The crazy need to buy the latest gizmo, outfit and Taylor Swift merchandise is something which pushes a lot of people to the shops; but according to the VP of public engagement at outdoor clothing company Patagonia, Rick Ridgeway, brands need to rethink ‘fast fashion’ because it’s trashing the environment.
Ridgeway believes the need to buy the latest fashion item or Apple product is “the result of 50-70 years of clever advertising which has embedded itself in our psyche that leads us to believe that only through consumption can we achieve happiness.
“We at Patagonia believe this idea is invalid, we believe the reverse happens. We can all find fulfilling lives and more satisfaction through responsible consumption instead of unnecessary consumption.”
On the other side of the fence is ‘fast fashion’. Brands like TopShop and H&M who are leading the disposable fashion charge. “Fast fashion encourages unnecessary consumption, we really challenge the whole idea of disposable fashion. We think it’s creating problems rather than offering solutions,” Ridgeway told B&T on his visit to Australia.
“We have conversations with other fashion companies about this whole idea, it’s a robust conversation which is cool that those companies are willing to talk about these things. They’re willing to have conversations which are uncomfortable because it’s challenging their entire business proposition.”
One of the ways the outdoor clothing company has promoted responsible consumption is a full-page ad, back in 2011, in The New York Times telling Black Friday shoppers ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’. According to Ridgeway, the jacket required 135 litres of water to make and its production generated nine kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, 24 times the weight of the actual jacket.
“We were strategic in selecting that headline, we wanted to shock people,” Ridgeway said. “The message in that ad explained that, despite our commitment as a company, no matter how we tried we were not able to bring the footprint of that jacket down.
“We weren’t actually telling people not to buy the jacket, we were telling people not to buy it if they don’t need it. That was a fundamental distinction in the campaign. We were asking people to think twice about consumption, to think about what responsible consumption looks like.”
An important component of responsible consumption is encouraging consumers to continue to wear products as long as possible. One of the ways Patagonia promotes this ‘durability’ is through the ‘Worn Wear’ program which includes a repair truck and an Instagram and Tumblr page of Patagonia’s customers fixing their old clothes.
For Ridgeway and the Patagonia team, reusing, recycling and repairing old Patagonia clothes means “thousands of our customers are embedding a life into their stuff, they’re animating their stuff with other values which make them valuable in their lives”.
By rethinking consumption and focusing on environmental responsibility Patagonia has changed the narrative of fast fashion and is encouraging other companies to follow its lead.