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‘Built for years, not for seasons’: Why Patagonia believes going out of fashion is good for business

Patagonia made Earth is only shareholder in 2022.
Patagonia made Earth is only shareholder in 2022. Copyright Patagonia
Copyright Patagonia
By Damon Embling
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While many clothing companies chase trends and aim for sky-high sales, Patagonia - which has made Earth its sole shareholder - swims against the tide.

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The fast fashion industry is booming. Consumers are buying 60 per cent more clothes and wearing them for half as long, according to data cited by the UN Environment Programme. 

Estimates suggest a truckload of abandoned textiles is dumped in landfill or incinerated every second. 

The UN also highlights that the fashion industry produces between 2 to 8 per cent of global carbon emissions. If nothing changes, it will take a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. 

Alongside this, textiles shed microplastics when they are washed, contributing to the pollution in our oceans. The dyeing process is also the second largest polluter of water globally. 

‘We’re not chasing the latest trend’

“The impact that the fast fashion industry is having on designing for obsolescence at the onset, to chase a trend, is destroying the planet,” Tyler LaMotte, Product and Marketing Director (EMEA) at Patagonia, tells Euronews Green at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. 

Patagonia is a US brand specialising in outdoor clothing which doesn’t want to sell as many products as possible. Adopting a “buy less, buy better” ethos, it says customer relationships are instead built on “quality and responsible consumption.” 

“We have a campaign running right now called ‘Unfashionable’ and essentially where we are reinforcing our values that our products are built for years, not for seasons,” LaMotte explains. 

“We're not chasing the latest trend. We're not chasing the latest craze or something that's happening in terms of colour or print or pattern or influencer. That's not what we're about.”

Making Earth its sole shareholder

Patagonia, a winner of the UN Champion of the Earth award, made the planet its only shareholder in 2022. 

It transformed into a charitable trust with all profits going towards action on climate change. The idea is to protect the ethos of the company and accelerate its purpose. 

“Patagonia can never be bought, it can never be sold. The board cannot change the overall directive and mission of the company. So, we are basically locking in the things that we do and then doing what we do at scale,” says LaMotte. 

“From a business standpoint, clearly we need to run the business. That's a baseline. On top of that, everything else in terms of profits, goes into essentially voting stock. 

“The board and the founders and the family can decide what they want to do with that money, to be able to activate that on the causes they believe in.”

Patagonia's Tyler LaMotte spoke to Euronews Green in Cannes.
Patagonia's Tyler LaMotte spoke to Euronews Green in Cannes.Euronews

Building longer customer relationships

Patagonia says it doesn’t call the fashion industry out over its responsibility credentials. Instead, it wants to ‘call them in’ by helping to educate other companies on how a reset can be both good for business and the planet.  

“Fashion can exist in a responsible way if they're thinking about it in terms of minimising their impact and being more responsible as it relates to their supply chain and what they source and why they make what they do. And that longer relationship with the customer is an opportunity for them,” says LaMotte. 

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“We have a lot of regulation, a tsunami of regulation that's coming at us here in Europe and also in North America. They're going to have to report on it. And then ultimately, consumers are going to want to demand that information.”

Consumers are willing to pay more

More than half of consumers globally would be willing to pay more for sustainable versions of their chosen clothing and accessories, according to a recent YouGov survey

The research, which was carried out across 17 international markets, revealed that roughly a quarter would pay up to 10 per cent extra, while 13 per cent said they would pay up to 25 per cent more. 

“I think we know that customers align with brands that also are symbiotic with their own values. So, being transparent about what we do, whether it's in product or its product activism or sports or enviro activism, those things are really important in terms of making sure the customer knows that there's an opportunity for them to engage,” explains LaMotte. 

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“It's what they buy and how they buy. But then, how do we get our customers on this activism journey to want to be involved in saving the home planet? And that can start with consumption, but it can also start with action.”

Watch the video above to see more from the interview with Patagonia.

You can see more content from Cannes Lions here.

Additional sources • FIlmed and edited by Lionel Laval

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