Why Early Majority’s Degrowth Policy will have the fashion sector watching
Post (sort of) pandemic, the world just feels different. One of the big changes seems to be our need for balance, for nature, for activism, for creativity. And this really comes down to system change and degrowth. And if there’s a system in need of changing, it’s fashion. So let’s dive into Early Majority, an outdoor brand looking to flip the destructive apparel industry on its head.
Founded by Joy Howard, an American in Paris, the brand prioritizes ethically sourced and responsibly produced materials. Designing for maximum utility and lifespan, they aim to reduce the waste and overconsumption called “business as usual”.
“Leaning in,” Howard explains, “came at the expense of our own wellbeing. We forfeited control over our time, and over the last decade we lost touch with each other and nature.
That’s why we are all in on leaning out.” With a supportive membership model and technical designs, the brand aims to stay within environmental limits and push social ones.
Staying within environmental limits –Talking About Degrowth
The word degrowth raises the brows of brands who make way too much, way too fast.
Fashion flaunts a shiny golden crown engraved with Gross Domestic Product. It demands tons of natural resources for more products, more money, more growth. So degrowth is, like, confidently choosing to lean out, pause growth, and choose quality-of-life for all as our new priority. Then we finally let Earth breathe. Giorgos Kallis, an ecological economist, writes about sustainable degrowth. He says that under it “Material accumulation will no longer hold a prime position” in society. But how can a fashion brand work if we don’t continuously buy more products? After all, material production plus consumption equal cha-ching! You bet Joy thought the same thing while crafting Early Majority’s radical approach. Let’s see how her brand is starting the lean out life against business as usual.
Literally the brand’s page says, “The most sustainable garment is the one that’s never made.” Like, wow. Ever thought you’d hear a clothing brand say that? Me neither. One reason Joy says this is because she plans to produce less. That implies better management of returns. Optimally, less clothing is returned to begin with. This in turn means minimizing transport Greenhouse Gas emission. It also means those horror stories of brands destroying stock becomes old news. And that, you see, is one reason why they’ll stare down Early Majority’s model—waiting to see if intense circularity is really viable for business.
Early Majority is still a business. So, if they’ll focus on minimal growth and circularity, then every penny counts, right? Consequently, they’ll have to try hard to avoid traditional resell markets. That’s probably a good idea because we all know the story there. Someone takes a brand’s clothing then resells it at a higher price than what they paid for it, pocketing the profit. With a circular model, they offer members options – to refurbish, repair, or resell. This allows garments, and revenues, to stay in the loop. And it enhances their story – the customers morph into (well-educated) partners, concerned about what’s good for our society and planet.
In transportation there are different modes of transport, for example, you can drive, or save on emissions by walking or skating to class. Either way, you get to where you want, yah? Now, think of that but make it fashion. With Early Majority, you can switch how you take on the day’s events knowing you’re covered—I might add, in style. “You only need a few pieces to…do what you wanna do,” Joy says. The clothing is designed as multifunctional, so you don’t have to keep buying more every time your activities change. Go from the office to mountain biking with a small addition here, a subtraction there. You build out your kit and that’s it!
In this outdated fashion industry, where half of everything made ends up in the landfill (or shipped out in containers or burned like 16c. witches) within a year, apparel waste escapes scrutiny. Going modular will put eyes on this calamity. Many outdoor clothes now are splintered into highly specialized activities; brands are hellbent on noticing slightly different needs for each sport. Yes, we’ve all got different needs, but an intelligent designer could create modular adjustment options to meet most of them. Good job Joy. Thank for your brand’s innovation.
Outdoors and streets traditionally both self-identifying male domains. Pushing the social boundary, Early Majority is really gender neutral or female centric. How modern! Check out the brand’s Spring Kit we mentioned earlier. Their Shell actually has this extended hood if you want to save your makeup from running in rain. Their magnet Badges can be removed if you wanna go anon and be protected from unsolicited harassment. And their Cape has specially designed zips to leave room for pregnant parents! The line also comes in all black to avoid trends. We think other brands should really take note at this point! Shouldn’t they consider these aspects of everyday life instead of tempting us to consume things just for the cute of it? Joy is ahead of the game here. Her brand focuses on the experiences of life rather than simply highlighting the appearance of the garments.
Now, how will Early Majority earn money if they are doing fashion-as-unusual? “Well, if I didn’t have an idea about how we’d make that successful, it would be really difficult,” laughs Joy.
Making her dream items has been challenging, but this is where a membership model helps. Since all expenses should be considered in the true cost of a garment, the brand’s prices range from around $25-987 for members and $40-1,345 for the nons. She’s hoping that everyone buys into this alternative apparel model and invests in their brand’s outerwear long-term.
“So, what we’re going to do is keep the line really tight and…try to grow the community such that whenever we make a new product, we’re only selling to community members. So, in the beginning, you’ll see there’s a member price and a non-member price & that’s just because we don’t have a big enough community yet. But the idea would be that when the products go on sale to the community for the first ten days, two weeks, that we sell out of everything then. And then what’s left over would go to non-members. But hopefully someday we’ll get to a place where there’s never any left over, and so we’re only selling to members.”
Supply chain management
Ah, isn’t that the question of the hour? How on Earth will the brand pull this off?
Making the technical garments sustainably needs supply chain magic. So, GELANOTS® recycled polyester, and French leather are used in Early Majority’s products since that magic is still missing. But before you squint, at least the leather comes as byproduct from the meat industry, right? And fashion’s recycling innovations are still developing. Compromising is the next best thing. “The factory that we manufacture in is in Portugal. It’s solar powered. It’s… widely renowned as one of the best places to work.”
Degrowth as a lifestyle
To degrow means leaning out of lifestyles that cause unnecessary environmental and social harm. It means slowing down and prioritizing balance, activity, and creativity.
This is hard when speed is queen and trends rave; however, sacrifices must be made for the good of the community and ourselves. And if we must sacrifice something as fleeting as a fashion trend here or there, then we’d better do it now. Let’s trade for more a more functional, freeing fashion!
Joy Howard knows that our environmental, social, and economic problems are multidimensional. So, she’s created a multidimensional brand. More and more, brands are stepping up to the beast of business-as-usual by starting alternative operations. Yes, they’re still producing, and we’re still consuming but thankfully the reckoning is starting now while there’s time to transition.
What do you think about membership models? DM us and let us know!
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