18 December 2020

​Beware of setting values from a place of privilege

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Sandy Trigg / Sandy@nwkcom.co.nz

I’ve spent a lot of 2020 thinking about the importance of diversity of thought, as I believe it’s one of the many benefits of having an excellent PR agency on your side. Our job is to question, guide, advise and offer a considered perspective. It’s not our job to simply rubber stamp someone else’s  thinking – and we take it on the chin if our advice isn’t always accepted.

So, I was interested when an NZ designer recently announced it would no longer be selling clothes at a discount or through third-parties. In fact, it was cutting all ties with its wholesalers, completely upending the traditional season cycle and designer retailer relationship for an altogether more sustainable approach. This is a brave and bold move, but it was some supplementary commentary around the damaging impact of discounting quality goods that really piqued my interest. 

Fast forward to Black Friday, Bright Saturday and Cyber Monday – and an email inbox overloaded with discount offers and ‘unmissable’ bargains. Amongst the emails were some from companies telling me that they weren’t taking part in a weekend of sales because they didn’t want to be part of the cycle of conspicuous consumption (I’m paraphrasing). Their message seemed to be that sales equal mindless consumerism, and they believed their customers were more in tune with a mindful way of shopping. No real surprise, but it did set my senses tingling.

For many people, the ability to be part of a “more conscious way of shopping” is constrained by budget. Lots of us aspire to be greener, to not be part of a throwaway culture, but only do what we can afford. I believe we need to be realistic (and show a little understanding), because sales can be a time to access brands, clothes and products that at full price may be otherwise unattainable. If all we can afford is fast fashion – then that is what we will fill our wardrobes with. Surely, we should be aspiring to make sustainable choices open to more people not just those that can afford them at full price all the time?

I’m speaking as a person who has clothes in her wardrobe that predate her children (my oldest is 17), and they come from the full spectrum of sales platforms: designers, mainstream retailers and op shops! Some were bought at full price, others on sale and some were even free – a benefit of previous work in fashion. All, well most, have been loved, looked after and in some case packed away until I decided to wear them again – often years later.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that sales based on the seasonality of goods is wrong. But doing away with sales completely in the pursuit of more sustainable form of consumerism seems to me to present a very one-dimensional view of who your customers could be.