From “Clean” Beginnings

The names Patagonia and Black Diamond Equipment are titans in outdoor apparel and climbing respectively. Yvon Chouinard started both of them.

Black Diamond started as a mountain climbing gear brand under the company name ‘Chouinard equipment’. It was founded by Yvon Chouinard, a giant in the Golden Age of Yosemite Climbing.

A small forge was purchased by Chouinard in 1957 to make hardened pitons for use on Yosemite, making big wall climbing both safer and more accessible.

Chouinard was well-known for his climbing exploits, part of a small band of teachers and advocates. Never intending to become a businessman, Chouinard began crafting climbing gear for himself, his friends and family.

It wasn’t until 1965 and after eight years of selling equipment, that Chouinard partnered up with fellow Yosemite climber Tom Frost to expand the company. The partners worked on the business together for nine years, improving climbing gear to make it lighter, stronger, and more functional.

Their efforts really established the sport of ice climbing, thanks to new innovative crampons and ice axes. At the same time, the principles of “clean climbing” are established to promote the twin goals of activity and sustainability.

Brand Profile Patagonia Clean Beginning

In 1970, while on a climbing trip in Scotland during the winter, Chouinard had a home-made rugby shirt with him. That shirt featured a rugged collar to prevent his rock climbing equipment from cutting into his skin. Soon, Chouinard’s friends were asking about getting one too. By 1972, rugby shirts were being sold to the public.

Based in Ventura, California, Patagonia’s first store opened in 1973, not too far from Chouinard Equipment’s original forge.

It was challenging, trying to find the suitable fabric (for the synthetic pile sweater) that would insulate and not absorb moisture simultaneously. Once the samples were tested, Patagonia found the right materials to craft clothing that made layering easier. With layering climbers and hikers had more versatility with their clothing and gear.

Yvon confessed:

“Truth be told, there were no good options available. So, we created our own.”

Patagonia started rapidly expanding and ended up offering surfing equipment too. Today, the company sells not just apparel but also athletic gear, sleeping bags, backpacks, and even camping food under Patagonia Provisions, established in 2012.

How it’s going

Patagonia’s core values are the following:

  • “Build the best product”

The company takes pride in crafting products that are functional, repairable, and durable products. These are, according to the outdoor brand, these are the fundamentals for reducing environmental impact and ensuring that the products last for generations.

  • “Cause no unnecessary harm”

Patagonia is committed to not only doing less harm to the environment but also continuously improving its business practices. It recognizes that running brick-and-mortar stores causes certain ecological issues, so trying to do more good is always a priority.

  • “Use business to protect nature” 

Unlike many other outdoor apparel brands, Patagonia has always used its resources to better the state of the environment. It takes the leadership role to use the knowledge to restore nature.

  • “Not bound by convention” 

Patagonia always strives to innovate and implement new and more eco-friendly practices in how the products are made.

Patagonia’s mission statement is “we’re in business to save our home planet”. This goes perfectly with the activistic nature of the company that goes beyond the environment. And although it was recognized as a company that excels at offering innovative maternity and family leave policies, it was also exposed as a business whose supply chain was involved in human trafficking.

The company has also been in the news, advocating against–ironically enough–consumerism. A recent open letter to the world by Yvon Chouinard restates a commitment to giving away the company’s profits to the goal of saving the planet.

They have had some–ironically again–success with this “branding”, driving sales while creating more awareness and changing attitudes too. A Patagonia jacket is now synonymous with sustainability.

As the letter states, and to back up his principles, Chouinard and his family “donated” the company to a Trust, the Patagonia Purpose Trust and Holdfast Collective. This was a huge move, inspiring consumers and other companies alike.


A signature Patagonia product is their Better Sweater Fleece for women. Made from 100% recycled polyester, it’s as soft as a sweater and as comfortable as they get. Again, a Patagonia fleece seems like a symbol for principled consumerism.

Brand Profile Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece

Like the rest of the clothing, this fleece is eco-friendly, with the manufacturing process featuring low-impact dyeing and adhering to the Fair Trade Certified policy.

