Coronavirus, as I'm sure you're tired of hearing, changed the world in more ways than one.
Since March, 2020 has seen a tumultuous election, a series of unprecedented unfortunate events, and severe destabilization of the economy. The stock market has been facing high highs and low lows all year. Over the course of the past few months, specifically, small businesses have taken the brunt of that economic instability and many have gone under in response to a sharp decline in business.
As somebody who works with an abundance of small businesses, and has worked behind the cashier at one on big sale days like Black Friday, I urge you to ditch the fast-fashion mall retailers and shop small this weekend to support the brands that really need it.
Fast Fashion & the (Environmental) Economy
Fast fashion is one of the most deteriorating industries in the world, and large events like Black Friday funnel money into some of the world's richest businessmen to aid them in the continuation of their destructive companies.
The owner of Zara's parent company Inditex, Amancio Ortega, is the sixth richest man in the world, and a look at Inditex's history of public maltreatment lawsuits from workers gives you a pretty good reason to not want to funnel money into his pockets. Most environmentalists cite fast fashion as “one of the top 5 polluting industries in the world,” with thousands of tons of CO2 and textile waste being emptied out into streams and forests every day.
Fast fashion retailers depend on cheap labor, and use sweatshops in small countries to get you clothes quicker and faster. The impact of fast fashion on a regular scale is terrifying, but that only gets worse come Black Friday.
By purchasing from large retailers this Friday, you're funneling into those “high highs” and disregarding those “low lows.” Black Friday this year is uniquely important to small business owners who have been struggling to keep their profit margin steady since the beginning of the pandemic, all while companies like Amazon skyrocketed in profits.
The purpose of Black Friday is to maximize profits for businesses, but do we really want to help and benefit companies that have little investment in the preservation of our world? Small businesses need you to turn to them, especially now, in order to keep them in business. They still have amazing sales, and the real people behind it will put their heart and soul into making sure whatever product you receive in your hand or in the mail is top-notch.
What Constitutes a Small Business?
By small businesses, I don't mean boutiques that grab-and-sell from other fast fashion retailers.
Small businesses make up a cohort of self-made and self-grown enterprises that entails a direct association to the production process by ownership. Maybe it's a college student who started making jewelry out of her dorm room, or maybe it's a girl painting photos, or a handmade and ethically produced clothing store. Looking into their sustainability promise and whatever they share about worker treatment prior to going on your Black Friday shopping spree is key. If the company isn't publicizing their production process or their sources, I encourage you to steer clear of them.
By shopping small this year, you're basically giving the world a double whammy of good-will: supporting local enterprises and aiding in the creation of a better environment.
When I'm behind the cashier on Black Friday, I can tell you the smiles I see on the owner's face when we make a sale. I can ensure you that your money every Black Friday isn't making Ortega do a happy dance, nor are you contributing to his livelihood.
Small Businesses to Look Out For
So, in case you don't know where to start on the small business front, here's a couple that I've found have amazing sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and who have amazing people running them.
Raw & Rebellious:
Raw & Rebellious is a jewelry store handmade in Atlanta, GA. The owner, Sarah Smyth, is super open about her company's production process and has grown the company up from scratch. She maintains a strong social media presence on Instagram and shows off stacks, new products, and her design process. This whole week she has amazing sales going on, each on different things in her store.
Also based in Georgia (I guess I'm biased), Gypsy Gems is run out of Athens and has some of the coolest statement pieces. Their social media presence is also impeccable, and they have a super unique and cool aesthetic. Last year their Black Friday sale was 30% off, and I'm sure there's going to be amazing deals this year as well!
Looking for some places and brands to revamp your closet with this season?
Cool is a Construct:
I've written about them before, but Cool is a Construct is super open about their production process and sell super cute vintage-esque pieces that are super unique! Definitely go check them out this Friday.
There's an abundance of small, sustainable clothing brands you can check out other than Cool is A Construct.
Most of them have large social media presence too, so they won't be hard to find if you look! Vintage stores are also a great idea; while their deals may not be as insane as some of the fast fashion retailers, you'd have the satisfaction of knowing that your purchase didn't contribute to pollution and the growing pockets of a corrupt businessman. Awoke Vintage Brooklyn transferred most of their business onto instagram, and you know that everything you're buying isn't contributing to a bigger carbon footprint.
Miscellaneous things that you might just fall in love with this season!
Another Georgia-based brand (surprise, surprise) is a painting brand run by Hayley Ahuja out of Athens. The paintings are perfect for a little gift for a friend.
Selling everything from crewnecks to custom vintage shorts and jeans, Spunk Denim is a small business using only vintage jeans and tops, and all the embroidery and distressing is done in house by the owner. Spunk Denim holds a special place in my heart because I designed their website, and the owner Allyson is super interactive with her customers. While I'm not sure if "Spunk" is looking to do anything special for Black Friday, you should definitely check them out!
Desi is Me:
For all of my Desi girls, Desi is Me is run by a college student in California and has some of the most unique yet simplistic lehengas for most every occasion. The silhouettes are super flattering, and the design and production processes are super transparent. If you're looking for a lehenga for any occasion, even though it's not Diwali season anymore, Desi is Me will be your new go-to store!
There are so many small businesses who are looking for you as shoppers to help them out in light of the current economic and general state of the world. Make an impact this Friday, and shop small!