It all started because DeRay Mckesson was freezing. In 2014, when the school administrator – who turned into an activist left from his home in Minneapolis for Ferguson, Missouri, to protest the police shooting of Michael Brown, he wore a blue vest he bought five years earlier on his trip. to New York City. Soon, Mckesson’s drawings on the vest exploded all over the world, solidifying him – and the outerwear of his choice – as the best known member of the Black Lives Matter movement. At present, he has never gone anywhere – whether it is a rally, a performance of his friend, Prabal Gurung at New York Fashion Week, even The show is too late with Stephen Colbert—Without the signature item. “I continue to wear it because it reminds me that everything we go through on the road is real,” he explained. And while designers like Brunello Cucinelli and Moncler are known for their status style versions, Mckesson’s is a simple Patagonia (a similar vest on the website it sells for around $ 1oo).
The meeting of outdoor brands and one of the most prominent activists of our time is no accident. The company is not a person, but if it is, Patagonia might be Bernie Sanders: original and committed from the start, but has recently been praised by the wider world for it. Mckesson said he was interested in the brand because “it always carries out its commitment to the environment.” Now equally loved by those who climb ice tops and those who climb the social ladder of Fashion Week (thus the “Patagucci” coin), Patagonia has been running since the 70s. The rest of the new fashion world is now biting its Tevas.
Forged in the same California container with the optimism and strangeness of alfalfa that created it Whole Earth Catalog and Moon Juice, Patagonia was founded by rock climber Yvon Chouinard in 1973. Chouinard and a jovial group of people outside the home allied with environmental activism early on: For example, when several Patagonia employees met a young man who worked to save the river in nearby from development, they gave him office space to run his campaign. In 1985, Patagonia formalized its commitment to advocacy with 1% for Planet, a program that has donated more than $ 110 million of company sales to environmental grassroots groups. The company’s Ventura headquarters is a place where you can surf at lunch. This is also a place where you might get attention if you come to the meeting with a disposable coffee cup, said Lisa Williams, chief product officer of the brand.
There is a healthy debate about whether Michael Jordan has ever said the words “Republicans also buy sneakers,” but that justification for political apathy in the name of trade has long been common for fashion brands, luxury and also the masses. Why argue when you are looking to give clothes to people on both sides of the aisle? But with the global climate crisis looming, more and more fashion brands are speaking out. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, pointed to companies, including Tiffany & Co., Levi Strauss & Co., and Gap Inc., which issued full-page advertisements protesting Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate of 2017 approval.
Around the same time, Patagonia fired his own shot across the bow: joined the lawsuit against the Trump administration to block the cutting of two Utah national monuments. Most fashion activists stop in the courtroom, but Patagonia tends to this news cycle. (“Hey, How’s the Lawsuit Against President Going?” Read a company blog post last spring.) “Every time other industries start to catch up, they re-create [themselves]”Sanjayan said. They are, said Williams, “trying to build a conscious consumer army,” many of whom are millennials or Gen Zers, who have been raised to question many of the norms of the fashion industry. “We are very happy that the younger generation is asking difficult questions for us, questions that we don’t always have answers to. They helped us improve standards. ”
The company has promised to eliminate petroleum sources by 2025, and launched ReCrafted, an upcycled line made from irreparable pieces of Patagonia, last year. It has also done a side job in an environmental documentary: This year, Patagonia will be airing a feature on public land called Public trust. Activism does not seem to turn off its customers. If anything, it “has increased their market share,” Sanjayan said. “They took positions that eventually became good, not only for the planet, but also for their bottom line.”
Between the message and its place in the “gorpcore” aesthetic (Sandy Liang’s warm clothes, Prada climber sandals), Patagonia even gained unexpected fashion followers, and got requests to collaborate with fashion brands, according to Williams. Stylist Rachael Wang, known for his street style, initially admired the performance aspects of clothing. “My appreciation developed into respect,” he said, “as soon as I learned about the company’s holistic approach to environmental responsibility and social justice. They are not perfect, but they don’t claim it. They do not use imperfections as an excuse to stagnate. ”
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 edition ELLE.