The Iconic Edition
News
|21 Aug 2017

Introducing: Patagonia & the Man Behind the Brand

With high quality clothes and a pioneering attitude, Patagonia has become one of the world’s leading sportswear brands – without ever compromising its environmental outlook.
THE ICONIC
21 Aug 2017
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‘When I die and go to hell, the devil is going to make me the marketing director of a cola company.’ So says Patagonia founder, eco warrior and all-round legend, Yvon Chouinard, in his autobiography - and alternative guide to running a business - Let My People Go Surfing.

Not the kinds of words you’d expect from a 78-year-old billionaire who has helmed one of the world’s most successful sportswear companies for nearly fifty years. But then this 78-year-old is not your average billionaire.

Famed for his outspoken desire to protect the environment, and his directive to staff that they should meld their work, leisure and family life together wherever possible, Chouinard is almost a better fit for this generation than his own. He was the ultimate disruptive businessman at a time when ‘disruption’ and ‘business’ were two words that had never gone together before.

News
|21 Aug 2017

Introducing: Patagonia & the Man Behind the Brand

With high quality clothes and a pioneering attitude, Patagonia has become one of the world’s leading sportswear brands – without ever compromising its environmental outlook.
THE ICONIC
21 Aug 2017
Share:

‘When I die and go to hell, the devil is going to make me the marketing director of a cola company.’ So says Patagonia founder, eco warrior and all-round legend, Yvon Chouinard, in his autobiography - and alternative guide to running a business - Let My People Go Surfing.

Not the kinds of words you’d expect from a 78-year-old billionaire who has helmed one of the world’s most successful sportswear companies for nearly fifty years. But then this 78-year-old is not your average billionaire.

Famed for his outspoken desire to protect the environment, and his directive to staff that they should meld their work, leisure and family life together wherever possible, Chouinard is almost a better fit for this generation than his own. He was the ultimate disruptive businessman at a time when ‘disruption’ and ‘business’ were two words that had never gone together before.

In fact, Patagonia wasn’t just disruptive when it was founded in 1973 - it fully created its own industry. And then it disrupted it. Again and again.

It started when Chouinard began selling climbing equipment, that he had made himself, out of the back of his van. He knew it to be the best new equipment available because he was using it himself to rack up some death-defying first ascents, often in California’s Yosemite National Park.

A die-hard outdoorsman and self-labelled ‘dirtbag’, he had been climbing for years. Surfing too, hence the title of his book.

As the company evolved, it pivoted from climbing equipment to a more general focus on outdoor clothing. From the outset, Chouinard was desperate to ensure his company cared about the environment as much as it did about profit. This ethos remains in place; no mean feat for a label now worth US$750 million in sales.

In the words of Patagonia’s mission statement: ‘Our mission is to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.’

Front and centre of the company’s success over the years has been this steadfast focus on guaranteeing growth did not come at the cost of its own iron morals and principles.

As a result, for years now Patagonia has been a world-leader in trying to minimise harm in its production cycle. An example; in 1996 it made the move to only using organic, pesticide-free cotton, in its clothing - a move that was light years ahead of most of its competitors (and still a lot of manufacturers now). It also uses recycled polyester and continues to look for new fabrics that cause less damage to the planet.

In 2002 Chouinard became a founder of the One Per Cent for the Planet movement; an organisation which encouraged companies to pledge at least one per cent of their annual sales to environmental causes. Patagonia is of course a member, along with more than 1,000 other companies; helping to fund action on climate change, pollution and animal welfare, among other causes.

Oh, and last year, just for good measure, the company donated 100 per cent of its Black Friday sales to One Per Cent for the Planet – amounting to US$10 million.

If it all sounds a bit too good to be true, then Chouinard would argue that this is what the truth should be like – big business which cares for more than just profit, but uses its power and influence to be progressive and benevolent. And his staff, who work by the philosophy that it doesn’t matter when the work gets done as long as it gets done, and who are encouraged to head for a surf whenever the waves are good, would probably agree.

With its unique vision and high-quality clothes, Patagonia is, after all, no cola company. And that must be a relief for the former ‘dirtbag’, Yvon Chouinard.

THE ICONIC
Fashion Team