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These Brands Want To Redefine Black Friday: 'Don't Buy. Just Borrow.'

A person wearing jeans and playing guitar, a FREITAG storefront, and a clothing tag that reads 'RAEPAIRED'

It’s not exactly news that Black Friday has lost its luster in recent years. While a large majority of consumers still plan to shop Black Friday discounts this year, every year seems to come with more mixed emotions.

With rising inflation, steep environmental impacts, and exploited holiday labor, shoppers are finding it harder to justify their Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) purchases.

In fact, a 2019 report suggests that up to 80% of Black Friday purchases — and any plastic packaging they come in — will end up discarded in a landfill.

So, FREITAG — a sustainable, luxury luggage brand based in Zurich — wants to do things differently.

FREITAG makes bags with recycled materials, like truck tarps and used ski boots, to create durable and recyclable items that stay within a circular production system

a FREITAG storefront with signs that read "Don't Buy. Just Borrow."
Photo courtesy of FREITAG

It’s no surprise, then, that the brand isn’t too keen on traditional Black Friday sales. 

“There are not many things that have less in common than the circular economy and Black Friday,” Elisabeth Isenegger of FREITAG said in a statement. “That's why, especially on days like these, we prefer to focus on long-lasting products and sensible services and refuse to get involved in wasteful discount battles.”

This year, the bag makers are closing their online store, as well as all of the checkouts in their physical stores. But the shops themselves will still be open — for people to borrow a bag for free at any FREITAG location

A person holds an orange tote bag
Photo courtesy of FREITAG

On Black Friday, FREITAG will re-purpose its stores as “temporary lending outlets” for the afternoon, allowing “shoppers” to borrow a free bag for two weeks. (A sustainable choice for the traveler who needs a “new” carry-on!)

“With that, FREITAG is putting out an unmistakable signal that the future lies in durable, resource-saving products and circular forms of consumption: Borrowing instead of buying, using instead of owning,” a media release from the brand said. 

This isn’t the first time FREITAG has disengaged with Black Friday, but it is the first time the company is loaning out its goods for free.

A graphic reads "It's a different Friday. Don't Buy. Just Borrow."
Photo courtesy of FREITAG

“We initially ignored the absurd discount frenzy for a few years, but after a while, we felt like that wasn’t enough so we decided to shut down our online store. This year, we are taking things a step further and closing the cash registers in all our physical stores,” Isenegger continued.

“Also, as we don’t want to say ‘no’ to Black Friday in a moralizing way, we are offering alternatives to linear consumption with the option of borrowing a bag on this day.” 

To FREITAG, the goal isn’t to just “cancel” Black Friday, but to give people a reason to say “yes” to more conscious consumption.

A close-up of hands repairing a pair of glasses
Photo courtesy of RÆBURN

FREITAG is also cheering on other brands who have made similar Black Friday choices, including:

“In a globalized world, joining forces with other brands aware of this problem is crucial to build a powerful statement in the face of the inhumane and polluting consequences that Black Friday has,” a statement from flamingos life reads. “The ultimate goal is to get the message across and raise awareness about what Black Friday really means.”

A person in blue jeans and a striped shirt plays guitar
Photo courtesy of MUD Jeans

These smaller (and mostly European-based) brands are not the only ones to keep an eye on. Cariuma, a sustainable sneaker brand, will “turn Black Friday green” by ditching the discounts and instead planting 10 trees for every purchase

Patagonia has also been an anti-Black Friday pioneer, encouraging customers to use the day to repair their beloved items or shop used goods.

Of course, it can make a lot of sense for people to shop sustainable Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, especially as a way to save a little cash on eco-friendly items they were already planning to buy. But these brands are encouraging consumers to slow down and reconsider what and how they shop.

“There are plenty of good reasons for not being part of Black Friday. With all its over the top discount hysteria, it’s a day that helps very few and harms a lot more — be it in social, ecological, or economic terms,” FREITAG’s media release said. 

“We’ve no desire to support this kind of frenzied consumerism, either as producers or personally as customers.”

Header images courtesy of MUD Jeans, FREITAG, and RÆBURN

Article Details

November 21, 2023 2:57 PM
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