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Early Majority is Dematerializing Apparel
"We believe that we’re going to use blockchain technology to radically reinvent apparel in a way that’s better for people and planet."
Welcome to issue 005 of Club Network Journal, your biweekly check-in with the ever-growing Seed Club ecosystem of incredible DAOs and tokenized communities 🌱 A reminder that applications for our fifth Accelerator cohort SC05 open August 1st! Follow us and subscribe to our newsletter to be one of the first to know when applications go live.
For this week’s Seed Club project spotlight, we had the pleasure of chatting with Joy Howard, co-founder of Early Majority. Early Majority is a maker of technical outerwear for all eventualities and all genders, and they recently published their Hello World post announcing plans to launch their membership as a DAO. Joy comes to web3 after leading marketing at blue-chips brands Patagonia, Nike, and Sonos
Joy Howard! Welcome to Club Network Journal, our bi-weekly email highlighting the incredible builders and communities within the Seed Club ecosystem. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us.
What were you doing before finding yourself at Seed Club?
I was a CMO and joke that I’m known for building brands that other brands want to be— aka Converse, Patagonia, Sonos, etc. I was also recognized by Forbes for my work as a digital rights activist because I was one of the very first CMOs to speak out against Facebook, all the way back in 2018.
Before I went into business, I was a recording artist (band was Seely and we got swept up in the late-90s, post Nirvana indie major-label gold rush). I think that and seeing how creators fared in Web2 enabled me to instantly understand the potential of Web3. Not to mention my experience as a marketer bankrolling the ad-supported internet. There has to be a better way!
So now you’re here, in web3. Talk us through the decision to launch EM as a DAO? What about web3 is special here, why not just launch like a traditional company?
One thing that has made Web2 platforms so powerful was the way in which their business models actually improve their product. The more you use them, the better they get (in terms of targeting and monetizing you). Understanding that made me question the business model of apparel in general and the outdoor and sportswear industry in particular. Their growth model makes their products worse and not better. Because they grow through product proliferation, they constantly chase hyperspecialization and sense-less iterations. The relationship with them is very transactional, and there is almost no feedback loop between the customer and manufacturer.
So we started with a very simple, but radical notion: what if we could grow a business by expanding supportive community rather than proliferating product? Would that enable to make the product better over time instead of worse?
We also like to say that membership resolves the tension between scale and sustainability, which brings me to the next reason for launching as a DAO. The current apparel industry is incredibly destructive to the planet. Vast amounts of financial capital (VC funded CAC) has been flushed through the market to scale DTC brands, at the expense of natural capital. The apparel industry is the second most polluting on the planet— emitting more carbon than all of maritime shipping and commercial air flights combined. 20% of it goes straight to landfill without ever being worn— and don’t even get me started on e-commerce return rates. If we make things only for our members, we eliminate much of this waste & impact immediately.
What if we could gather like-minded people who wanted to work on this together? Since a DAO is a community bound together by shared ownership toward a common goal, it just made sense. That shared ownership comes in the form of our digital membership badge, which we’re minting next month.
What is “degrowth,” and why does it matter to EM?
Degrowth is a political movement led by devoted activists who are right to question “green growth” and ESG. I’m inspired by their vision and because we’re actually trying to dematerialize apparel (create a business that empowers our members to consume less and experience more— while still generating financial value for our members, shareholders and employees), we’ve been linked with this movement in the press.
Can you tell us a bit about the garments and what makes them unique? What considerations did you have while designing them? Who and what inspired the design?
We started with a system of technical outerwear designed for all eventualities and all genders. Each piece is modular and multifunctional, so you can spend less time shopping and more time outdoors. They’re all designed to work together, so you can layer up or down depending on the weather. This Summer we added a few light pieces that we thought were also essential to a great kit. To minimize waste, we launched it all in black— which is most of what people buy anyway.
Most of this is inspired by our own experience outdoors— and my own personal frustration with the state of technical outerwear for women in general, and cyclists in particular. I’m particularly proud of our hood constructions, which are great for cycling in the rain— leaving your peripheral vision unobstructed— with brims that keep your mascara from running. Hanna, our Head of Product, grew up in the Netherlands, so she’s pretty deep on the cycling kits as well. Ditching your car for a bike is one of the most profoundly liberating and positive things one can do, yet no one ever really designed great gear for it.
Almost all of the garments come with removable branding, aka badges, which are NFT-enabled. These allow our brand partners to hijack our gear for visibility and community. Finally, every garment has been created with a unique digital identity allowing them to be put on the blockchain to validate not only their provenance but their future chain of custody— and hopefully provide transparency on post purchase usage, something which has tremendous impact but about which we know almost nothing other than, for example, that a jacket worn 5 times creates 400% more carbon than one worn 50 times. We’re in the early stages of building out this utility, because we decided to focus on creating our own DAO to solidify our membership model first.
You’re working with Eco Labs, tell us more about this collab.
We believe that we’re going to use blockchain technology to radically reinvent apparel in a way that’s better for people and planet, but the skepticism around— and sometimes outright hostility toward— crypto undermines our intention. Eco-labs convinced us that we could achieve carbon negativity of all of our Web3 work right off the bat.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far building in web3? How are you building differently from web2?
I’m surprised by how much fun it is, and what a powerful force having a good time together can be. I’m also surprised by how generative the culture is. It’s the antithesis of the dystopian, out-for-myself malaise that has gripped so much of society for too long. Growth in Web3 is earned and not bought, and I think the relationships are deeper and stronger than they are broad and shallow. I tend to agree with Jess that communities now are about leverage more than scale.
What lessons (if any) are you taking with you from your pre-web3 days?
Building in Web3 is alot more like the pre-Facebook/Google duopoly days, when cultural relevance mattered. Great brands are born out of just such subcultures, which are inherently oppositional. What mattered then, but matters even more now is the power of creative work. I’m blown away by the quality of creativity in the space.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people beginning their web3 building journey?
Learn by doing. If you try to read everything that has been and continues to be written, you’ll never get anything done. But to learn by doing, you have to do it with the best. Get close to the people doing the work you admire.
Last question, what’s inspiring you right now?
I’m inspired by the artists and outdoor communities with whom we’ve been working— especially Miranda July and Right to Roam and Nick Hayes’ work on trespassing. Graeber & Wengrow’s book The Dawn of Everything literally changed the way I look at everything and filled me with outrageous optimism for the future. We’re all very into Atmos Magazine and of course Dirt, with whom we’re partnering.
Thanks for chatting with us! Is there anything else you want to share about EM? Yes, we’re very thankful for the support and encouragement that we’ve gotten from other communities like Seed Club and FWB, as well as the scene in Paris!
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