Patagonia, Timbuktu, Shangri-La – what do these places have in common? A liminal space, never really here nor there. It is this exact ambiguity that makes Patagonia, as a brand, so appealing to customers.
Patagonia. Described by the brand as a name that brings ‘romantic visions of glaciers tumbling into fjords, jagged windswept peaks, gauchos and condors’. It’s ethereal, untouchable, one of a kind. You may know Patagonia for their outdoor clothing and accessories – but this is a company that reaches, and strives, far beyond any product.
Patagonia’s ethos is rooted in teaching and training the next generation of environmental activists. When you wear a product from Patagonia, you’re not just wearing a label. You’re wearing a lifestyle, and a mindset. You are pledging to do better for the environment you are in.
Patagonia’s Core Values
A brand’s core values represent everything they stand for. They should be consistently entwined within their business model, and Patagonia is a prime example of this practice in action.
Build the Best Product
Patagonia has a focus on manufacturing products for function, reparability and durability. They want products that can last generations. This is all possible because of the decades of research behind what’s on the rails. Well researched materials, colours, working environments and environmental ethics are all taken into account when creating something new. You can rest assured that any product from Patagonia is one they are truly proud to showcase, and one that will promote a safer environment.
Cause No Unnecessary Harm
Nobody’s perfect. And Patagonia has had their fair share of backlash in the past. In fact, founder Yvon Choinard had an issue with his very first product: the Piton. In the 1970’s, Patagonia had become the largest supplier of climbing hardware in the US – but their pitons were damaging the rocks needed for safe climbing. Instead of holding on to cheap production and harmful products, Choinard phased out the selling of pitons. Instead, they created Chocks – an environmentally friendly alternative. As a manufacturer, this core value encapsulates how you can always do better, and be better. This was Patagonia’s first step towards protecting the environment in 1972, but it definitely wasn’t their last.
Use Business to Protect Nature
There comes a point where business growth creates more harm than success. Patagonia recognises this, and uses this brand value for some extremely clever marketing. Introducing: Subversive Advertising. It’s shocking, it’s ground-breaking, and it’s 100% sure to catch your attention.
Black Friday. The epitome of excess and consumerism – but Patagonia changed the narrative. A risky move, for certain, but one that proved the brand truly does live and breathe its ethos. In 2011, whilst most clothing brands were launching indulgent campaigns of overabundance, Patagonia placed an advert in The New York Times called, ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’. Have you ever heard of a brand telling people not to buy their products? Most people hadn’t.
The advert broke down the environmental costs of their top selling R2 Fleece Sweater, and they actually asked consumers to think twice before buying it.
It paid off.
Alongside their environmental campaigns such as ‘Renew and Recycle’ and their 2019 ReCrafted Program booming, their 2012 sales boosted and business saw a 30% Black Friday revenue boost. This could have been seen as performative activism, but Patagonia consistently proves people otherwise. Their core values consistently embody their marketing material, and guide consumers towards sustainable and eco-friendly practices in not only fashion, but other industries, too. Leading us on nicely to…
Not Bound by Convention
Patagonia does not settle for normal. They’re an activist company – constantly living by their mission statement. It went from being a small company interested in environmental causes to a giant of the industry. It changed the very face of modern consumerism – and dared other brands to follow in their own journey.
Whilst staying true to its roots, to make the world a better place, Patagonia subverts the very definition of what a clothing brand is supposed to be. Their brand mission – ‘we are in business to save our home planet’ – speaks volumes. Their statement isn’t just performative – it is involved in everything they do and communicate as a brand. It is a statement of intent, and a constant reminder of the good they are trying to do. Yvon himself even said in an interview: ‘growing for the sake of growing. That’s bullsh*t’.