Yvonne Chouinard is the founder of Patagonia. He got his start as a rock climber back in 1995; and at just fourteen years old, he was a member of the Southern California Falconry Club. Yvonne soon made friends with Fellow climbers, and they ended up moving to Yosemite to teach themselves how to climb the best of the best.
A few years later, in 1957, Yvonne went to a junkyard and bought some used coal-fired forge, a 138-pound anvil, and some tongs and hammers and soon taught himself how to make pitons from old harvester blades. The word soon spread that he was making his own pitons and business was steady, with him selling his pitons for $1.50 each, building a small shop in his parent’s backyard in Burbank. Eventually, he ended up taking them on the road with him and selling them out of his car wherever his next adventure took him.
Many people thought Yvonne was a dirtbag because, in a sense, he was. He traveled all over and in extreme conditions and loved his dirtbag community. He was not a businessman by any conventional sense. He just wanted to share the gear he made himself and help other people who wanted to live the same lifestyle. For a long time, Yvonne was just making it by and even had to resort to eating canned cat tuna. Yvonne’s love of the planet and the great outdoors became the core of the business.
(IMG- Turtle Island Restoration)
In 1965, Yvonne went into partnership with Tom Frost to redesign all of the previous equipment to be the best of the best. Clothing then came in later unexpectedly, as Yvonne started to wear a red and yellow striped rugby shirt; claiming the collar made it so he didn’t cut his neck, and the material was solid and durable. His friends soon started asking where he got it, and, in a matter of time, durable clothing made its way into Patagonia. Yvonne had no idea that Patagonia would be what it is today.
Once Patagonia started to find success, a community of workers started to form around the brand. Yvonne emphasized work-life balance –many of the employees would go and surf at lunch or play volleyball in the back, and they would even take employee ski and climbing trips quite frequently. As they grew, they seemed to recognize the need to become active in preserving the health of the planet and engage in climate change activism. With the help of a friend (Mark), they were able to donate 10% of profits to small companies rather than big corporations in an effort to know exactly where their money was flowing and what it was working on, and provide an alternative to the corporate world.
Today, Patagonia has become synonymous with environmental awareness, using sustainable and ethically sourced materials, and continuing to be outspoken about climate change. Yvonne recently retired and gave his entire fortune to climate change conscious endeavors. A unique characteristic of Patagonia is their used clothing section, where they resell used items at a lower price to take a stand against fast fashion. It is clear that, even in 2023 Patagonia has still not lost its moral or value driven mission.
All of the facts in this article come from the brand itself and the history they provide.