Patagonia, Role Model
“Yeah, he wanted to make incredible products, but those products would be part of a bigger, greater vision– creating a role model for people who wanted to build a sustainable and responsible organization.” – The Selvedge Yard
JP of The Selvedge Yard continually inspires me with his posts. Recently, he highlighted Jim Collins’ piece in the current issue of Inc. Magazine. Mr. Collins refers to Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, as one of “the original ’80s revolutionary entrepreneurs.” In the late winter and early spring of 2007, I read Mr. Chouinard’s book, Let My People Go Surfing. He deftly describes how it is possible to build a financially viable – scratch that – hugely successful business and maintain a modicum of peace-of-mind. Reading his memoir, along with a fateful hiking trip to Colorado, changed my life. I cleaned out my closet. Changed my diet. Found work that inspired me. Spent more time outside.
Since that time, I’ve sought out companies with a mission similar to Patagonia. Apolis Activism and Nau come to mind. Apolis, with its Union of Trade, and Nau with its commitment to developing fabrics that are 100% organic, 100% recycled, and 100% recyclable are indebted to Uncle Yvon, and I’m fairly certain the Parton brothers of Apolis will tell you that his background as an enviro-activist played a part in the development of their mission.
In the Inc. piece, Mr. Collins observes that every 20-30 years there is a major development in the evolution of business that we become aware of only in retrospect. I wonder what Mr. Collins will say in 2030 when referring to the whippersnappers entering business today. Maybe it’s because this is where my interests lie, but new clothing companies, especially companies started by and for young men, appear to be growing in number with each passing day. My hope is that they will take note of elders like Mr. Chouinard and Mr. Collins, that they won’t make the same mistakes so many before them have made. This is a call for consideration. Learn from history. Read. A lot.
All images c/o the 1975 Catalogue for Patagonia’s umbrella company, Great Pacific Iron Works.
For a brief history of Patagonia, visit their website.
For one such whippersnapper, see what Yvon’s son Fletcher is doing with surfboards.
Special thanks to Ready for the House for the killer GPIW find.