Don’t buy these pants

I try to be concientious about my clothing purchases, as do many other people. The popularity of this movement is a double edged sword, as “artisan made” has been Goop-ified to coincide with priveledge and wealth. Many use their altruistic desires as a status symbol. Because of that demand, companies try to align themselves with the liberal-minded materialists. Some even use donations as a sly form of advertising and self-promotion.

I am also a liberal-minded fashionista. So, I bought pants from The Elephant Pants and was happy with them and their mission until a friend of mine told me about her trip to Thailand and her fresh perspective of the company. 

The Elephant Pants is the name of the company, but as I was told, elephant pants are incredibly popular in that part of the world. It is the name of an entire section of clothing, like jeans. So, this American company essentially named themselves “The Jeans” in an incredibly pretentious move. Furthermore, these pants are made with very cheap material. It’s threadbare which is a desirable aspect in the heat, but you can barely call it linen. My pair ripped immediately when I moved my legs too quickly. In Thailand, they sell for about $4 and my friend said most vendors told her it costs less than one dollar to make a pair. So, though this company donates one measly dollar to combat poaching, their profit margin is enormous. The Elephant Pants’ business model seems to be inflating the price exponetionally and then slapping on some trendy donation ploy for profits.

My main issue is that they could afford to donate more than just one dollar to the African Wildlife Foundation given that the pants cost cents to make. Their claims of being a benevolent company full of animal lovers is simply not true. If their primry mission was to save the elephants, they would take a smaller piece of the pie for themselves. The owners of this company spend more time and money talking about saving the elephants than they do to actually making a difference. One can safely assume that the profits they make from people like me buying these pants is more than the total donation amount. This affectation of altruism is all for profit.

 The Elephant Pants is a perfect example of a company whose primary goal is to make a profit, but is disingenuous in their presentation. It also gives the impression that buying these pants is tantamount to donating time or money to a nonprofit. 

Even I must admit that I wanted the pants because they’re cute and make a political statement; the company’s mission statement is what made me decide to shell out for the pants. It’s wildly unfair. I could have donated 20 bucks to an elephant sanctuary and done much more good. The pants themselves aren’t worth the money. I feel duped. I paid for the priveledge to feel good about myself and only two dollars of my money went to the manufacturing and the message of the pants. I know better now.

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  • Heather Virginia

    I just bought two pair after doing some research to make sure they were legit and I really thought they were doing someone is. It’s so hard to tell these days 😞

  • mollyadaly

    Pretty bummed tbh – I expected them to be softer and I didn’t realize they donated so little. They’re comfy and I like the print, but I can’t bring myself to recommend them to anyone else.

    • fennecfawn

      Yeah, that was my experience. I still have the ripped pants that I will either fix or use the fabric to make a cute bag or top or something. I wish it were a better product and more ethical, but you live and learn, I guess.

  • Amelia

    And the worst thing is that the way they market themselves, you would think they are an NGO whereas they’re only putting in a dollar towards their cause. I understand that bringing the pants to the US involves a lot of charges but why pretend that they are all about elephants when in truth, that is just a ploy to get more sales? There are many other elephant pant brands that are a lot more honest about this.

  • kay

    …it’s not personl. It’s business. Shipping to the us is incredibly expensive and you have no idea of what costs they incur or what they pay to have them made or what their company offers to employees. We don’t see these things. Not sticking up for unscrupulous business practices but we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Also, they donate 10% or $1. Either way, it’s THEIR business. Why shouldn’t they make a profit from their intellectual property and secure wealth for their families? Now selling a cheaply made product for $24.00 that doesn’t last one wear…I’ll boycott for that.

    • fennecfawn

      I see what you’re saying. I wouldn’t go so far to say that elephant pants are this particular company’s intellectual property since they’re ubiquitous. The company is good at branding and advertising, though. I didn’t know what elephant pants were before I heard about these guys. It’s true that I don’t know what they pay their employees. At the end of the day, quality and ethical production are what I look for in a product

      • Boho-fo-sho

        Being in the boho pants business,I can tell you unequivocally that they are making a massive profit and donating very little. In the bulk they buy, they most likely pay $0.30 a pair or a bit less. There’s nothing wrong with making a profit, but they are doing it on the premise of donating to the greater good which is a half truth. Shipping to the US from Asia is not expensive anymore. It adds roughly $0.20-0.70 per pair of shipped via container. They are just taking a prevalent Asian product and marking it up ridiculously and branding themselves well…all under the guise of donating to African Elephants. The funniest part is, the pants are made in Asia, shouldn’t they donate to Asian Elephant foundations? Food for thought.

  • Sherry Scott

    Bought two pair of the same size pants, different prints. One pair was 4 inches longer (the right length,) than the other pair. Quality control is lousy.

  • Lori

    How can they possibly be concerned about elephants, when the elephants depicted on their clothing are in captivity? An elephant in its natural habitat or in a sanctuary would not be all embellished. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a picture of an enslaved elephant.

  • Gretchen A Lutz

    I’ve been to Thailand and I agree with you completely. They are making a huge profit off of cheap human labor and then giving a tiny bit to the elephants. I’d like to see Shark Tank focus on ethical business models.

  • Alia

    Same here. I will continue to wear the pants I have purchased, but I will no longer be recommending them to friends or purchasing more. They are making hand over fist and only use the elephants “bit” to make liberal animal lovers purchase more product. Such a disgrace. $22 for Harem boho pants of cheap material and donating pennies to one foundation! Sigh.

  • Josh

    Just came across this thread as I was looking for Elephant Pants reviews as I am (re)starting my own clothing company with a similar ‘buy-one-donate-some’ model.

    Here’s are my questions to you:
    How much would you suggest they donate? Should it be a percentage of the purchase of the item? Should they add on an extra $3 to the retail price without telling you and you donate $4 total? Should you be allowed to add an extra donation at the end of the sale if you want to (that goes directly to the organization rather than to their wallet – and if so, do you think you would choose to pay $3 extra for a product?)

    Would you like the item to be less similar to the items you find on the street in Thailand and therefore better quality? Or would you deem it culturally inappropriate they are taking what locals have made in another country and started making them elsewhere with a different fabric to what they usually use?

    What else would you like from a company that specifically does *not* market itself as an NGO but still gives money/resources to an organization?

    Regarding “Their claims of being a benevolent company full of animal lovers is simply not true. If their primry mission was to save the elephants, they would take a smaller piece of the pie for themselves. The owners of this company spend more time and money talking about saving the elephants than they do to actually making a difference.” – if you saw video evidence of how your money is helping save elephants – would you be inclined to change your opinion on this?

    Genuinely curious about all of these points – hopefully other people also chime in to respond to this so I can get valuable feedback for my venture and therefore truly make a difference while keeping the consumer happy.

    Thanks for your time. I look forward to your response!

  • Cam

    I saw this on shark tank, i was so confused. I bought identical pants for 2.50 USD (2 pairs for 5$) in Siam Reap Cambodia in February 2016… It’s something every backpacker in South East Asia wears almost as a rite of passage. I really appreciate this blog post, it’s a shameless business plan targeting trendy (maybe a little naive) millennials who have big hearts for an important cause.

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