DIANNE COTTER: I wanted to know, why does Patagonia exist?
DANE O’SHANASSY: Well, Patagonia has a pretty clear and powerful mission statement: build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm and use business to inspire and influence solutions to the environmental crisis. I reference that because it’s a really important tool in many of the employees’ daily lives, whether you are the CEO or you are working with the customer.
So with that, how do you reconcile having a purpose connected to the environment, being in retail?
Well one of the other things about Patagonia is if you want to lead by example you’ve got to be successful.
Patagonia started by making blacksmith products for climbers, but they were hammering these iron nails into the rock, pulling them out and and each time they did that they would leave the rock face slightly changed for the next climbers, so they made an aluminium chock you could push in by hand and pull out without damaging the rock. This was the genesis of “clean climbing” and a design philosophy grounded in simplicity that lives on today. Yvon Chouinard references French Aviator Antoine de Saint Exupéry when he said, “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but only when there there is no longer anything to be taken away.”
It’s really important that we see this full circle of being in business. We’ve got to do all of these things, give 1% back to the planet, make our products as responsibly as we can, and we’ve got to be more profitable than the companies who aren’t doing all that so we show that our business model is achievable and worthwhile.
Something that interests me is your closed loop supply chain. Is that what it’s called?
Well, closed loop is the ultimate goal, and no one’s cracked that yet. What we’ve got is a couple of suppliers we could call closed loop suppliers. One is in Japan and it’s one of the few suppliers that make polyester jumpers for us. But they also take back Patagonia garments and turn them into new Patagonia garments.
We also offer a service alongside our sales, which is repairing the clothes for you. It comes with our warranty. We always want to repair stuff first because it keeps it in circulation. It’s a great way of reconnecting people with the process of how things are made. It’s reconnecting with the product.