Patagonia's Common Threads: buy less, buy used

Got your fill of Fashion Week? Feeling a little hung over from the barrage of new designs for next Spring (and perhaps a few after-party cocktails)? If so, what’s on the docket for last Spring’s garb? A call to Goodwill for a pick-up? A sneaky trip out to the dumpster? How about selling last season’s clothes on eBay?

Some might call this last option a little gauche, but outdoor-wear powerhouse Patagonia calls it green. I don’t know if the company had new designs on display last week, but they did choose the advent of Fashion Week (coincidentally, I’m sure) to announce their new Common Threads Initiative, which includes the option of selling your used hiking duds on an eBay site designated specifically for the program. Created around the five Rs of “reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, reimagine,” and built off of a Patagonia recycling initiative of the same name, the two companies are using this unique partnership to make the point that the greenest clothes are those that don’t need to be made and sold, because existing apparel can still serve many people’s needs.

According to GreenBiz, the new Common Threads program stems from Patagonia’s realization that no matter how eco-friendly they made their clothing, they needed to reduce the amount of clothing they sold to make a real difference in their environmental impact, and recycling a garment that still had a useful life was ultimately wasteful: why deconstruct a piece of clothing that can still serve its purpose? Commons Threads aims to put all of the “R’s” in perspective; Recycling’s great, but it’s the last in line for a reason. Buying high-quality clothing that can be repaired, and even passed on, makes much more sense from a green perspective.

What’s even more radical about this approach? Patagonia makes nothing off of it. eBay will still get its cut of the sales price, and the seller will get the rest. Yvon Chouinaird, the company’s founder, is fine with this. He told The Wall Street Journal “I’m in business for different reasons. I’ve made all the money I could possibly need.” A radical move, no doubt about it.

Would you be willing to buy used Patagonia gear off of eBay? Would you be more willing to shop the company for taking this action? We’re interested to hear what you have to say.


Image: Patagonia employees and ambassadors at the Common Threads Initiative launch event in NYC at the Bowery Hotel Credit: Patagonia