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In 1994 Patagonia made the bold decision to switch from chemically-affected cotton fabrications to a process in which only 100% organically-grown cotton is used. A hugely ambitious step, only now are other brands (slowly) started to follow suit. It is choices like this, made decades ago, that mark Patagonia out not just as a trend setter but as a game changer in ethical terms. Organic cotton production forms a minute percentage of overall cotton production in the world, but Patagonia stands proudly in that minority, and without doubt shoppers around the world are uniting slowly in their pursuit of more honest means of production and higher levels of transparency in general regarding how clothes are mass produced. Without doubt, Patagonia has been influential in establishing a culture where society questions the sustainability of agriculture in fashion. It is this deep-rooted care for the environment and ethical code that is the brand’s greatest selling point. Patagonia works from the early stages to the finished product. Unlike most big companies, Patagonia works with the source – the farmers – to establish strong relationships with ethical processes, and then works backwards to spinners, weavers, and dyers with the end goal of achieving environmentally-conscious clothing.
Patagonia was founded by Yvon Chouinard through a love off the environment and high quality garments. He spliced these two ideas to create a clothing brand that is renowned for both its visual appeal and its moral compass. It is this that has established the defining typecast of Patagonia as more of a philosophy than a brand. Chouinard had a long-held passion for the outdoors, from rock climbing to fishing, that helped inform the visuals that Patagonia still runs with, and on top of that played its part on shaping the environment-focused approach that Chouinard would bring to his brand. Chouinard, even before Patagonia, had a laudable history of environmental awareness that can only be applauded. His first company, a rock climbing brand that used sharp spikes to pierce rocks, was earning him a comfortable living, however on learning that doing so had harmful effects on rock surfaces, and found an alternative. This established the “clean climbing” revolution, which has since been borrowed by “clean eating” and many other forms of guilt-free forms of living.
It was evident pretty early on that Chouinard was an outlier, and with the founding of Patagonia his drive towards environmentalism could be tempered by a visually-exciting brand vision that centred on the riding streetwear scene of the 1980s. Patagonia is named after the southern Argentinean region at the low section of the Andes. This logo is of the famous Fitz Roy mountain, infamously hard to climb, and representative of the ambitious nature of the brand. As early as the 80s, Patagonia became renowned for its experimental processes of recycling product in order to make attractive garments, including recycling plastic bottles to form a fleece, which was relatively unheard of at that time, and to this day would only be practised by a small number of companies! This recycled style became known as the Synchilla, a garment that still comes to mind when Patagonia is uttered, designed in contrast panelling.
From the early days, Patagonia made its selling point not just that it looks good, but that the brand is supremely transparent about its processes. In 2019, the brand offers full detail on its supply chain. For example, all cotton is grown organically in the USA, it is Fair Trade certified, and its down filling is entirely traceable. All of Patagonia’s down products now contain Traceable Down, all of which can be traced back to birds that were never force-fed and never live-plucked. It is honesty and a pursuit of utopia that separates the brand from many, many others. Patagonia has raised so much awareness on environmental issues, but it would be unfair to ignore one unavoidable fact, and that is that the brand’s pieces actually look good too. At General Pants we stock a good number of long sleeve and short sleeve T-shirts, boardies, and shorts, as well as accessories like caps and utilitarian bags.