Patagonia is also popular for its gear and accessories, or more specifically, its sleeping bags, technical packs, and everyday backpacks. The Black Hole Pack 32L is a midsize backpack designed for daily commutes and around-the-world travels at the same time.

Brand Profile Patagonia Backpack

Its body is made from 100% recycled fabric, and so are the backpack’s lining and webbing.

Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Mini fanny pack deserves an honorable mention. It’s low profile and practical durability make it a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts as well as principled urban warriors.

Patagonia’s Production: Sustainability and fabrics

Although there were some labor issues in the company’s chain supply, Patagonia isn’t a stranger to environmental policies and initiatives.

  • The brand uses 100% renewable energy at all Patagonia stores, offices, and distribution centers.
  • As much as 88% of products are Fair Trade Certified, and 98% of products are made from recycled materials.
  • Over 2200 farmers make part of the Regenerative Organic Certified cotton program.
  • The company repairs hundreds of thousands of garments each year.
  • It grows 100% of virgin cotton organically that’s used to manufacture clothes.
  • All of the down fabric is sourced responsibly.

Patagonia is committed to fulfilling these climate goals:

  • “By 2025, we will eliminate virgin petroleum fiber in our products and only use preferred materials.”
  • “By 2025, our packaging will be 100% reusable, home compostable, renewable, or easily recyclable.”
  • “By 2040, we will be net zero* across our entire business.”  

When manufacturing apparel, Patagonia uses hemp, polyester, Refibra® lyocell, recycled down, Yulex® natural rubber, organic cotton, wool, recycled spandex, advanced denim, PFC-free, NetPlus® recycled fishing nets, recycled cotton, recycled polyester, fluorinated DWR, PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene), Infinnafiber, elastane, recycled cashmere, cotton in conversion, regenerative organic certified cotton, recycled wool, TENCEL lyocell, nylon, UPF treatment, recycled nylon, polyurethane.

Building on the Patagonia Brand

In 2012, the company extended its offering to include food items. Existing under the name Patagonia Provisions, the outdoor brand makes “organic and regenerative foods that help solve environmental problems”.

It tooks it even further by starting an initiative that allows buyers to return merchandise for credits if it’s in good condition. Worn Wear, the website where the cleaned and repaired merchandise is sold, was born in 2017. Just two years later, Patagonia launched ReCrafted, the program created to manufacture and sell clothes made from fabric scraps taken from former Patagonia products.

Patagonia Provisions has plenty of partnerships including the ones with Navitas Organics, Peace Coffee, White Leaf Provisions, CapRock, Bee’s Wrap, Kaibae, and others. It also invest in research partners like Rodale Institute, Washington State University, Wild Fish Conservancy, and Breadfruit Institute among others.


Frequently asked questions

Who owns Patagonia?

Based in Ventura, California, Patagonia is owned by Yvon Chouinard. As per Chouinard, “100% of the company’s voting stock transfers to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, created to protect the company’s values; and 100% of the nonvoting stock had been given to the Holdfast Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature”.

What’s special about the Patagonia brand?

Patagonia is known for its aggressive environmental advocacy. The company commits 1% of its sales to a variety of environmental groups to help fight climate change. It’s also the brand that pioneered recycled polyester and nylon fabrics in the outdoor apparel industry and continues to be an example for other brands in the same niche.

What does the name Patagonia mean?

Originating from the word ‘Patagón’ used to denote the region’s native tribes, Patagonia is a region in South America belonging to both Chile and Argentina. As a brand, the name came to be after the team assigned it a meaning of “romantic visions of glaciers tumbling into fjords, jagged windswept peaks, gauchos, and condors.” The name stuck because, aside from it representing outdoor apparel, it’s also easy to pronounce in every language.

Is Patagonia made in the USA?

Not all contracting factories are located in the USA. Since all of the company’s manufacturing is outsourced, it’s hard to say how many items are made in the country and how many are manufactured outside of the United States.

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