Drop culture – but make it about sustainability rather than hype

The first time that I scrolled past an Instagram ad for PANGAIA was a few months ago, right as it was starting to get cold in Minnesota. The ad was for their FLWRDWN puffer jacket, which is a cruelty-free, completely biodegradable winter jacket made from wild flowers using a patented process. I clicked on the website and checked out the details of the coat, thought it seemed really cool and innovative, and then moved on and pretty much forgot about it.

Moving forward to the last month, I have been seeing PANGAIA products and ads all over my Instagram feed. Most prominent are the matching recycled cotton sets, which are very similar to the now well-known Entireworld cotton sets. PANGAIA has a higher price point for these items, however, I believe that the company backs it up with loads of information and proof of materials innovation, which means that they can sell at those higher prices.

If you’ve never heard of PANGAIA, here’s a brief summary of the company:

PANGAIA is a direct-to-consumer materials science company bringing breakthrough textile innovations and patents into the world through everyday lifestyle products. Every technology we work with aims to solve an environmental problem of the fashion/apparel & nature industry.

We hope to drive these solutions further by making technologies and materials available to companies across different industries. By introducing these innovations, we design materials, products and experiences for everyday and everyone.”

If you head to PANGAIA’s website, you’ll notice that almost every product is sold out- for now. Now that the demand for PANGAIA products has began to surge because of social media popularity, PANGAIA products have been pretty tough to get. What I’ve started to admire about the company is that they have taken a different approach to the usual “drop culture” method by focusing entirely on the sustainability and production of the brand and its items.

From what I can tell, about once a week PANGAIA posts on Instagram that they are going to allow pre-orders for a few different items, usually rotating style and color options. For the pre-order that happened today, the products won’t be shipped for another month and a half, so there is true customer dedication considering that people will wait that long to get what they have bought.

PANGAIA does not have excess inventory laying around, which means that based on the demand inquired from the pre-orders they can then manufacture exactly how many are needed, so there is no wasted inventory left over. PANGAIA can also cap the pre-orders at their maximum production capacity meaning that there will not be any delays in production.

For companies that regularly utilize “drops” of products or lines, the products are usually already made and often sell out. There is always the potential for a drop to be unsuccessful or poorly forecast in terms of sales volume, leaving a company or brand with a ton of leftover stock that either needs to be marked down or somehow gotten rid of. While this method is more sustainable than traditional retail, it’s still not perfect in terms of sustainable apparel.

Hype is often associated with drop culture, as is exclusivity. PANGAIA has brilliantly managed to create hype around their products without the goal of creating exclusive access to their products. PANGAIA wants anyone to be able to buy their products while maintaining a healthy and sustainable production practice, which is something I haven’t seen yet. There is hype and demand, everyone just has to practice a little patience. Because PANGAIA “drops” pre-orders almost once a week, as a consumer I can tell that they’re not trying to make the products exclusive, they just want to change the way that we think about consumption and the way that products are produced.

What I’ve also noticed having to be patient for PANGAIA to drop a pre-order in a color that I really, really want is that this is training me to be willing to wait for a product that I really love that I know will be produced as responsibly as possible. I don’t need a matching PANGAIA sweatsuit right now, and even if I pick a drop to try and get a set from and miss out, I trust that PANGAIA will release those products again at some point. Patience is not usually associated with apparel consumption, but with PANGAIA’s current success, maybe it can be in the near future.

Published by Emma Irwin

Emma Irwin is a passionate student of the retail industry. Freshly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Retail Merchandising, she will be pursuing an M.S. in Apparel Studies with a concentration in Retail and Consumer Studies in fall 2020. Career ambitions include writing a formal research paper, becoming a retail writer and reporter, and maybe being a CEO someday.

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