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August 21, 2015

Clothing company tells customers to buy less


In the age of consumerism, can a successful clothing manufacturer also promote conservationist values?

For more than 40 years, high-end outdoor wear company Patagonia has advocated an anti-consumerist philosophy while expanding business.

In a warehouse in Reno, Nev., Patagonia houses the largest clothing rehab facility in North America. Customers from all over the world can send their worn-out or damaged items in for free repairs.

The company also encourages customers to buy only what they need. A famous full-page Patagonia ad that once ran in the New York Times told potential customers “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” Since then, sales have gone up 25 to 30 percent annually.

All of this is part of the company’s efforts to promote anti-consumption, environmentalist thinking. Patagonia hopes that by offering repairs, customers will buy less, creating less demand for more production. They hope that by demonstrating this model, other companies will be inspired to do the same.

“If we can show the business community that we’re successful, we think we’re holding ourselves as a great example for how business can be done differently,” said Chief Operating Officer Doug Freeman.

Company founder Yvon Chouinard has publically stated that he does not desire to see his company grow into a billion dollar corporation. Chouinard has even taken legal steps to keep the company private, rather than have it go public and be forced to increase production for the sake of profits.

“There’s not one public company that will voluntarily restrict their growth for the sake of saving the planet,” Chouinard said at an environmental forum.

According to Chief Operating Officer Doug Freeman, Patagonia does hope customers will take note and buy less, but they also hope their message will attract new customers as well.

Warm up questions
  1. How do you know when you have enough of something?
  2. What do you do when a piece of clothing becomes worn out or damaged?
  3. What is conservationism?
Critical thinking questions
  1. How can Patagonia’s philosophy be applied to other aspects of society beyond clothing?
  2. If a company is advocating for people to buy less but still seeking new customers, can it really be called anti-consumerist?
  3. Do you think Patagonia’s business model is sustainable? Should other companies follow suit?
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