This week, a look at the brands following Patagonia’s lead across business strategies. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, giving the Glossy+ community the opportunity to join discussions around industry topics.
Brands are borrowing from Patagonia’s playbook for Black Friday and beyond.
The 50-year-old outdoor apparel company, which has long been the poster brand for environmental and social responsibility, has a history of pioneering disruptive initiatives for Black Friday. This year, its influence was apparent as brands released their shopping holiday plans.
In 2011, Patagonia ran a full-page “Don’t buy this jacket” ad in the New York Times, urging people to buy less and more thoughtfully. This year, sneaker brand Cariuma, among others, is opting out of running a Black Friday promotion hoping to send the same message. In 2013, Patagonia urged consumers to repair what they own rather than buy new. Likewise, fashion brands Freitag, Mud Jeans and Raeburn are closing their e-commerce sites on Black Friday, while hosting anti-consumption events like clothing swaps and repair workshops. And in 2016, Patagonia donated all of its profits from the shopping holiday to grassroots environmental groups, which equated to $10 million. On a smaller scale, custom accessories brand Stoney Clover Lane has announced that, on Giving Tuesday, it will donate 100% of its net profits from a dedicated collection to nonprofit Salood.
“Patagonia leads the way in sustainability, which is admirable,” said Mollie Hughes, CEO of sustainable shopping platform Softly. “But sustainable brands can participate in Black Friday discounts while still encouraging responsible consumption.”
Of course, Patagonia’s against-the-grain, often shocking moves haven’t been confined to the holiday season. In September, the company’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, made waves when he and his family simply transferred their ownership of the company, valued at $3 billion, to a nonprofit. Moving forward, the organization will ensure that 100% of Patagonia’s profits, estimated to be $100 million per year, are used to protect the environment.
Thanks to the rise of the conscious consumer and also social media providing consumers with new access to brands, brands’ values, ethics and processes are under the microscope like never before. Still, brands that authentically put the environment at the center of their mission are a rare breed. But Laura May Gibbs, founder and creative director of 8-year-old Australian activewear brand Nagnata, is among those leading with a Chouinard mindset.
“What Patagonia has done is incredible,” said Gibbs. “That’s my vision for Nagnata in the next 20 years: to have a business that purely funds environmental programs and communities dedicated to combating environmental issues.”
More brands have received B Corp certification, following Patagonia in confirming their commitments to sustainability, quality working conditions, diversity and inclusion. Since 2016, that’s included the aforementioned Cariuma, as well as Toms, Allbirds, fashion brand Another Tomorrow, underwear brand TomboyX and Anuka Jewelry, among others.
To date, Nagnata has been fully funded by Gibbs, despite many investment offers. A big reason is that Gibbs wants to uphold Nagnata’s dedication to charity work and community work without feeling pressure to justify it. “From others’ point of view, I don’t always make the best decisions, but part of Nagnata’s beauty is that we’re a very human brand; we prioritize community,” she said.
Gibbs plays by her own rules in situations across the board. For example, she strictly works with wholesale partners that allow for the long lead times the brand’s sustainable production processes require. And she’s prioritized product over marketing since deciding to launch the brand around a unique concept: a long-lasting, age-inclusive brand of yoga studio-to-street styles made from natural fibers. To test her vision, she linked with Australia’s knitwear manufacturers, driven by their no-waste production processes. And she made merino wool a signature of the brand, after realizing the challenge of making performance wear out of other natural materials. It took her two years to develop Nagnata’s first sellable pieces.
“I’ve been working in fashion since I was 19, traveling to a lot of factories and mills, and seeing the pollution in the waterways and the denim factories,” said Gibbs. “The more I found out about the industry, the more I realized that it wasn’t married with my belief system.”
Gibbs acknowledged that producing new fashion of any kind cannot be called sustainable. As such, she calls her focus “sustainably-minded design.”
“I want to do the best I can do, in every part of the process, by considering everything down to the fabric choice,” she said. She added that, other than some organic cotton used to make a small T-shirt collection, Nagnata has used zero ready-made fabrics. And it continues to work toward its goal of using 100% natural fibers — it will get there by the end of 2023, according to Gibbs. For now, some recycled synthetics are used to facilitate stretch.
Gibbs said Nagnata caters to the wellness-focused lifestyles of both people in its headquarters of Byron Bay, Australia and people in Los Angeles. Of course, like sustainability, wellness was prioritized across regions during the height of the pandemic. That served the brand well: In 2020, its sales doubled.
Nagnata has only recently started advertising, on digital channels. Prior, it had relied on organic growth driven by beautiful, approachable and relatable imagery by photographer friends of Gibbs, as well as messaging showcasing its values. In addition, Gibbs’ strong reputation within the Australian fashion industry, having worked as a designer for Alice McCall, for one, earned the brand local press.
What has really helped to catapult the brand, however, have been its big stockists of Net-a-Porter and Lane Crawford, both secured early on. Gibbs attends the biannual buyers’ markets in New York and Paris. And, typically, she splits her time between Australia and Los Angeles.
The company’s U.S. business is growing, currently accounting for 20% of its revenue. So, setting up a dedicated e-commerce site and third-party logistics in the U.S. is a priority. And next week, it will host a pop-up in L.A. — it plans to open an L.A. store in the future.
As for other stores, Nagnata upgraded from a makeshift storefront to a first permanent store, in Byron Bay, Australia, earlier this month. Next, Gibbs wants to open a store in Sydney.
Currently, Nagnata’s corporate team is made up of six employees, plus it has an L.A.-based COO and two business advisors who act as CEOs, Gibbs said. Nagnata also employs a retail staff.
Moving forward, Gibbs wants to grow Nagnata’s emerging men’s business and build on Nagnata’s product assortment — based on the shoppers’ demands, it’s been evolving to look more like traditional ready-to-wear, Gibbs said. It’s already introduced knit sweaters and, in February, it will debut outerwear and a ski collection. According to Gibbs, Nagnata’s Net-a-Porter sales spiked after Gibbs convinced buyers to feature the brand’s styles in categories beyond activewear.