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Sustainable strides: The journey of Patagonia in fashion leadership

Embark on a thought-provoking expedition into sustainability within the fashion industry with our new series on Images Business of Fashion. In this series, we traverse the intricate pathways of visionary brands committed to reshaping the narrative of fashion through sustainable initiatives. As we journey forward, we uncover the strategies and the profound ethos that propels these brands toward a greener, more responsible future.

In each installment, we unravel the layers of innovation, dedication, and conscious decision-making that define the leadership of these brands. From reimagining supply chains to championing eco-friendly materials, these trailblazers exemplify a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable and ethical fashion landscape.

This week, IMAGES Business of Fashion explores sustainability initiatives by Patagonia, unveiling their innovative strides in reshaping the fashion industry.

Founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973, Patagonia, Inc. is a US-based retailer for outdoor clothing. It is known for designing outdoor gear for silent sports like climbing, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, fishing, and trail running. Based in Ventura, California, the brand operates stores in 10+ countries globally, and has factories in 16 countries.

The Mission

Over the years, Patagonia’s message of sustainability amid a climate change crisis has resonated strongly with environmentally conscious, upscale consumers which the company considers its target audience. These consumers are willing to spend more money on quality products that also decrease their impact on the environment. Appalled that the clothing industry contributes up to 10% of the pollution driving the climate crisis and that apparel workers are among the lowest-paid laborers in the world, Patagonia has vowed that it will always work towards preventing climate change. Towards this, the retailer has:

  • Made several changes in how it sources raw materials,
  • Is using recycled materials in 94% of its line
  • Says that switching to recycled has allowed it to avoid 4,300 metric tons of CO2e, enough to power more than 500 homes for one year.

Going Fossil-Fuel Free

Patagonia also supports community-led efforts to go fossil-fuel-free and protect nature, apart from using any power and influence it has to meet climate change with systems change. The retailer:

  • Protects nature to slow climate change while supporting a just transition to renewables.
  • Donates generously to grassroot groups who work to slow climate change.
  • Pledges 1% of sales every year to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.

Worn Wear Initiative

According to UK-based group WRAP, if everyone simply kept and wore the clothes they already own for an additional nine months, individuals could reduce their relative environmental footprint in terms of CO² emissions, waste and water consumption by around 20-30%. In keeping with this ideology, Patagonia’s Worn Wear program was created in 2013 to encourage customers to take care of their garments, adopting correct washing methods and repairing them when necessary.

The Worn Wear initiative encourages customers to extend the life of their garments – something which is essential to reduce human impact on the planet. It also means consumers don’t have to buy new apparel, thus avoiding the CO2 emissions, waste production and water consumption associated with textile production cycles. In 2019 Worn Wear kept 56 Worn Wear repair events across Europe that involved 25,000 people and helped to repair 100,288 garments.

Transforming Business to Protect the Environment

Patagonia has made significant progress on recycling the high-quality polyester and nylon it uses in many of its best products

  • In 1993, Patagonia was the first outdoor clothing manufacturer to transform trash into fleece. Its R1® Air Zip-Neck is a lightweight, breathable and quick-drying technical fleece for high-exertion activities in cold conditions, is made with 100% recycled polyester and is structured for comfort during movement. The fabric is also Fair Trade Certified™ sewn.
  • The brand is constantly evaluating new materials and re-evaluating existing ones. For example, it uses Hemp to create jackets. Hemp is extremely eco-friendly since it requires little to no irrigation and restores nutrients to exhausted soil.
  • Patagonia’s materials team uses recycled polyester made from used soda bottles and unusable manufacturing waste to create new polyester fibers for clothing.
  • By 2020, 100% of the farms Patagonia sources virgin wool from are Responsible Wool Standard certified.

The 100% Recycled P-6 T-Shirt

The 100% recycled Patagonia P-6 T-Shirt is made from 4.8 plastic bottles and 0.26 pounds of scrap fabric, saving an amazing 63 gallons of water compared to a conventional cotton t-shirt construction.

  • While conceptualizing these tees, the brand planned to cut their carbon emissions by revaluating their supply chain.
  • They set out to design these tees with factory cotton scraps and recycled polyester, engineer them using clean solar energy.
  • Additionally, instead of using dyes their unique colors come from re-spun T-shirt scraps.
  • Leftover carbon emissions were offset through mangrove restorations.
  • The fabric is certified as Bluesign and approved Fair Trade Certified sewing, which makes it a very responsibly manufactured product.

Replenishing The Earth: One Jacket At A Time

  • Patagonia’s Regenerative Organic Certified™ program is a holistic agriculture certification encompassing pasture-based animal welfare, fairness for farmers, and robust requirements for soil health and land management.
  • These practices help build healthy soil that could help draw down more carbon from the atmosphere than conventional methods.
  • The team has piloted their first crop of cotton in India on more than 150 farms working toward the highest organic standard, Regenerative Organic. This farming method aims to rehabilitate soil, respect animal welfare and improve the lives of farmers.
  • Patagonia’s goal is to use only renewable or recycled materials in our products by 2025.
  • Hemp used by Patagonia is grown in partnership with suppliers who use sophisticated processing techniques for minimal waste. It develops performance wear by blending it with organic cotton, recycled polyester and TENCEL™ lyocell.
  • Hemp fleece is made with recycled polyester & industrial hemp. It requires little to no irrigation. It’s tough & resistant on the outside, soft, warm and comfortable inside, making it perfect for winter wear. It is also Fair Trade Certified™ sewn.

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