Canadian fashion brands stand up to the chaos of Black Friday

“It’s mass production and overconsumption.”

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While most businesses are gearing up for Black Friday by cutting prices, a few Canadian fashion brands are choosing to mark the shopping holiday in a different way instead.

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“Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday are among the biggest pollutants in the world. Most of the products bought during this time are usually thrown away after just a few uses, ”Mackenzie Yeates, co-founder and brand manager of the Toronto-based clothing company. Kotn , said.

This “hyper-discount culture that leads to overproduction and overconsumption of goods” is in direct opposition to corporate values, says Yeates.

“We want to encourage people to shop consciously and for a good cause,” says Yeates. “Support small local and BIPOC-owned businesses, avoid plastic packaging, invest in items because you’ll wear them for years, not because they’re on sale, and shop with brands committed to our planet. “

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Instead of lowering the prices, Kotn has teamed up with a group of artists – Lilian Martinez from Los Angeles, Ryan Vicente Lee Grees from Cairo, Luis Mora from Toronto and Julia Gr from Montreal – to create limited edition designs inspired by what “sustainable community means to them.

The company will donate 100 percent of all profits, up to $ 250,000, from Black Friday to Giving Tuesday, to building schools in rural areas of Egypt, where most of the cotton used comes from. for the creations of the company.

The schools project is part of the company’s “permanent commitment” to its “literacy approach” called The ABC project, which has seen approximately $ 500,000 towards the establishment of 10 schools in the Nile Delta and Fayum regions of Egypt since 2017.

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“It’s important for us to lead by example, by turning this narrative around so people can use their money for good,” Yeates said of the initiative, which began five years ago.

Instead of markdowns, a Victoria-based sustainable clothing brand Ecologist has teamed up with multimedia artist and hereditary chef Makwala Rande Cook to create a limited edition collection called Ecology today which includes unisex t-shirts and a sweater, as well as an original work of art by Cook – a woodcarving that is up for auction. Twenty percent of product sales, and the auction total, will go to the Ma’amtagila First Nation.

The initiative also includes a fundraising partnership with Cook and Sierra Club BC to help with legal fees related to protecting their territory, according to the brand.

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The Ecology Today hoodie from Ecologyst.
The Ecology Today hoodie from Ecologyst. Photo by Ecologyst

Stephanie Sonya Ibbitson, owner and designer of the Vancouver-based accessories brand Sonya Lee , says her brand will skip Black Friday altogether, as it does with all sales cycles and fashion calendars.

“We manufacture all of our parts by hand, mostly to order. Therefore, we are not trying to sell merchandise that has already been purchased, which is why most brands decide to participate in these kinds of events, ”Ibbitson said. “In addition, our bags are not a seasonal product, so we don’t need to unload the products until the next season.”

Ibbitson says she recognizes that “not all brands can walk away from the sales cycle” and that not all Black Friday markdown attendees are the perpetrators of the fast fashion industry.

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“They can run a small brand, make things ethically, with small runs, and still have to make sure they don’t keep seasonal stock,” Ibbitson explains. “The majority of Black Friday sales are not.

“The sales season starts earlier and earlier each year. Stores and brands are buying merchandise purely for the purpose of offloading it on Black Friday to gain a larger following and increase their sales figures in the fourth quarter. It is mass production and overconsumption.

The Maya handbag from Vancouver brand Sonya Lee.
The Maya handbag from Vancouver brand Sonya Lee. Photo by Sonya Lee

Ibbitson herself makes all Sonya Lee creations by hand using ethically sourced leather, she says. Handbags come with a lifetime warranty, which further contributes to the inability to make your merchandise stand out, she says.

“For our business to continue to grow, we need the full amount of what we charge,” Ibbitson says. “Selling items at a lower price only creates more work for us – and less money.”

As the owner of a trendy little line, Ibbitson says industry pressure, coupled with consumer expectations to close a deal, can make it difficult for companies to back off from these types of markdown models.

“Consumers expect things to be on sale earlier and earlier, and therefore push smaller brands to participate or face lower sales numbers,” Ibbitson said. “I think we have pressure from both sides.”

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