Degrowth As A Business Model?
Early Majority is trying to degrow the fashion industry
Okay as a Patagonia fanboy, when the former Vice President of Global Marketing at Patagonia, Joy Howard, launches a new company, I have to check it out:
Early Majority is a very new fashion brand that seems to do things differently by focusing on degrowth and community-ownership. Both of these concepts are exactly the kind of new ideas and worlds that we wanna dive deeper into here at Creative Destruction 😉. Aaaand then this is also about fashion which is arguably one of the most horrible industries in the world, but also one of the most influential ones. So this is super interesting.
Let’s take a quick dive in:
First, What Is Degrowth?
Whether you call it degrowth, post-growth, or donut economics, these ideas all share one simple message: a managed reduction of the economy to bring it in line with planetary boundaries and meet climate goals. Degrowth always sounds so harsh and negative when it’s actually quite of a no-brainer - “bringing the economy in line with planetary boundaries” - and probably exactly what we need in an overconsuming, overwhelming world: less but more meaning.
In particular, what I like about degrowth, however, is its systemic approach:
“It builds on the work of ecological and anti-colonial theorists. In this way, the concept of degrowth is closely linked with climate justice, Indigenous rights, and reparations for […] extractive and neo-colonial production models.” via Good on You
It therefore very strongly links the problem of the climate crisis with that of social injustice:
“We have mishandled our relationship with nature because only a small percentage of the population decides on how we deal with it.” via Good on You
Early Majority X Degrowth
Early Majority tries to incorporate or adhere to the rules of degrowth with these three elements:
Modularity & Sufficiency: Early Majority only has around 9 outdoor apparel pieces which together form a modular system that can be adapted and layered to suit all kinds of eventualities. From now on, the only new products that will follow from the brand will be better iterations of what already exists.
Circularity: All products have a lifetime guarantee and free repairs. What’s more, customers are able to trade in their clothes which then get repaired, refurbished and resold to prolong their lifecycle.
Membership/Community: In addition, there is a membership model. The membership currently gives a customer a member badge, newsletter content, early access to products, reduced prices, exclusives and a voice in product creation. In the future, there will also be access to events, product swaps, group buys, and made-to-measure garments. For now, everyone is able to buy Early Majority’s clothes, but the brand’s goal is to make its membership so successful that non-member sales are closed completely - essentially becoming member-sufficient.
Another part of the membership/community element is the badges. On each garment, there are four magnetic snap fasteners which can either be left blank, or fitted with badges. And on its website, Early Majority customers will be able to find badges designed collaboratively with certain activist designers which raise money and awareness for charities and grassroots communities. This allows customers to refresh their garments without buying new products. Also, the badges will be NFT-enabled, so secondary sales of the badges will earn royalties for the brand and its affiliated communities.
Now, this is all still quite experimental and in its very early days.
The clothes and membership are super expensive (it’s high-end outdoor gear), the branding is - in my opinion - sometimes a bit too “blabla”, and I am very much missing other important degrowth elements such as full-on community-ownership (or at least a direction towards something like that), accessibility, and localism. But hey, it’s a start and some of the basics are set. The membership model, especially, could turn into a great way to go even more into degrowth.
“Our membership model addresses the contradiction between scale and sustainability. But, you cannot build a business that doesn’t grow, because that isn’t a good experience for the people in the business.
What we need to do is address how we grow, to dematerialise growth and create businesses with less drawdown on natural capital.”
- Joy Howard, CEO & Founder of Early Majority
Now, Early Majority is just one small example of how businesses (at least) try to implement degrowth ideas in a still super competitive, growth- and extraction-focused market landscape ✊. Vogue highlights a few more in this interesting article and if you wanna go even deeper into the rabbit hole of degrowth, then listen to this podcast interview with Jason Hickel, author of Less is More.
That’s it for this week! All the best!