On the surface, Patagonia may look like any other outdoor clothing store. However, delve a little deeper and you’ll find that Patagonia is a truly unique brand. Dedicated to sustainable fashion and eco-friendly accessories, Patagonia has been an especially hot topic since the introduction of their Winter 2016 ‘Re Collection’, which became the brand’s most sustainable clothing line to date.
The Patagonia story
Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability certainly isn’t new. In fact, the company was created when founder Yvon Chouinard, inspired by Swiss climber John Salathé, started making his own reusable outdoor hardware. Although Patagonia’s early fashion offerings weren’t quite as eco-friendly, using chemical-laden synthetics like polyester, the company underwent a major positive shift in the 1990s. Patagonia’s new distribution made use of solar energy; the use of toxic dyes was stopped, and polyester fell out of favour, to be replaced by organic cotton. Today, Patagonia’s cotton sportswear is 100% organic.
Since the switch to organic cotton, Patagonia has been exploring new ways to create sustainable, environmentally-friendly clothing that is able to stand up to even the most adverse weather conditions. The company has been including alternative fibres like hemp, lyocell from trees, and plant-based polymers in their garments, and using recycled polyester and recycled nylon where possible. This shift has made the Patagonia brand hugely popular with shoppers all around the world, and it’s reported that modern customers are willing to spend between 10% and 15% more for sustainable clothing.
The Patagonia difference
There are two very distinct ways in which Patagonia differs from its competitors. Firstly, it’s important to recognise that Patagonia is not the only big name brand that is offering sustainable clothing. In fact, brands like Levi’s are accelerating sustainability and now have eco-friendly ranges. However, what sets Patagonia apart is that they’re not just focused on sustainability; it’s more about ‘responsible innovation’. The company are consistently finding new and revolutionary ways to continue making high quality outdoor wear from unusual materials, and are widely considered to be a global leader in sustainable innovation.
Secondly, let’s not forget the time that Patagonia committed one of the biggest ‘crimes’ of business: they told their customers NOT to buy their products! On Black Friday in 2011, Patagonia published an advertisement in the New York Times. They said to their readers ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’, aiming to directly address the ongoing problems with consumerism. The ad was so successful in encouraging people to reduce, reuse, and recycle, that it sparked a separate brand, Patagonia Worn Wear, that lets you trade in your unwanted Patagonia-branded products, as well as buy pre-loved Patagonia gear. The ultimate objective, of course, is to keep good fabrics away from landfill, minimising waste.
Buying Patagonia in the UK
Although Patagonia is an American brand, it is possible to buy Patagonia-branded sustainable clothing in the UK. As well as the online store, there are also a number of approved re-sellers on and offline, including Ellis Brigham, John Lewis, Size?, Friends of the Earth, and a range of local dealers throughout the UK.