A recent study by the Guardian found that activism is the new sex appeal. Since the election of Donald Trump, we've seen corporations celebrated for taking political stands. Whether it was Lyft's CEO announcing the ride share company was donating $1M to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) shortly after the Muslim ban was announced, or Starbucks declaring a commitment to hire 10,000 refugees or Airbnb pledging to offer free housing to those denied travel to the US, companies are putting a stake in the ground when it comes to expressing their values.
Now, fashion is joining the fight. An industry long defined by sex appeal is catching on to the activism trend led by Patagonia and Indigenous, two pioneering environmental brands whose values are a part of their core identity. After controversial bills by both a Utah Congressman and the state’s governor, the two fashion brands withdrew from the one of the largest outdoor retailer shows in the country that has called Salt Lake City home for the previous 15 years.
The uproar began after Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced a bill calling for the disposal of 3.3 million acres of federal land in 10 Western states. Utah Governor Gary Herbert followed Chaffetz's lead signing a state legislature bill urging President Donald Trump to rescind the newly-designated Bears Ears National Monument that President Obama officially declared federal park land fall.
While the backlash from environmentalists and outdoorsmen against Congressman Chaffetz's resolution was swift in killing the land-sale bill, it is Indigenous and Patagonia's decisions to withdraw from the massive Outdoor retailer trade show that might be the strongest message.
The bold move by both companies who have long championed Fair Trade and environmental values, will prove to be a big blow to the trade show as both brands attract unique (attendees or buyers) to the trade show and have been leading members of its community for over 15 years. Now organizers, which say that the twice yearly event brings in 45,000 visitors and $40M in revenue to the state, are looking elsewhere for a new venue in a state whose policies "support the outdoor industry's culture and values."
Indigenous and Patagonia's leadership is another example of companies that are standing up for what they believe in and creating meaningful change. According to Indigenous CEO and co-founder Scott Leonard, it was an easy decision to make. “We applaud and wholeheartedly support Patagonia for their leadership. At Indigenous, we chose to take the road less traveled in the fashion world. Following and supporting Patagonia's lead in this pro-environment decision was simply the right thing to do because it upholds the core values of our brand.”
Already the decision to join Patagonia is making serious waves and other retailers such as North Face, REI, Arcteryx have since spoken out in favor of leaving Utah. Hopefully, a loss of $40M in annual revenue will cause the Utah Governor to reconsider. In the interim, both companies plan to continue to honor the environment and social issues in the best way they know how: through fair trade practices and organic materials.