Patagonia repairs customer clothes, yet new clothing sales have still quadrupled ©Getty Images
Patagonia repairs customer clothes, yet new clothing sales have still quadrupled ©Getty Images

Can anti-consumerism work?

Clothing firm Patagonia’s long-term mission to mend customers’ clothes – rather than encouraging them to buy more – is reaping rewards, though the company’s founder has been described as a ‘reluctant billionaire’.

“Don’t be so focused on profit,” says Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia.

The outdoor clothing company, which expanded into food in 2011 to support the agricultural industry, encourages buyers not to buy its clothes if they can repair the ones they have. 

It has been repairing customers’ clothes since the 1970s. But reports say that its clothing sales have quadrupled in the past decade, and young people are clamouring to work for the company. Popularity – and it seems sales – is coming from its anti-consumerist stand.

By 2017, one in two people were belief-driven buyers and that has since grown, according to a report by consultancy Edelman, which charts the rise of the ‘earned brand’.  In 2018, it says, brands took a stand, strengthening and protecting their relationships with the consumer. Businesses are now expected to take initiative on change: 64% of consumers say that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it. And consumers listen to businesses, says the report, with 67% buying a brand for the first time because of its position on a controversial issue and 65% refusing to purchase a brand because it stayed silent on an issue it had an obligation to address. 

And more companies are structuring themselves as benefit corporations, legally required to balance profit and social and environmental considerations, reports Alana Semuels for Time. She points to states including Maryland and Delaware, which passed laws allowing companies to incorporate as B Corps (benefit corporations). Since 2010, more than 3,000 businesses have become B Corps. Patagonia became a certified B Corp in 2011.

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