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PARIS – A public schism has emerged between ministers in the French government, sparked by an advertising campaign encouraging the public to shun discounted items in Black Friday sales. 

Meanwhile, various campaign groups have united in taking to the streets of Paris to protest against the perpetuation of fast fashion business practices. 

An advertising campaign discouraging consumers from engaging with the annual Black Friday sales, commissioned by the Agence de la Transition Écologique (ADEME), France’s environment ministry, has become the target of criticism from several quarters – not least, the nation’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire.

In comments made publicly he has clashed with ministerial counterpart Christophe Béchu, whose brief includes ecological transition, over a series of short videos urging shoppers not to buy new clothing as part of the yearly retail tradition imported from the United States.

Le Maire claims that discouraging consumer spending at a time when bricks-and-mortar retailers need support is “ill-conceived”.

The disagreement highlights on ongoing tension within the French government regarding the importance and compatibility of economic and ecological considerations. The nation has been at the forefront of fashion-specific legislation in recent years, including through introducing a five-year €154 million scheme offering to pay consumers for repairing clothes rather than buying new.

While in an appearance on French radio Béchu conceded that a campaign specifically targeting international online retailers would probably have been more appropriate, there are no signs from ADEME that the videos will be withdrawn – despite calls for this from several commerce associations.

The 30-second adverts are still available to view via the ministry’s YouTube channel, all of which take an irreverent look at the practices of consumers being sold discounted Black Friday items they do not need.

While Le Maire was taking a stance against the ADEME ad campaign, he himself was the target of a Black Friday demonstration in central Paris. Protesters are calling on the minister to enshrine in law a requirement that fashion brands honour human rights and environmental commitments throughout supply chains.

The #StopFastFashion action brought together campaigners from groups including Action Aid France, Friends of the Earth France, Fashion Revolution France and Zero Waste France.

At the demonstration, activists strung up washing lines on which they hung garments emblazoned with slogans such as ‘victims of fashion’ and ‘we consume their exploitation’.

“With 150 billion items of clothing produced per year worldwide, overproduction in the textile industry has become a climate and human bomb that must be urgently defused,” said a statement from Friends of the Earth France which was released to coincide with the protest.

“Faced with an industry that has become expert in manufacturing new consumer needs, basing action on the choice of individuals will never be a solution. We are asking the government to be truly ambitious by capping the production volumes of fast-fashion brands. To consume less, we must first produce less.”

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