Started by a group of core climbers and surfers dedicated to the design and manufacture of performance driven products, since its inception, Patagonia has been committed to protecting the environment. Never bound by convention, the company uses its business to inspire and implement solutions that support environmental issues and encourages its ambassadors, employees and customers to get involved in the Patagonia Action Works Program. Ambassador Jason Slezak walks us through their latest initiatives and explains the key ingredients in the wetsuit lineup and their kite related technical garments.
At Patagonia, we have been taking the forced re-evaluation of the past two years and looking inward at our company structure, product offering and production facilities, and putting ourselves under a microscope so that we can move into 2022 staying true to our core values—build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to protect nature and not be bound by convention. We have pledged a greater commitment to local issues with “the globalization of local issues” through our Patagonia Action Works platform and our extensive ambassador network. One example of this concept in action is working to eliminate PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) in our outerwear and surf apparel, as we are all learning that PFAS are in everyone’s ‘backyards’ and cannot be ignored. Another Patagonia advocacy program is exposing the impact that industrial fishing has on the native and local fish populations by bringing attention to fish farms that are hidden in plain sight through our activists and ambassadors in their local regions. Within our company we are also continuing to focus on ROA (Regenerative Organic Agriculture) in both our Patagonia Provisions food division, as well as through our Patagonia clothing by replacing synthetics with natural fibers. These are the things that give us hope and provide a framework and roadmap for other brands to follow.
Is there a single innovation this year that is particularly important for the Patagonia team?
The innovation that we are most proud of for 2022 and beyond is creating a path to circularity for everything in our product line. The path to circularity is tricky and we know it will be a challenging one in the years to come. But for now, we have started with our t-shirt line and have created the Tee-cycle t-shirt. The Tee-cycle is a program where we take back old, used Patagonia t-shirts, ship them to a facility where they can be broken down through a process in which we can then reconstruct the yarn to produce new t-shirts, thus completing one circle on the circularity path. Our goal is to create this path for all of our Patagonia products as we move beyond 2022 and into the future. Any products that we can’t find a path to circularity for will be eliminated from our product offering helping with an overall reduction of SKU’s. This is our attempt to ‘do more with less’ and hold us to task to make sure what we are doing on the product side of Patagonia matches up with what we are doing on the environmental side.
Patagonia’s sustainability goals have guided its line of wetsuits towards materials which are both friendly to the environment and its users. What are the key components of Patagonia’s wetsuit construction that lead to both high performance warmth for the user and improvements to environmental impact?
At Patagonia we have always let our company ethos and commitment to doing the least amount of harm to our home planet guide us in the products that we build. This has long been the mantra of our wetsuit designers. They have worked tirelessly over the last decade to ensure that Patagonia wetsuits leave the least amount of environmental impact and bring the highest possible performance to the end user. The key pieces to this puzzle are our commitment to plant based Yulex neoprene and recycled/regenerative wetsuit components. It can be challenging to make wetsuits that are multi-functional within the different disciplines of watersports out there, as well as offering enough wetsuits to fit the variety of body shapes and sizes of our customers, without producing too many styles and unnecessary colorways. Ultimately, the more you sell, the greater the negative impact you have on the environment. After moving away from the usage of virgin neoprene, the second largest red flag that we found in the traditional wetsuit manufacturing process was the water consumption used during production. Solution dying of the face fabric and wetsuit liner is our answer for this. Solution dying is where the pigment color is added to the molten material before making the fiber, therefore the color is confined within the yarn before the face fabric or liner is even woven. The limiting factor with solution dying are the color choices. At this point only dark blue and black are available. So, even though we are aware that bright colors may sell more wetsuits, our commitment to doing the least harm possible leads our decision to continue to offer an all-black wetsuit lineup. The thing that we are most excited about going into 2022 is the broader adoption of Yulex by brands such as Billabong, Seea, Finisterre and more.
