Wednesday, August 6, 2008

To be fair...

I realize my rant may have gotten away from me and I should probably clarify:

so... I made up the Taiwan thing, North Face is made partially at home, but a lot of it is outsourced to China (I think its China). but they did sell out to Vanity Fair in 2000, and the quality has gone down-hill since then. I have a jacket that I bought in 1995 and it's STILL in tact, but I see kids come in with jackets from last year that are falling apart. It's all about making you spend more money.

AND since I bashed one outdoor apparel company yesterday, I need to set the universe right by uplifting one of my favorites:


Patagonia was founded by a guy named Yvon Chouinard, circa 1950. He was nothing more than a bum climber, hoping trains to get to new climbing spots and overstaying the parks' two week limits. He and his band of brothers were known as the Valley Cong, hiding from rangers and selling pitons for $1.50 out of the back of their truck. They never looked at the new "business" as a way to get rich, they just wanted to climb and thought that everyone deserved to be able to do what they enjoy without breaking the bank. The first Chouinard catalog was published in 1972.

The clothing business came later than the piton business, but was simultaneous in nature. Back in the 60's men didn't have "outdoor fashion" there was no such thing. Chouinard wore rugby shirts to climb in, claiming that the collar kept the slings and gear from rubbing his neck, eventually the "fad" as it were caught on and they would order Umbro shirts from England and sell them as fast as they got to the states. So they started making clothing for the outdoor enthusiast. They decided to name the company after the region in Chile, because it brings to mind the fantasy of a far-off land full of romance and excitement....

In the 1990's the company began to grow faster than they could handle, so they had to borrow some money, in order to pay off their debts they had to lay off 20% of their work force. This devastated those working for Patagonia and they vowed to never let it happen again, they have kept growth to a moderate level ever since.

Now, Patagonia is one of the best companies to work for:

Since 1984 we have had no private offices, an architectural arrangement
that sometimes creates distractions but also helps keep communication open. That
year we opened a cafeteria where employees can gather throughout the day that to
this day serves healthy, mostly vegetarian food. And we also opened, at Malinda
Chouinard's insistence, an on-site child care center, at the time one of only
150 in the country (today there are more than 3,000). The presence of children
playing in the yard, or having lunch with their parents in the cafeteria helps
keep the company atmosphere more familial than corporate. We also continue to
offer – mostly for the benefit of working parents but also for others – flexible
working hours and job sharing.

Patagonia also sponsors company ski and climbing trips, and continues to make the environment fun and healthy to work in.

In addition to all these things, the most important to you as a consumer is Patagonia's effort to be eco-friendly. Since 1970 Patagonia as a company has been working with grass roots efforts to protect the environment, in 1986 they began donating 10% of profits every year to help grass roots groups. Later, they amended that by offering 1% sales or 10% profit, which ever was GREATER...

They are constantly searching for more environmentally friendly fabrics, manufacturing processes and packaging. You can recycle your old Capilene (thermal underwear) at any Patagonia retailer and they will be broken down, re-spun and made into new fabrics...

SO when you buy Patagonia, you can feel good about yourself, knowing that you are supporting a company who is supporting YOU, by taking care of the Earth.

You can read about all of Patagonia's history here.

And you can read all about Patagonia's environmental efforts here.

ALSO, you can subscribe to Patagonia's blog: The Cleanest Line and keep up with their continual efforts yourself.

1 comment:

localcrew said...

Well shucks, Tricia, those sure are some nice things to say. This is localcrew here from The Cleanest Line, that blog you gave a link to (above), and it's hard not to feel pretty lucky to be part of the Patagonia tribe after stumbling across a post like this :)

Many kind thanks for your good words, and for inviting folks to learn more about us. Since you mentioned Patagonia in the context of a The North Face critique, it's only fair to add that we're guilty of manufacturing in China as well. We're really looking hard at this, and have come up with what we hope are some insightful and useful resources:
Leading the Examined Life - our main resource of links and information about what we're doing to improve business practices (
Corporate Social Responsibility - resources documenting our overseas manufacturing (
The Footprint Chronicles - our attempt to re-think business self-examination (
Your feedback on any and all of these are definitely appreciated.