” We recognize that our profits are directly tied to the quality of our work and our product.”
– Yvon Chouinard-
Founder and Owner
How many of us can say we have been a loyal customer to a brand for over 40 years? If you look at this picture, you will see an Instagram photo that I sent to Patagonia when they asked for pictures of folks who had vintage clothing produced by Patagonia back in the day. They liked this photo and put it on their Instagram feed one day. I was proud to say that I still have that original Patagonia pile pullover and wear it to this day. It is a testament to what Yvon Chouinard says above.
I have a lot of Patagonia gear that I have purchased over the years and have recently purchased a new shell for this year. However, in accordance with the Iron Clad Guarantee by the company, I have sent pieces of clothing back for repair and they have been returned to me free of charge and in excellent shape. You see, Patagonia doesn’t necessarily encourage us to throw away items that can be repaired because part of their mission statement is a strong respect for the environment. They would rather repair an item of clothing than sell a new one because the bottom line is not the be all and end all of the company ethos. Check out their “Worn Well” section on their website. http://www.patagonia.com
If you take the time to read Chouinard’s book ” Let my people go surfing. the education of a reluctant businessman” you will find a fascinating story of a guy who had a very meager upbringing in Quebec, a “dirtbag” lifestyle as a climber in Yosemite ( dirtbag being a proud moniker for climbers), and finally an extremely successful business man whose main goal is the quality of his work and the welfare of his workforce.
The impressive thing to me about Chouinard is that he really means what he says. He is committed to the environment. The paper that they use for their catalogs is recycled. Their T-Shirts are made from organically grown cotton. The first Synchilla jackets were first made using fiber from recycled soda pop bottles. As a company they petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on decommissioning dams in the Pacific Northwest to once again allow salmon to spawn upstream. Finally, he and his wife Malinda have purchased huge acres of property in Patagonia in South America and have created a natural preserve there that is unique. In short, Yvon is totally committed.
Patagonia has a day care center for its employees that has been given numerous California state and national awards. Their ” Let my people go surfing” policy allows employees to take advantage of powder days for skiing,and time off to hit the break for surfing near their Ventura, California headquarters. Casual attire is always encouraged and employees can bring pets to work if they so choose. The understanding is that if the work gets done, why not take advantage of outdoor opportunities as they arise. Culture is extremely important to Patagonia and its founder Chouinard who is lovingly referred to as COO. Chief Out of Office. Chouinard says,” This flexibility allows us to keep valuable employees who love their freedom and sports too much to settle for the constraints of a more regimented work environment.”
Many companies today have finance and profit as the “tail that wags the dog.” Patagonia has always been reluctant to cut costs, skimp on quality, or lay off employees all to meet the bottom line. From the founder on down, their philosophy of quality first has allowed them to be a wildly profitable company without profit being the main driver.
So, I have always liked the quality that Patagonia produces and that is why I have been a loyal customer for over 40 years. When I read Chouinard’s book, I became even more of a dedicated customer and proponent for the mission statement of Patagonia. Whether you are an outdoors type or not, this book has value in describing what is not a traditional business model. Pick it up and read about a fascinating blacksmith who created one of the most iconic brand names that we have in outdoor apparel today. Thanks for reading.
Photo of Pat at Tuckerman Ravine- courtesy of Eric Durfee.