Literature Review Revision
Green Movement in a Consumerist World
In a period of growing consumerism, Patagonia stands out amongst many other competitors within the fashion market through its dedicated mission for environmental conservation and waste reduction. Within recent years, Patagonia’s ubiquity among millennials coupled with its high prices has created a negative connotation for the brand with some associating Patagonia with juvenile fraternities and “finance-bros” (Flanigan). However, through my research, I have determined that Patagonia is much more than garments for the affluent; Patagonia is a brand that actively partakes in environmental causes and acts as an outlier among others who strive solely for profit.
In Michelle Labrague’s “Patagonia, A Case Study for Slow Thinking”, Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability can be tracked to its beginnings in the 1970s. Even in Patagonia’s early advertisements and catalog, the type of designs and diction used often pointed towards nature and a romanticized version of the outdoors (Labrague 178). Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, frequently used mountain imagery in his catalogs and emphasized the enjoyment of nature as a “contemplative” and “spiritual” activity rather than empty escapism (Labrague 179 – 180). Labrague ties Patagonia’s mission to its current place in the mainstream with “slow thinking.” Slow thinking is defined as a conceptual practice which focuses on sustainability and giving back to the environment. Patagonia exemplifies slow thinking in many of its initiatives such as Worn Wear, a program that repairs and recycles old Patagonia clothing, and 1% for the Planet or “Earth Tax”, a program where Patagonia gives 1% of its annual earnings to nonprofit grassroots organization. Because of its long history of advocacy and initiatives, Patagonia can be viewed as a frontrunner of slow thinking in fashion, a leader in ecological design and an influencer for future brands.
Recent sociological research from Dan-Christian Dabija’s “Enhancing Green Loyalty towards Apparel Retail Stores: A Cross-Generational Analysis on an Emerging Market” shows an increasing trend toward green-oriented fashion amongst young consumers. Green marketing is defined as a tactic in which a brand uses environmentally conscious initiatives to connect to consumers and generate profits. An example of this would be the aforementioned warranty on Patagonia products. However, many companies such as fast-fashion giants H&M and Zara utilize what I define as faux-green marketing, a shallow attempt to reach environmentalist consumers by adopting “sustainable initiatives.” Dabija claims that these “profit-seeking entities” implement green initiatives as a way to satisfy customer expectations rather than create a systemic change in their production to better the environment (3). These profit driven initiatives directly contrasts with Patagonia’s many sustainability campaigns that have existed since the company’s conception. Dabija defines and classifies the consumer demographics through sentiment analysis on millennials, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers which reveals that millennials are the most environmentally conscious group. Because of this shift in ecological awareness, Patagonia’s programs can considered especially influencing to other brands and have the most potential to make an impact on younger generations.
Mary-Clare Bosco’s “From Yosemite to a Global Market: How Patagonia, Inc. has Created an Environmentally Sustainable and Socially equitable Model of Supply-Chain Management” discusses Patagonia’s management model through the dissemination of green ideology in modern companies. Practices from corporate social responsibilities mimicking Patagonia contributed to this dissemination as businesses sought to improve employee conditions and the “society at large” (Bosco 17). Bosco argues that many companies create a facade of green initiatives, making minute internal changes that do not affect sustainability and leave their inefficient production method intact. Bosco also claims that Patagonia differs from these brands because of its original philosophies towards sustainability and continuation of eco-friendly production methods such as using recycled fibers, reducing CO emissions, and engineering less wasteful materials. Patagonia’s transparent model of operations also works toward creating a stronger relationship with the public community, creating opportunities to showcase production costs and mapping material sources.
Patagonia’s strongest and most controversial difference is its unabashed political views and commitment to environmental causes. In December of 2017, the Trump administration’s reduction of two national monuments was met with outrage from Patagonia as the brand quickly addressed the issue on its site and social media. David Gelle’s “Patagonia v. Trump” featured in The New York Times details Patagonia’s history and long political crusade for environmental protection. Gelle describes Patagonia’s lawsuit against the president as one of many political battles by the brand which also includes their fight against waste producing mining operations, damming, and fracking in the United States. In conclusion, Patagonia is defined by Neil Kornze, former director of the Bureau of Land Management, as “environmentalists who just happens to sell coats.”
My project will answer the question: How does Patagonia differ from other popular clothing brand in a consumerist society? With the articles included in this review as well as supplemental pieces, the project will showcase a history of Patagonia’s important works and moments. Through these moments, it will reveal how Patagonia has always been an important figure in sustainable clothing and its impact that has predated many newly developed green initiatives.
Bosco, Mary-Clare. “From Yosemite to a Global Market: How Patagonia, Inc. Has Created an Environmentally Sustainable and Socially Equitable Model of Supply-Chain Management.” Pomona Senior Theses, Jan. 2017, https://scholarship.claremont.edu/pomona_theses/178.
Dabija, Dan-Cristian. “Enhancing Green Loyalty towards Apparel Retail Stores: A Cross-Generational Analysis on an Emerging Market.” Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity, vol. 4, no. 1, Mar. 2018, p. 8. Springer Link, doi:10.1186/s40852-018-0090-7.
Flanigan, Jake. “Why Are All These Business Bros Wearing the Same Vest?.” Esquire, 9 July 2018. Esquire.com, https://www.esquire.com/style/mens-fashion/a22089261/midtown-uniform-vest-business-style/
Gelles, David. “Patagonia v. Trump.” The New York Times, 5 May 2018. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/05/business/patagonia-trump-bears-ears.html.
Labrague, Michelle. “Patagonia, A Case Study in the Historical Development of Slow Thinking.” Journal of Design History, vol. 30, no. 2, May 2017, pp. 175–91. academic.oup.com, doi:10.1093/jdh/epw050.