I have mixed feelings about Black Friday (and the accompanying Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, etc) .
As a small business, the idea of taking advantage of a country wide buying push makes sense. A whole weekend of the year (though, I'm not sure how and when this came to be) has been culturally designated as a time for shopping, and many Americans follow suit. (Hey folks outside the US, does this phenomenon extend to y'all as well?) However, as a human, I find the idea of a 'holiday' centered solely and openly on buying things to be a bit disturbing. What was originally just a holiday marketing push by businesses hoping to get 'into the black' in the weeks leading up to Christmas, has become something less warm and fuzzy. Especially when you hear accounts of people being trampled for flat screen television deals and shirking thanksgiving desert in favor of getting in line at the box store early.
In my double life as an artist/activist, I spent a couple of years participating in an interventionist art festival (organized by my partner and a friend) on Black Friday. (They created a publication for one of the outings, you can find it here and in pictures below.) Myself, along with a group of between 5-10 other artists, went to a large shopping mall outside of Boston to perform a variety of shopping interventions, from subtle to more extreme. Some of my projects for these interventions include buying a shirt from Urban Outfitters, seam ripping it then sewing it back together by hand, placing subversive clothing mending/refashioning mini-zines in the pockets of clothing on the rack, and trying on the outfits displayed in shop windows and discussing the clothing quality, fit, and style with fitting room attendees.
Other folks did things like leave restorative 'shopping yoga' zines in fitting rooms, lasso a kiosk and attempt to wrangle it out of the mall, hunt for an item made in their home state, provide pamphlets of all free services & products, developed a choreography around mall experience, and unraveled mall sweaters into balls of yarn (years before Lernert & Sander, I might add)
Most of my work as an artist has been around education in the field of consumerism, through a critical but gentle examination of our ideas about Fashion. So you'll understand if my Black Friday enthusiasm is tough to muster, even if my business would benefit from the exciting sales.
This is not to say that I disapprove of businesses that participate in Black Friday events...quite the opposite! Many wonderful businesses whom I patronize & respect have varying levels of participation in Black Friday and if their participation brings them profits then I'm happy for them. I believe that the more opportunities we have to shop in a positive way (at this point, shopping is built into our cultural DNA) the better.
This year I've not only seen business of various sizes promoting shopping smarter, small and local, I've also seen a push from many businesses to use the push of Black Friday sales to raise money for charity. Every year on Black Friday, clothing retailer Everlane directs all of the day's profits towards developing facilities for their factory workers. Many businesses have also started promoting a "Good Karma" sale (pioneered in this case, by The Wild Unknown) in lieu of BF, sending a percentage of proceeds from the day to a charity of their choice.
Today has been 'officially' hash tagged #givingtuesday, in response to Black Friday. Many organizations, both for and not profit, have presented the Tuesday after the chaos as a day to give back. Today I participated by donating to a fantastic Boston public art organization called Now + There.
I encourage you to take a look around today and see how you can contribute to the world or to your community, either with money, time, or even just with a positive attitude and thoughtful conversation :)
So what have I decided to do around these high holidays of shopping? I think with more careful planning and foresight, I would have loved to participate in a Good Karma type sale, but as they often say: Life gets in the way. Instead, I want to give something back to you and I hope that it will allow for more conscientious giving in your life as well. I have put together a special gift for all of you lovely blog readers, instagram followers, pattern purchasers, and the rest of the fantastic crafting community: a free pattern!