Fashion Editors Pen Open Letter to Brands Calling for Reduced Waste in Holiday Promotional Gifts
Editors from various fashion publications are telling PR folks, “Thanks, but no thanks” this holiday season. It’s not that they don’t want gifts. Everyone loves free stuff. But it’s that when companies send things like samples, gifts and promotional products to these publications, it usually comes with a lot of waste, especially attention-grabbing packaging for the sake of an unboxing experience.
At a recent event hosted by Marie Claire accessories director Julia Gall and Bustle style lead and senior market editor Gabby Prescod, fashion editors discussed the issue of sustainability in the fashion world and how they could cut down on waste. The result was an open letter to companies that typically send gifts during the holiday season to rethink the environmental impact of these gifts and freebies.
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One of the most wonderful parts of my job is the early access to fabulous new fashion and beauty products. However, the popularity of digital “unboxing” has led to an overwhelming demand to promote product in a splashy and wasteful way. Not all surprises are welcome! If you have any questions or notes about how to shift this kind of promotion, please leave them below or in my DM’s. Thank you for helping keep this in check 💚
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Before anyone starts worrying about a War on Promo—as evidenced by the recent bill introduced by Iowa Senator Jodi Ernst on limiting government spending on advertising and the frequent articles calling out the promo industry for a perceived waste problem—these fashion editors aren’t calling for the end of promotional gifts as we know it. They just want companies to, you know, limit the packaging pageantry to something more reasonable to reduce waste and resources used for a one-off gift.
Quick to point out that this isn’t an anti-gift stance, but a pro-environmental conservation effort, Fashionista editor in chief Tyler McCall wrote an explanation on Instagram accompanying the open letter.
“There is a lot of excess in the industry, whether that’s makeup sent in wrong shades, clothing sent in wrong sizes or one-off items branded with logos for promotional purposes,” she wrote. “And the packaging alone can get insane over the holiday season. Please also note that every editor present expressed an awareness that gifting is, in many ways, a privilege of this job and no one is ungrateful for the very kind gesture of being gifted to begin with. But we are all aware that for the well-being of the earth, things have to change. This is one small way we can all work towards this shared goal together.”
“This is a good time for brands to be more conscious about how to target editors responsibly,” Gall told WWD.
“Many women’s lifestyle publications have come together in an effort to promote sustainability this holiday season,” a spokesperson for Bustle Digital Group told WWD. “We applaud their efforts to set a new standard around preventable waste.”
Similar to the act of donating to a worthy cause in lieu of gifts, companies increasingly appear to be choosing these sort of gifts over physical gifts that use paper or plastic. Brazilian footwear brand Cariuma, for example, donated five trees in the name of an editor.
“We thought it was important to instead of gifting the editor with more material goods, to give back to the environment in their name instead,” said Michelle Katz, public relations manager for Cariuma, told WWD. “Given the topic of conversation and the core of Cariuma centering around sustainability, we thought it only appropriate to continue that effort in something that would give back to them and our planet in a more meaningful way. This is definitely something we will continue to do for editors in order to continue our sustainable initiatives.”
Gifts are always welcome and always appreciated by editors and prospective clients. The balance promotional distributors and their clients need to find is something that is personal and thoughtful, but maybe buck the trend of over-the-top unboxing and packaging schemes. A card, a product that will be used on a regular basis or a nonprofit tie-in is always a good way to go.