History of Patagonia
Patagonia prides themselves on their love of the wild, integrity in their materials, and the respectful practices towards all their workers. Starting out as a small, simple company geared towards avid climbers, they quickly broadened their horizons with products to suit surfers, skiers, snowboarders, and even trail runners. Patagonia has made it a priority to save and conserve the environmental health of the planet. One way they do this is by using recycled polyester and only organic cotton. This thirty plus year company has gained success in their practices and challenges their competitors to do the same.
Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard started climbing at the age of fourteen in 1953. He was a rebel and spent much of his time with his friends climbing in the San Fernando Valley in California and Stoney Point in New York. Yvon faced some challenges with climbing though mostly because of his gear.
How they got started
Pitons are spikes that are driven into cracks in rocks using a hammer. Their purpose is to aid climbing and further ascend up the rock. Back in 1953, these spikes were made of soft iron and were left in the rock after being used. Yvon knew there had to be a better, more efficient way. Fast forward to 1957. Yvon met and talked with a Swiss climber by the name of John Salathé. Eager to make his own reusable materials, he went to a junkyard and bought a 138 pound anvil and taught himself how to blacksmith.
The word spread about Yvon’s useful tool and his friends had to have their hands on one. He sold his invention for $1.50. His business grew so fast that he built a small shop in his parents backyard in Burbank, California. There was so much demand for this tool that Yvon went into partnership with an avid climber and engineer Tom Frost. For nine years they redesigned and improved several climbing tools with the goal of making them lighter, stronger, and more functional.
About twenty years later in 1970, Yvon had established himself and his company as the largest supplier of climbing gear in the United States. At the same time, Yvon’s company became the biggest problem for the environment with their piton equipment. These spikes were causing severe damage to the rocks they were used on, but Yvon had another plan.
The alternative to the metal spikes were aluminum chocks. These devices could be reused and didn’t require a hammer. Climbers could now climb knowing they were protecting the rock, rather than damaging it, making climbing environmentally friendly.
Patagonia grew into a company from the foundation that Yvon laid out for them. His enthusiasm and passion for climbing led them to create clothing not just for climbers, but anyone with an excitement for outdoor activities who needed something durable and to protect them from the environment’s occasional harsh conditions. Patagonia started in the 60s with their bright, colorful activewear. They were inspired by Yvon’s original outfit for climbing: a rugby jersey shirt. The neckline of the shirt also helped prevent climbing slings from cutting into their neck.
One of Patagonia’s many practices involves genuine materials in their products. They use Hemp, which has a low impact on the environment and is the strongest fiber on the planet. They were the first to use fleece made from post consumer recycled plastic bottles and also use recycled nylon and wool.
There are many things that make the company Patagonia stand out. Their love of the environment and their passion to keep it clean and healthy was clear from the beginning. This took precedence when their founder Yvon Chouinard set his first piton in the rocks he climbed. Patagonia reached success by keeping true to their values and practices and making durable, earth friendly outerwear for those of us that dare to take the road less traveled.
By Shannon Maggie Culver
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