Ciarán Howley considers the news of Patagonia’s dissolution and if other brands should start putting their money where their mouth is.
Last week Patagonia founder Yvan Chouinard made the announcement that he was donating the entire company to charities committed to environmental protection. While the sentiment is in tune with the brand’s eco-friendly ethos, the donation of a billion dollar company is unheard of, not just in fashion but in enterprise at large. The response online and in the media praised the 83 year old founder for the move, and memes about Succession’s Cousin Greg suing Greenpeace for his inheritance were plentiful.
Theirs is an unlikely success story. As a teenager in Maine, Lewison, Chouinard was a keen rock-climber but often found his gear wasn’t durable enough to sustain the long climbs. While on a hiking holiday in Scotland, Chouinard discovered rugby jerseys - the fabric of which were perfect to make it across the perilous alps in one piece. While Chouinard was turning profits selling hiking tools, he spotted a market for durable outerwear and by 1973 his company became Patagonia in the form we know today. Last week, he did the one thing that companies in poorer shape won’t.
Despite countless greenwashing attempts (always clocked later by GoodonYou.com), it’s nearly impossible for volume-based companies subsisting through supply and demand to be ethical, affordable and of good quality. But if Esquire’s figure that Nike sells 25 shoes per second is to be believed (780 million per year), the company need never produce another pair again, if the goal was providing access to clothing over profits. If a company already worth a staggering sum like H&M announced it was closing ? of its manufacturing plants, it would already do more good than releasing a “conscious” new line with green tags and stickers. And it might save them a few lawsuits here and there.
Patagonia is a company that prides itself for being founded with principles and a mission statement “to do no harm.”And good on them, for sticking by it. It’d be great if someone gave Shein away but presumably, no one would want it.