The BoF Podcast | Joy Howard on Community Fuelled Sustainability

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The seed of inspiration for Early Majority has been growing in founder Joy Howard’s mind since her days at Patagonia in the early 2010s. Howard grew to understand the contradiction between fashion’s constant drive to sell more against the industry’s efforts to curb its environmental impact. This sparked the question in her: can a brand focus on selling timeless products rather than an endless array of new collections?

Early Majority sells “layered” outerwear, which it packages in “kits” that include everything from light windbreakers to cold weather puffers. It also offers a membership programme, where customers who mint an NFT gain access to lower prices, exclusive products and other benefits.

“[Early Majority is] a different experience than ‘just buy this,’” she said. “These very transactional experiences that we have with brands are not that great for either side in the long-term.”

Since founding Early Majority, Howard has bet on paying members enabling the brand to meet its aim of creating the fewest number of products for the maximum possible number of uses and just as critically engaging a community well versed in the brand. Howard has her heart set on meeting customers’ needs while changing the way consumers think about product lifespan.

This week on The BoF Podcast, BoF’s founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed speaks with Howard about why degrowth is the future for fashion business models and how she has progressed towards her goals.

Key Insights:

  • Coming from a background in marketing, Howard has led her business venture with intention and practicality. “I realised that you can have all the great intentions in the world, but if you don’t actually understand how to run a business, you’re not really going to be that effective,” she said.
  • Howard’s goal for de-growth consumption originates from her pursuit of consumer discovery. “We all want to always be growing. But the way that we grow is the question that we have to grapple with,” says Howard. “Anybody that comes into the brand has a sense that they’re participating in something that’s emergent and different and [has] a sense of discovery.”
  • The value of community has been at the forefront of Howard’s venture. Realising early on when transforming to a membership model, Howard has centred Early Majority’s community and intrinsically links it with tangible value. “I think it is actually very energising to connect with other people around a common vision and a common goal,” says Howard. “[Early Majority’s] token is kind of like the thing that you all hold in common. And as the community becomes more valuable, the token becomes more valuable.”

Additional Resources:

  • Why Brands Are Betting on Membership: Swiss performance brand On is among the players betting the model can drive consumer engagement and help tackle tricky sustainability challenges.

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