While many brands label their wetsuits by neoprene thickness, Patagonia divides its products by its R-categories which provide a more technical rating. What are the key benefits to the R-labeling system and how should riders new to Patagonia’s products select the appropriate model?
At Patagonia we have found over the years that building wetsuits in the more traditional 2/2mm, 3/2mm, 4/3mm thickness profiles did not always provide the exact temperature regulation and performance characteristics that we were looking for. The R rating system that we use for our wetsuit lineup is strictly and simply based on the water temperature you’ll use the wetsuit in. We build our suits in whatever combination of neoprene thickness works best for said water temperatures when combined with our recycled polyester microgrid lining. Within each level of suit from R1 Lite, R1, R2, R3, R4, and R5 there is a suggested water temperature usage range. This is only a guide as any one human that uses our suits may be comfortable at a slightly different temperature than the next. For example, one person may choose a thinner suit for added mobility and sacrifice some warmth, while another may choose added warmth for a longer session and sacrifice some movement and flexibility. It truly is personal preference that dictates what wetsuit is the best for the end-user in the conditions their sessions are in. Anyone who is new to Patagonia’s R rating system for our wetsuits should go to https://www.patagonia.com/yulex-natural-rubber-wetsuits/ and get an understanding of how our temperature rating system of R1 lite through R5 is laid out, or simply read the hangtag of whatever wetsuit that they are considering purchasing at any of our Patagonia Surf stores, Patagonia Surf dealers or when shopping online.
What is Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee and how does that apply to Patagonia’s surf related products?
Patagonia has long been known for our Ironclad Guarantee. We guarantee every product that we make and if a customer is not satisfied with any of our products when they receive it, or if the product does not perform to their satisfaction, the customer can return it to the store they bought it from or to Patagonia for a repair, replacement or refund. This guarantee applies to all of our Patagonia Surf products. However, there are some misconceptions about what this means. Our Ironclad Guarantee is intended to back our product for the lifetime of the product, not the lifetime of the customer. We do stand behind everything that we make, when that item is used for its intended usage, within a realistic lifespan of the product in question.
Amidst Patagonia’s vast collection of technical garments, our favorite pre and post kite session products are the Stretch Terre Planning Hoody and the Stretch Thermal Hoody. How were these products developed and why are they the perfect match for windy environments?
At Patagonia we are known to have a large offering of technical garments. But, within that lineup, our Patagonia Surf and Kitesurf crew felt that something was missing. Originally, we simply wanted something that would hit certain key points perfectly; protect you from the sun, provide some wind protection, dry quickly, fit comfortably and have the option to be worn over your harness when kiting to reduce discomfort and chafe between your body and harness. Thus, the Stretch Terre Planing Hoody was born. Made from our Stretch Terre Planing Boardshort fabric, the Hoody is UPF 50 with a slightly loose fit to accommodate your harness under it. It is equally at home when worn on land or in the water and has become the go to warm weather garment for everyone from the Namotu, Fiji Boatmen, the REAL Watersports kite coaches and our entire Patagonia Kitesurf ambassador crew. It will keep you warm when the wind kicks up, or you can soak it down with water and it will help cool you off as it dries acting like a wearable air-conditioning unit in the most tropical of climates.
After a few years of success in our lineup, we began to get more and more ambassador requests for a slightly more robust version for when the Stretch Terre Planning Hoody was not quite enough. From this ambassador feedback, the Stretch Thermal Hoody came to fruition. It’s made out of our Stretch Terre Planning fabric as a face fabric, backed by our recycled polyester, solution dyed, wetsuit lining as the thermal layer for warmth and added wind protection while still being quick drying. The Thermal Hoody is a piece that is designed to be used in and around the water. The Stretch Thermal collection also contains pants to create the ultimate pre and post session ‘track suit’. It has a generous fit to allow for wearing over a wetsuit for unrestricted comfort while rigging, packing up, in between sessions or even when camping or while on a classic road trip (think comfortable and functional technical sweatpants and zip up hoody).
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