Patagonia: “Don’t Buy Our Stuff”… Wait, what?

Maybe it comes down to inhabiting a town where “fashion” equals flannel, but recently, I noticed that all too often people buy the latest Nikes or Coach purse, purely because it’s the latest in the line. As a firm believer in “wear it until it wears out”, the fashion industry has always felt like a perpetual case of the Emperor’s New Clothes – we need it because they tell us we need it.

But when you think about it, how many people do you know that buy brand new skis every year? Or the latest jacket from their favourite brand, just to look fly on the slope? It’s the same song, but a different verse.

“Yep, thought so. You need reverse camber, Your Highness.”

Cutting through all the bull-hooey are Mountain Life’s friends at Patagonia. The strategy flies in the face of literally every business model to date: focusing on limiting growth. The outdoor company pulled in around $570 million last year while competitors raked in around the $2billion mark, but instead of pushing for loftier sales targets, they’ve decided to concentrate on their environmental imprint.  Their action plan is named the “Responsible Economy.”

Founder Yvon Chouinard argues that “going green” is something used by companies to stimulate profit from the eco-friendly demographic with little incentive to actually taking steps to be environmentally conscious. A perfect example: the celebrated Prius actually requires more CO2 emissions to produce than the standard automobile.

article continues below

Chouinard says “We ask our customers to think twice before you buy a jacket from us. Do you need it, or are you just bored? … Since corporations run the government, if you want to change the government, you have to change the corporations. If you want to change the corporations, change the consumers.”

It’s an admittedly ballsy move, but the premise is: If you must purchase, do so with us. Patagonia is known for its high-quality apparel and equipment, up there with the rest of the big swingers, but much like purchasing organic eggs over battery, the choice lies with the consumer. Fingers crossed the mentality of the buying community will shift from “want” to “need”.

This post isn’t trying to hawk anything in particular. It just aims to show you the option of buying ethically. (Incidentally, if you are searching to replace that worn-out onesie from the 1980s, you’d do best to buy it here.)