter-intuitive as we discuss ethical shopping, but sometimes the most ethical option is simply not consuming, or at least consuming differently. Instead of browsing the racks at the mall, spend Friday morning at second-hand or consignment shops, moving slowing through this season of shopping instead of rushing with the crowds. This also keeps clothing out of landfills and encourages recycling. Thrift stores often run sales during Black Friday as well.
4. Consider Small Business Saturday
While everyone else recovers from their shopping days on Friday, research your city, engage in a community experience, and choose to shop locally. While shopping local does not always equal shopping ethically, it is often easier to find answers from small businesses as to how they run their company and where their garments come from. Ask questions, meet owners, raise awareness, and when you find a locally-run ethical company, choose to support them wholly with a clean conscious.
These are just a few of many ways you can address your Black Friday choices - the key is to do it all with thought. Consider your purchases and the greater impact they have in the world and in the lives of women. If you are interested in supporting ethical brands, subscribe below to read about how, “Ethical is the New Black,” and engage with Dressember’s mission this fall.
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About the Author
Myra Grady is honored to be using her love of writing this fall as she joins Dressember in their fight against human trafficking. She is pursuing an English degree through Thomas Edison State University and currently enjoys her days as a preschool teacher. Outside of work, Myra can often be found exploring St. Louis with her husband, watching The Office reruns, eating far too much ice cream, and learning how to knit.