Patagonia is one of the rare and brave businesses that publically opposes the current mass-production/consumption system. On Black Friday 2013, they hosted a “Celebrate What You Already Own” event. The idea was to enjoy a de-facto national “shop-frantically-day” without buying anything new. I had the opportunity to visit the shop in San Francisco, to cover the event. What I found there was not something I expected: it was a lot more inspiring.
Instead of flashy “SALE” flags and banners – actually there were none – the first thing I saw was a long line for the “yerdle” truck. Yerdle is a start-up sharing economy company that provides an online goods exchange platform. Yerdle hails to reduce the need for new products by maximizing the use of existing products. Here, outside the Patagonia shop, customers are forming a long line to exchange the used goods they brought with them for used Patagonia gear.
Soon it becomes obvious that they don’t look for any random deals. They are eager to “treasure hunt” for good-condition used Patagonia gear. Sure it may make you feel good if you re-use clothes and help our planet, but the primary enthusiasm here comes from the expectation for getting vintage Patagonia items, which are highly sought in the second-hand market.
If the gear was malfunctioning, you could take it inside the store where “iFixit” is offering free repair for clothes and electronic gadgets. iFixit is Patagonia’s Common Thread partner. Their mission is to accumulate the knowledge base for all kinds of repairs, to empower people with engineering skills and facilitate longer product use.
In addition to detailed repair instructions for Patagonia gear, iFixit shares 19,672 free online repair manuals, covering 5,600 devices (as of May 2016). iFixit calls for repair not only because it’s better than recycling, but also because it lets you acquire engineering knowledge. Well, they are right. I see abundant knowledge here.
I saw many people who brought in their old Patagonia clothes to fix the wear and tear. This gentleman is with his favorite checked shirts he’s been wearing for more than 10 years! There is some wear around the neck, but the condition looks excellent.
He claims: “I LOVE Patagonia checked shirts. I am not an outdoor person, but I just like the checks and colors. I keep wearing them.”
He went on to show me Patagonia’s current line of checked shirts and gave me a brief “Patagonia checked shirt 101.” When the “lecture” was coming from his mouth, it wasn’t anything like a sales pitch.
The event also included the screening of Patagonia’s short movie “Worn Wear.” As the title suggests, it is a compilation of Patagonia users’ stories who continue wearing the same gear until they are literally worn out. They “boast” about their worn clothes — weathered, ripped and repaired so many times. Many items are handed down from one generation to the next.
The peculiar thing is, although the movie is all about worn gear or products that theoretically should have “depreciated” in value – if we were to borrow economic terms – it is far from any tone associated with stinginess, deficiency or sacrifice. Instead, it is simply filled with a prevailing sense of satisfaction.
This satisfaction overflow strikes me. How come they can feel so content by wearing the same old rugged clothes instead of replacing them with new ones?
Patagonia produced the event “Celebrate What You Already Have” and the movie “Worn Wear” to explicitly request customers to accept “less,” Patagonia pleas: “don’t buy more.” But even with the outright theme of “less,” I saw abundant enthusiasm, abundant knowledge, abundant love and satisfaction. It was beautiful.
Why is that?
For the customers gathered at the shop event and the folks who appeared in the movie, accepting “less” does not seem to be a loss or compromise. They seem to simply enjoy Patagonia’s old clothes (and other peoples’ company too).
If that’s the case, is it possible that old clothes are not an inferior substitute for new ones? Is it that their love for their old gear is not because they cannot afford it, or not because they want to sacrifice their desire to save our planet, but simply because old gear has MORE value than new gear?