Lessons we should learn from Black Friday

Black Friday is an exemplification of the fast fashion industry, exploitation and inequality. I used to be blinded by the marketing, social media and hype around the event. But now it is clear to me how wrong and unethical events like Black Friday often are.

If a company can discount all their products by 30% upwards, there’s a reason. If they can still make money with huge discounts, there’s someone, (or millions of people), sacrificing their quality of life so you can add another dress to the pile. 

The reasons behind the ability of the global north to engage in events such as Black Friday are having huge consequences for people and environment. We have become blinded to the social and personal associations that our purchases hold, and instead view consumerism as part of normal life. The fast fashion industry’s business model has a sole purpose of persuading you to buy more. What companies don’t want us to see is the exploitation and inequality that goes into serving the consumption that feeds of the global north. 

Consumerism today is one of the leading causes of environmental degradation and water scarcity. It actually takes 7,600 litres of water to make one pair of jeans, water that can be better served elsewhere. We are taught to be disposable with out items of clothing to feed the capitalist consumer cycle, to the detriment of environmental resources, such as the Aral Sea, which is now all but dried up. 

(Wikipedia)

Gathering the materials for wood-based fabrics like rayon, modal and viscose contributes to deforestation. Popular polyester fabrics washed in domestic washing machines shed plastic microfibers make their way to into drinking water and aquatic food chains (including in fish and shellfish eaten by humans). Cotton, another eminently popular material, is a pesticide and water-intensive crop; according to the World Resources Institute, the amount of water required to make one cotton t-shirt is the same as one person drinks in two-and-a-half years.

Fast fashion also requires the outsourcing of labour in order to fund the cheap sale of clothing. This cheap labour comes with huge consequences. The obvious being the huge inequality in standard of living, poor conditions, hugely underpaid jobs, sickness, dangerous working conditions, long hours etc. 

But also, less commonly known, sweatshops actually act as a barrier to stop the country developing, as the industry is flooded by overseas countries, limiting the ability for the country to create their own competitive market. 

This development crisis also ties in with disposable fashion. Giving clothes to charity may seem like an amazing gesture, but the impacts behind this go well beyond what we are told. By donating clothes to developing countries, we infiltrate their markets with second-hand clothes, in turn destroying the industrial clothing markets that they once had, which would now be completely uncapable of coping with the market forces. So, when you buy your new item of clothing, and think of disposing your old, perhaps think of keeping the old, or passing it on to friends and family. The solution, at the end of the day is to stop buying the clothes, but in the short term, sites like Depop are a great way to reduce the impact of fast fashion. 

The lesson learnt is that by engaging with fast fashion, and events like Black Friday, we are facilitating these issues and allowing companies to continue their exploitation. By voting with our money we can put pressure on companies to change their ethics and stop promoting disposable fashion.