Photo courtesy of wikipedia
By Neva Knott
I wrote the original version of this post two years ago. This year, I’m re-posting it to celebrate a change in attitude toward the “biggest shopping day of the year.” Several retailers are encouraging people to get outside on Black Friday instead, most prominently REI. Several state and national parks are following REI’s lead and spreading the word that the day after Thanksgiving is a great day to share with nature; some are even calling it “Fresh Air Friday.”
Here’s the original post from 2013:
I spent much of my young professional life working in fashion retail. Year after year, I had to leave family Thanksgiving gatherings late Thursday night, or very–zero dark thirty–early, so that I could be at work in the wee hours of Friday morning to set the sales floor for Friday’s sales. My co-workers and I thought that was bad. And now…big box after big box opens before the pie is even chewed. More pathetically, consumers leave Thanksgiving dinner to push and shove to buy this year’s featured gee-gaw.
Last week, an image floated around Facebook from the page “Underground Health”. It was of a man holding a cardboard sign that read, “Nothing says I love you like cheap crap made in China by slave labor. Sold by a company owned by billionaires benefitting from corporate welfare. Paying slave wages to employees kept from enjoying Thanksgiving with their families.” Sums it up, I’d say.
The brand Patagonia this week released a short film entitled Worn Wear. The company explains, “Worn Wear is an exploration of quality – in the things we own and the lives we live. This short film takes you to an off-the-grid surf camp in Baja, Mexico; a family’s maple syrup harvest in Contoocook, New Hampshire; an organic farm in Ojai, California; and into the lives of a champion skier, a National Geographic photographer, and a legendary alpinist.” The film was released in response to the Black Friday frenzy.
Patagaonia ran a similar ad, full page, in The New York times during fashion week.
Patagonia’s message, and mine, is not that fashion is bad. I love clothes. Fortunately, when I got serious about working in the fashion industry, I worked for Nordstrom, a retailer who is a loud voice in the Thanksgiving is family time narrative this year. That’s part of the message… Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. We are a culture that touts family as a cultural value.
From the cardboard sign, from Patagonia’s campaign, from Nordstrom’s closed doors today, the belief is exuded that frenzied consumerism shouldn’t superceed our deeper values: family, communion around a table, a day off from spending and getting and having and working to spend and get and have, that buying clothes can connect to sustainability. And maybe even an experience in the great outdoors–the place where pilgrims and Indians first gathered to express gratitude–is more appropriate than trampling each other with shopping carts.